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Become a T

Develop yourself professionally so that you are a T. Deep knowledge inside of one plain and broad knowledge across a variety of complimentary fields. Things like, become an excellent software developer with a broad understanding of sales, marketing, recruiting and more.

I recently met with an incredibly smart individual in Charlotte. Emma and I are planning on moving and I've been visiting a tad to scope out locations where we might want to live.

I grew up in Charlotte but for all intensive purposes have very few professional connections there having worked in Raleigh for the last almost 3 years.

In meeting with this individual he described how an ideal individual would be a T. This was the first time I had heard such a thing but its a very convenient way to describe a valuable skillset. He further explains how this T could be shaped around any discipline the individual chooses.

So, let's hypothesize this example individual chose to focus on sales. One could build their career around becoming a deep expert in sales. This path could be done a few different ways. Maybe an outside sales rep => manager => director. Or if you're in a technology company you'd probably start as a sales development rep => sdr manager => vp sales. Whatever that progression looks like in your desired path.

The key difference maker here is that while developing that deep knowledge in a specific field you simultaneously want to be developing a broad range of understanding inside the business in other departments. Some companies might not want you to do this so proceed forward under your own context.

BUT, this could look like asking marketing to see what they're working on. And studying it at night. Or during lunch. Maybe you start sitting next to a software developer and just watching what she/he does all day. Try to pick up little bits of code here and there. The point of this T is not to be world class in these other fields, that is impossible (cc. Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and 10,000 hours rule) but to become aware.

Once you've done this for marketing you might do it again for development. operations. risk. compliance. whatever it is that interests you. By following what you're curious about while continuing to hone your craft you're developing an invaluable skillset.

I studied econ in school and my favorite class ever was game theory. Inside of this class we learned a ton about incentives, motives and returns following different types of games. All of the returns that are significant in life come from a series of iterated games. AKA not a one shot game. The lottery is a one shot game. Its 1 move. 1 winning number. every one loses, 1 person gets rich and the game is over. Life + career progression is a lot less like that (sometimes known as an overnight success) and a lot more like a chess match. a series of iterations, 50 to 100+ moves that compound slowly. Each time you move you can progress slightly more towards your ultimate goal.

Your skillset with this T becomes more valuable the more iterative the skills become. The larger base you have the more valuable. The more things you can reason about from experience.

You might not have been a VP of sales. BUT you have worked in early stage companies and know the rhythm to get something off the ground. You know how to do some lead gen, how to close deals and can hire a few reps afterwards to replace yourself.

That might be all you need. Until you hire a full time vp of sales. And in this case, being a T served you very well.

Something to think about. Strive for. If it matches your personality.