Professionals supposedly come in two shapes: either short and fat, or tall and skinny, meaning their skill set is either broad or deep.
Did you know the full "jack of all trades" saying is actually:
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one"? ;)
Love these posts. I learn a nugget each time. I fear the person who's practiced 10 kicks 1000x each bc then they can definitely kick my ass. My father and I had a convo where I said exactly the same thing about wisdom vs knowledge. One thing I add is number of times or length of experience isn't always the best indicator of depth or driver for wisdom. I think severity of pain associated with that learning is highly correlated with wisdom.
Love the article, regret the loss of nuance. Here is my take. The bar is an oversimplification. T shape is not a compromise, but a more realistic model of reality. Everyone who went through college, let alone post grad, has some breadth. So the more realistic model is the inverted city skyline. You rarely see a village. You never see a one skyscraper. Another point, some people just smarter, with more space covered. Yet another, there is only so much to learn drilling down. Specialists stop progressing and start caching in on unique knowledge, some sooner some later. So curious people spread out. So what you really want is a Manhattan, both wide and sometimes deep. Of those, you want the deeps to be in your area, your stack. Of those you you need the ones who love to teach. These are not rare, because teachers and students are the same thing in our craft. And I strongly disagree that breadth is hard to test. You just need to learn how. But that would require a longer rant
This is me, I’ve been programming since childhood and I have a mental map of technology that almost couldn’t be more broad. I’ve gone deep on security, but not as much as someone who spent the same years doing exclusively that. I’m finding it really hard to find a job that can use the skills I spent my life building and it’s really discouraging.
I think this is a lot more about the learning mindset than the form. "Years of experience" in a single domain is not a guarantee of real knowledge and specialisation anymore, because of the pace of technology. Both depth and breadth involves learning and re-learning everything every 3-4 years. If someone does that, then totally, those people are valuable no matter what form they choose to take.
Love this take, and your clever title :) plenty of connections to be made with breadth, but would argue that wisdom comes with iteration, not breadth per se.
And to get to iteration, you need a mix of deep focus and some exploration. T-shape.
I had a similar take, different conclusion here: https://productlessons.substack.com/p/stop-being-generalist
Insightful post. I wonder though, in the scheme of the industry where does short and fat fit? Is it less in a place that wants to move fast towards a target and more in a place where things are experimental such that they breadth of experience allows more perspective?