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Comment on @jukesie's Multi-hyphenates post...

dug dug Follow May 09, 2020 · 2 mins read
Matt Jukes on pi-shaped people


@jukesie writes

More than anything it was the age of the generalist. So many people I know from 1998-2008 who made/make a living in this thing we call ‘digital’* wouldn’t tidily fit in any box. They did a little dev. Had some design skills. Understood usability. Could turn their hands at a little business analysis at a push. Understood what WebTrends was saying (ask your parents). Might be a demon with a CMS or an expert at writing for the web but generally could muddle through in a number of situations.

Most of us ended up calling ourselves Product Managers 🙂

True, Matt, or UX consultants, or service designers, but it does seem like we are condemmed to chase a moving target when it comes to job description and titles…

Over the time things got much more complicated. Fields got deep but narrow. This narrowness became a badge of honour somehow. Take a look at the Government Digital, Data and Technology capability framework. Actually a totally reasonable and not over the top articulation of the ecosystem of roles that you’ll find in most digital teams.

Thing is at some time or another I think I could make a case that I have held 10 of those roles and I don’t even consider myself having that broad a skillset compared to many.

Me too:-) You know, the framework is great, and a lot of very smart people invested their blood, sweat and tears getting us this far… But I still struggle to see many of these areas as separate “job families”.

There is also the pressure on the generalist from specialists who feel a negative impact on quality. Or in other words, it works great when teams have happy blends of super-powers but it works less well when we get in each other’s way.

Still, it’s up to us to play well together make it work:-)

The thing that prompted this remote comment (I think your comments on this post are closed) was your mention of “pi-shaped” people. I’ve just finished working at a Big4 consultancy where they were very keen to describe themselves as pi-shaped. I’m not sure how well that worked for them but I do like the idea in principle. It’s not so much the number of legs or stems you have, it’s just that digital culture and experience lives in a cluster of skills and activities, not just one.

Not sure where I’m going with this (not being constrained by 280 chars etc.) but I’m not comfortable being called a generalist, and I’m not comfortable picking which specialism I’m a specialist in.

I guess that leaves the space between the two:-)

(This content from Matt Jukes blog post entitled “Multi-hyphenates” on his blog “Digital by Default”. Also, thanks for continuing to blog and for hosting

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