T-shaped skills

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The concept of T-shaped skills, or T-shaped persons is a metaphor used in job recruitment to describe the abilities of persons in the workforce. The vertical bar on the letter T represents the depth of related skills and expertise in a single field, whereas the horizontal bar is the ability to collaborate across disciplines with experts in other areas and to apply knowledge in areas of expertise other than one's own.

The earliest popular reference is by David Guest in 1991.[1] Tim Brown, CEO of the IDEO design consultancy defended this approach to résumé assessment as a method to build interdisciplinary work teams for creative processes. Earlier references can be found [2], in the 1980s the term "T-shaped man" was used internally by McKinsey & Company for recruiting and developing consultants and partners, both male and female by then.

The term T-shaped skills is also common in the agile software development world and refers to the need for cross-skilled developers and testers in an agile team, e.g. a Scrum team.

Also known as[edit]

  • Versatilist
  • Generalizing specialist
  • Technical craftsperson
  • Renaissance developer
  • Master generalist

Skills of various shapes[edit]

Other shapes have also been proposed, e.g. "X-shaped" (leadership), "I-shaped" (individual depth-skill without communication skills), and "Tree-shaped". The tree-shaped person has more rhizomic skills with depth in many areas, not just one, and being able to reach many heights of accomplishments, in many different fields, or many different branches of a field (e.g. a contributor to many branches of mathematics). The notion of the tree-shaped person was first presented as the Keynote address at the eLeo Symposium in 2013[3] and later developed elsewhere[4].

Gamma- (Γ) and mu- (Μ) shaped individuals have been described by Brittany Fiore in her ethnographic work of data science research communities to indicate people with supporting strengths in computationally- and software-intensive fields.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The hunt is on for the Renaissance Man of computing," in The Independent, September 17, 1991.
  2. ^ Johnston, D. L. (1978). Scientists Become Managers-The "T"-Shaped Man. IEEE Engineering Management Review, 6(3), 67–68. doi:10.1109/emr.1978.4306682
  3. ^ https://vimeo.com/83107245
  4. ^ Declaration of veillance (Surveillance is Half-Truth), S. Mann, R. Janzen, M. A. Ali, and K. Nickerson, 2015 IEEE Games Entertainment Media Conference (GEM), Year: 2015, Pages: 1-2
  5. ^ Fiore, Brittany. "Community-level data science and its spheres of influence: beyond novelty squared". eScience Institute. Retrieved 31 December 2018.

External links[edit]