T-Shaped People

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 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. – Wikipedia

The first topic up for discussion at our March Meetup was about “T-Shaped People”.

Mr. T

I Pi-“T”-y the Fool

A T-shaped person was considered to have a specialisation (Coding, Testing, Analysis) as the Vertical to the T but with at least an understanding of other complimentary areas as the Horizontal to the T. The idea that a person could be skilled in all things was felt to be an unhelpful ideal and rarely existed in reality.

The discussion then brought up areas where it seemed a T shaped forms almost naturally. Examples included Testers having great analytic skills, Analysts having customer focus and so potentially able to see testing and UX skills. This led to the feeling that T shaped people need a Team, where they can be critical of themselves  and allow themselves to be criticised, in order to be most effective.

T-shaped people will develop when the team is actively pulling together to meet the teams goals. The team must appreciate that the team succeeds (as in the story is done) rather than the individual succeeds (the coding in complete, a bug has been found).

A useful tool repeatedly referenced as a way of helping increase the awareness between different specialisations was “Three Amigos

With the Three Amigos a Coder, a Tester and an Analyst come together to discuss a story’s criteria and remove any misunderstandings about what the story should deliver. They can then discuss the development and testing approach to increase understanding and potentially reduce any duplication of effort. This early working together can help increase appreciation of the others jobs and add to the Horizontal Bar of the T as each of the Amigos learns from their counterparts.

The Three Amigoes

I’m Business!  I’m Development!  And I’m Testing!  And together we are The Primary Perspectives!

The subject of closer working was considered. Pair programming has many benefits – including better code quality. Pairing a Tester and Developer seemed very desirable especially where Test Driven Development was the idea. The pairing works together not to “find” bugs, but to identify and address issues as quickly as possible in order to be able to drive a story to “Done”. There was some concern as to making sure that a critical distance was maintained to ensure that neither side was dominating the scope of the testing or development.  Again the 3 Amigos technique helps to drive this behaviour by forging that common understanding up front.

One further question raised was how deep should a tester go? Should they be reviewing the code? It was felt that that it is helpful for a tester should know the basics which would be sufficient to “talk” to the developer without needing the fine detail.

In conclusion there seemed broad agreement that a T Shaped Person is defined by their Mindset (What can I do?) rather than their Skillset (I can do this) and the desire to ensure that the Team succeeds and not just the individual.