The digital transformation is real. To meet changing requirements, enterprise IT organizations are engaging in transformational activities to increase the frequency and speed of delivering value to their markets. Under the umbrella of DevOps, these activities include increasing the use of automation in the deployment process, instilling testing capabilities earlier in the lifecycle and attempts to reshape organizational culture through new processes, interactions and the breakdown of silos.
So what’s the key differentiator between transformation and tradition? People. People drive innovation through the powerful combination of strategic thinking and tactical skills.
Traditionally, those skills were applied through a human chain of “I”-shaped specialists who have honed a deep and specific area of expertise. I-shaped specialists might be security practitioners, software developers, or infrastructure engineers. Transformationally, organizations should be actively grooming more “T-shaped” professionals who not only have the depth of knowledge in an area of expertise but also a wide breadth of knowledge in other related practice areas such as testing. Roles such as Site Reliability Engineers (SREs) and Test Driven Developers are good examples of T-shaped competencies.
In his 2011 Forbes article, “Are you an ‘I’ or a ’T’?”, contributing author Andy Boynton states
“Many leaders today, however, feel that T people are better at fostering the diverse connections and conversations that bring exceptional ideas to the surface.”
Since 2011, a lot has happened in the IT space. DevOps has crossed the chasm into enterprise IT, introduced a “shift-left” approach and encouraged more knowledge sharing and cross-functionality between people and teams. Disruptive thinking and experimentation are now encouraged. Successful DevOps requires people who are willing to think and act outside their own silos with both deep expertise and extended skills. DevOps needs T-shaped people.
IT professionals should start planning their own personal transformations to become more multi-dimensional and multi-skilled. Not only will this contribute to the organization’s competitive advantage, personal growth through continuous learning will undoubtedly advance careers.
To start, there are four sets of core skills that I think all IT professionals should acquire to increase flow and collaboration.
Of course, there is a wide swath of skills for the T-shaped, Pi-Shaped, and Comb-shaped individual to gain. Continuous learning is a lifelong journey and as technology twists and turns according to the demands of the market, there will always be new concepts, frameworks, practices, and technologies to learn. The key is to start your evolution from I-shaped to T-shaped and beyond today – ask a colleague to mentor you, take a class, read a book, join a Center of Interest, attend a conference. Start anywhere – just start.
Jayne Groll is co-founder and CEO of the DevOps Institute (DOI). Jayne carries many IT credentials including ITIL Expert™, Certified ScrumMaster, Certified Agile Service Manager, DevOps Foundation and is a Certified Process Design Engineer (CPDE)™ . Her IT management career spans over 25 years of senior IT management roles across a wide range of industries. Jayne is very active in the DevOps, ITSM and Agile communities and is the author of the Agile Service Management Guide. She is a frequent presenter at local, national and virtual events.