Versatile or Jack of all trades

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Today we have a guest editorial as Steve is traveling.

Last year, I had the pleasure of working with a senior Business Analyst, who was not only very good at her job (i.e. quickly understanding thebBusiness requirements and translating them into clear specifications), but was also great at stepping up to lead the project when required and helping the technical team to resolve technical issues quickly. She was a lady who could juggle a lot of tasks when needed to get the project going.

Last week, when we were discussing about recruiting a Business Analyst for a major project, I suggested hiring someone like her. One of the managers didn’t like it and said that she would rather have someone who is just a good Business Analyst than a “Jack of all trades”. After a bit of argument, I realised the previous Business Analyst was not appreciated by some for one main reason: her way of helping made the other teams too much dependent on her.

My thoughts about her were:

  1. She was a creative person and used to come up with good out-of-the box suggestions, sometimes even when she wasn’t asked for.
  2. She did sometimes go out of her way to help someone, even though she didn’t have to.
  3. Though she helped a lot of people, no one ever felt that she was stepping on one’s toes.
  4. Her project work had never suffered because of her involvement in other non-allocated tasks.

If her helping made others too much dependent on her, then that's not her problem.She only helped when needed. So, I would prefer to think of her as a versatile team member; rather than just a Jack-of-all-Trades.

However, I could be prejudiced and so thought to share. Would you prefer to work with someone like her? Or rather, would you prefer to be someone like her?

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