Versatile or Jack of all trades

  • Comments posted to this topic are about the item Versatile or Jack of all trades

  • From what you described, she is the person from whom I would like to receive documentation. She knows how something is to work. She may even be a superb project maanger, if her corrdination skills are good too. She knows how to talk to everybody, she understands the technical aspects well enough to make full use of them and can commit the business requirements into technical requirements.

    One should know something about everything (Jack-of-all-trades) and everything about something (specialisation).

    In short, she was competent, friendly, helpful and a team-player. She reduced confusion and helped projects meet their deadlines.
    Can you go wrong with this combination?

  • This is a very interesting topic.
    I am one of those people and I experience the exact same result - companies get dependent on me. I agree with Nitin that it should not be my problem. Most of the time it is the users that do not want to go through the effort to fix something themselves - it is sometimes just easier to ask someone else (being me most of the time). My current client makes an effort to force me to educate their employees (and implement the correct tools) to do all the work themselves and as far as possible I am empowering them to do just that. This, however, is sometimes reliant on me having enough time to set such processes in place. I caught myself often that I will do a menial work for the client for very lengthy times before I can either automate it or help the employee/s to do it themselves.

  • She sounds the ideal person to work in an agile team.  It sounds like the manager in this story is the one who needs to raise their game.  What I read in this article of their article is "I want a limited employee".  She sounds like a lady who can do what she was hired for AND give a lot more.  In product terms making back the costs AND selling for more is called PROFIT.  She is a profitable hire.

    The workspace has evolved dramatically in my life time from turning up in a suit and tie, doing what you were told and calling your superiors sir, to turning up dressed appropriately, helping to define what needs doing and calling your boss Julie.
    In the old world HR departments were asked to recruit based on IQ.  Later on they worked out that a bunch of antisocial smart people wasn't working out so they started recruiting with emotional intelligence in mind (EQ), now they talk about growth mindsets vs fixed mindsets and curiosity (CQ).

    Reading through business blogs and publications CQ is becoming an extremely desirable trait.

  • The problem is not with this lady, it's people in general. This lady saves many days and she likes doing it and trying not to step on anybody's toes. Which is great.
    E.g. if I would get coffee every morning for my manager and I will stop doing so after a few months, he might ask me one morning "hey Jon, where is my coffee?"
    My point is people mostly take things for granted and will accept help anytime to make life easier. Is this bad? Not really but the drawback of this behaviour is that it can make you lazy. In fact it's much better for my manager's health to stretch his legs in the morning and get his own coffee. And I really don't mind getting him coffee from time to time because he's the best. If someone helps you, you should try to learn and help yourself or others the next day.

  • In my experience it depends on the situation. In an actual project where you build something new it is always good to have someone skilled and pragmatic like that. However a number of projects I have been involved in were more like fix and enhance an existing dwh application. In this type of setup people do seem to define roles at least in part based on what not to do. I have seen that people with too much of a can do / pragmatic attitude are not always welcome in this setup. Also large organisations seem to gravitate more towards interchangeable resources rather than competent colleagues, so someone too competent can be viewed as a threat as well.

  • They're missing a chance by not hiring her. Somebody who can understand several different areas of an organisation, talk to the various staff in a way that they can understand and have an understanding of the different aspects of a project is invaluable.

    When I started in IT, back in the Neolithic era it was all mainframes, exchangeable 5MB drives and an abundance of tapes. The owner of the small company I worked for at the time always had a preference for training mainframe operators as developers, because they understood the impact they could have on the mainframe depending upon how they designed the software. You learned very quickly that producing code that required an abundance of tape changes ensured any resources that you required guaranteed a long wait. An understanding of the entire process and the people within the process was considered a boon.

    Nowadays, somebody who can  communicate with and understand the requirements or issues for the DBA, Developers, QA, support staff, the management above and suchlike can help to make a system (and an environment) that works better, with people that don't feel siloed from other areas and ensure that they feel as if they're a valuable part of the process.
    If the others become too dependent on that type of person, then that says more about those people and possibly the structure of the organisation.

  • nitinbhojwani - Sunday, January 20, 2019 9:05 PM

    Comments posted to this topic are about the item Versatile or Jack of all trades

    I really would like to be like her!

  • While there are certain technical specialisations that benefit from a single focus they are becoming much rarer in today's world. My personal experience of the last 25 odd years is that you need to be adapatable, constantly learning and ready to appreciate fresh perspectives. About the only constant, consistent skill requirement has been to listen and communicate.

  • Be like her and work with her. They're not mutually exclusive! 🙂

  • If the team becomes dependent on her, that is a problem with the team, not her. Motivated individuals can ask to be taught or can learn on their own to do what she does.

  • I would love to work with someone like that, and I would like to be more like that person as well. I see that type of person as an asset to any company, and find it hard to understand the manager's attitude who did not want to hire her.

  • My personal opinion is that she would make a valuable addition most any project. But the problem is that some people may not have had a positive experience with her. It's common for some people to be highly regarded within their own team, while outside the team they are considered a nuisance or threat, and she seems like the type who operates outside the box. Also, it depends on whether executive management places more value on process versus outcome. 

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

  • Would you prefer to work with someone like her? Or rather, would you prefer to be someone like her?


  • This is a very interesting discussion.  Seems to me there are three options here:1.  Just a good business analyst (who does nothing outside the box)
    2.  A 'Jill of all trades' who is (presumably) a 'good' BA as well as skilled in other areas, and willing to apply those skills
    3.  A Master of all trades who is brought in specifically because of the multi-skilled nature of the work.

    The first is typical of huge organisations.  I once worked for a very big outfit who had twelve different silos for their 'architects'.   Another one has two guys in a basement who did 'disk-as-a-service'.  All roles are highly defined, and anything outside-the-box upsets and aggrieves the organization.

    The second is a must-have for small outfits.  We had a client that we did a bunch of jobs for, over the years, and they had maybe a couple hundred employees.  Their 'DBAs' did a host of tasks apart from DBA, simply because there was no-one else.  Working-to-rule is not welcome here.

    The third happens in some specialized situations.   Here's one:  we create business intelligence programmes for our clients.  This includes training and mentoring client staff in all aspects of the work.  A priori, we have to know the wholes spectrum.  When we're done, we've passed on those skills to the very few client staff involved (typically less than a dozen).   BI is intrinsically a multi-skilled environment, requiring a combination of people skills as well as technical ones.  This case is not common (but it's a ton of fun!).

    These 3 cases correspond to 3 of the Gods of Management (Charles Handy).   In an Apollo (role culture) organization, the culture is a bureaucracy that bases its approach on the definition of the role/job to be done.  In a Zeus (club culture) organization, power flows from the top, and official titles and job descriptions don't mean very much at all.  Small and family firms are usually like this.  The Athena (task culture) is focused on product delivery, and the work itself is the leading principle of coordination.  You find this in consultancies, and self-contained bubbles within larger organizations within larger outfits - such as the business intelligence team.

    FYI, there's a fourth God:  Dionysus.  The existential culture exists where employees see themselves as independent professionals who have temporarily lent their skills and services to the organization.  This happens in a profession firm (e.g.) legal and academics in universities. 

    Question is:  what kind of an outfit do you work for, who is your God, and what happens when your God gets offended?

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 36 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic. Login to reply