T-shaped people are the new IT superheroes?

The canonical superhero: flies, bends metal bars into pretzels, wears tights with a long red cloak. But the IT-world needs a completely different set of superpowers. And to have them, it’s not required to be born on Krypton.

Who are these T-shaped people?

Long story short, the T-shaped people are individuals who can possess deep skills in at least one area as well as acquire broad knowledge and diverse skills.

The T metaphor comes from two lines combined:

  • vertical – stands for the depth of the main specialization;
  • horizontal – illustrates the breadth of related knowledge, a capability of solving an array of problems (and do it fast).

Experienced UI/UX designers have deep knowledge in design — it is their “І” line. Additional general understanding of business processes, management, psychology, programming languages makes them a classic example of T-shaped specialists.

In most cases, Т-people are Middle+ or Senior level specialists who have drilled into management besides their main technical skill. Т’s are in a high demand in product development and startups when you need to have a broader range of shallower skills on top of your “І”.

“In my current role being a generalizing specialist is more valuable.” Tech Lead Adel Salakh says. “I have to keep track of the project as a whole. This wouldn’t be possible without having a broader view. I believe mine skill set can be categorized as T-shaped one, as I had experience with projects ranging from low-level system programming to front end development.”

Why is it cool to be T-shaped?

“If a team consists of T-shaped people, it works seamlessly,” Nastya Khyzhniak, HR-consultant at Beetroot explains. “An understanding of the development processes as a whole helps a development team to build work on a project more accurately. For the supporting roles, like HR, the basics of development would be useful too. For example, in recruiting the right people for the project or during performance reviews.”

This, however, does not mean that you urgently should change from “I” to “T”. Just keep in mind that many modern professions are gradually transforming into T-shaped ones (even if it’s not called like that). The emergence of DevOps is just one of many good examples.

T-shaped people are the new IT superheroes

Jason Yip, Agile Coach at Spotify highlighted at least 5 reasons why generalizing specialists are so super-powered:

  1. T-folks are capable of many things and experts, at least, in one.
  2. Т-shaped people can adapt to wide-ranging demand.
  3. When working in a team with T-people, you can use experts to solve bottlenecks, and non-specialists to free expert’s time from non-priority tasks.
  4. T-specialists allow you to do more with the same number of people in a team (or do the same with fewer people).
  5. T’s provide more effective communication within the team and with the client.

T-shaped teams are flexible, self-sufficient and productive. They provide a comprehensive view of the project and usually have a deeper understanding of its needs. Therefore, they are capable of making complex decisions and releasing a top-notch product. Previously, HR relied on the main specialization when searching for the right candidate. Now they’ll more likely pick with the “T” principle in mind:

“Beetroot helps to build effective distributed teams for different companies worldwide,” Anastasia comments. “More often, the request is a Full-Stack specialist, for example, someone who knows both the front-end and the back-end.”

Adel Salakh adds: “The older the product, the more mature the tech stack in use – the more specialized developers it requires (Java back-end stack is a good example here). Companies that choose newer and more experimental stack setup require more generalist developers.“

How to become a true T?

There is no “know this, do that” list to consider yourself as T-folks in IT. You must have the “І” – deep knowledge and specialization for a start. The rest is curiosity, creativity, caring about the work that you do and practice. Practice as much as you can.

QA Team Lead Nataliia Mylostna has worked for more than nine years in code quality assurance. This is her main specialization. But knowing business analytics, teamwork management, data analytics, and work processes expands her role in a project. “From the very beginning, I’m involved as a Senior QA, but I can become more of a Processmaker, and BA / QA Analyst if needed,” Nata says.

T-shaped people

Aleksey Bobyr, Senior Node-developer, thinks that to form the “I” of a Middle+ specialist you need to learn IDE, Git, Docker, programming languages, frameworks, ticket system functionality, continuous integration systems, and other tools that you have to work with on a current project.

For the “I” of a Senior specialist, according to Aleksey, you need to deepen your expertise in methodologies (such as functional programming), architectures (for example, micro-services), the fundamentals of object-oriented programming or testing — everything you use every day. And then, experience the trends and go beyond your typical skill set.

Adel Salakh also recommends learning functional programming: “It’s already trendy, and I expect it to grow even more.” In Adel’s opinion, there are a couple of technologies that might be game changers in the upcoming years:

  • On the web, one very promising technology is WebAssembly. It might overthrow the hegemony of JavaScript on the client side and might induce an even bigger migration of applications from native code to the browser.
  • In system level/back-end programming, Rust is very ambitious and innovative and is gaining a lot of traction. In the future, it can be a good choice for writing micro-services and web servers, as well as compete in these areas with GoLang or Node.

Company-side of T formation

Companies can nurture the growth of T’s by involving specialists from different fields to work on one task, allowing employees to use the 80/20 rule (the Pareto Principle) etc. Beetroot regularly holds lectures for teams and provides a bonus for education. Furthermore, Beetroot also maintains and updates a knowledge-sharing base for internal use.

Nata Mylostna’s team plays Advent of Code: this is a collection of puzzles to practice a variety of skill sets and skill levels that can be solved using any of the programming languages. They practice speed, problem-solving and challenge each other. Nata’s team tracks the results and participants get rewards for resolved tasks.

The key to becoming a real T is to move away from being a narrowly focused specialist and to widen your experience.

“Large western companies (and sometimes startups too) are often looking not for a Java specialist, but also for a good Senior-developer,” Aleksey Bobyr adds. “Real pro is capable of mastering any technology under a project request.”

So the plan is:

  • expand your expertise into areas you are less comfortable in;
  • possess deep skills in one area (or in a few areas at a time);
  • practice new tools, methodologies, architectures and programming languages;
  • keep an eye on the latest trends in your industry;
  • as a result, solve unsolved tasks (and maybe wear a long red cloak, as you are real IT-superhero).

Do’s and Don’ts of entry-level CVs

When in the middle of radical career shift, people usually get frustrated about how to tell a prospective employer that they have little or no experience. The same thing happens when looking for a first-time job. We asked our recruiters about the most common mistakes of entry-level CVs to help you avoid them. Use this article to fix your CV or make it good-looking from scratch!

Our recruiters pointed to a set of common errors, including:

Click on the links above to go straight to the most interesting section of this article.

Structure

The common mistake is to write your life story instead of writing a CV. Do not confuse CV with an autobiographical essay (like the one you’ve done at school) – these two styles of self-presentation are for different purposes.

Do not overload your CV with information: the recruiter is looking for candidates with specific skill sets and goals. Highlight these qualities and prove you’re the right person for the job. The structure will help you do it even better.

Classic CV usually consists of seven sections (try to fit this information into one sheet of paper):

  • Name and Surname
    city of residence
  • 2-3 lines about your key skills, points of interest within the project and motivation to determine your readiness for this job.
  • Skillset
  • Experience
  • Education
  • Hobbies (if relevant)
  • Contact information

You can compile personal data for a CV using one of Canva’s templates or other web-resources: it will help keep the info organized, good-looking and easy-to-read.

File format

Yes, in the XXI century you still can use a regular text editor for writing your CV, but really why would you? Formatting sometimes crashes and turns your resume into chaos. If you still want to work in a text file save it as .pdf after you finish. Please, forget about PowerPoint presentations. There are better ways to show your design skills. If you do programming too (or someone can give you a hand with that), stand out from other candidates by creating a presentational web page.

Just don’t forget to add a “Download my CV” button somewhere – the recruiter will thank you for that.

The filename is another important detail. “Junior-designer Ivan Popov CV”, “Ira Kruchko Ruby CV” – writing your full name, the position you want to have or your core skill will help you to be identified among the dozens of files named “2.txt”, “cv.pdf”, or “resume.docx”.

The clichés

Imagine how many “communicable”, “stress-resistant” and “responsible” candidates the recruiter sees every day? These clichés are a total waste unless you’ll support the statements with specific data. We mean you can mention “I’m attentive and pedantic” but if double spaces, autocorrect fails, extra commas will pop up in your CV here and there, it’s going to be a fiasco.

Instead of describing yourself with clichés tell about your experience. If you want to point out your reliability and conscientious, don’t say “I am a responsible person”, let the facts tell more: maybe you were a class president, volunteer or some kind of event-manager?

The same thing goes when talking about your skills. Compare “I was taught Javascript on courses”, “I’ve been learning WordPress” and “…my graduation project is written in Javascript (link)”. Better tell the recruiter where you’ve already applied your knowledge.

Exaggeration

Look through the required skills. If there is anything on that list you are not happy about, don’t pretend to be a 100% match for the job. Tell the truth, or do not mention skills you do not have at all. There is no point in exaggeration: you can’t even imagine how simple it is to catch the candidate on blabbing. Bad English is the classic case. “One candidate wrote that he has advanced English,” says HR-contractor at Beetroot Halyna Vorona. “But at the interview, he refused to speak it without preparation, which is suspicious, you know.” Another one rated his English at 4 out of 5 stars, but it turned out he was too shy and insecure to mention his excellent TOEFL!

HR specialist Natasha Dmytrenko believes that if there is a 50-60% relevance to the requirements, you can try to submit for the vacancy: “Send the CV even before you are totally ready for the job, otherwise you can lose time on waiting for the result. Do not be too critical to yourself – employers don’t expect professionalism from an entry-level candidate.”

entry-level CV

Creativity overdose

If you can think outside the box, make a good design or smashingly code, let the examples of your work speak for themselves. Natalia Dmitrenko advises: “It is better not to go from one extreme to another: candidates sometimes write that they are ready to work for food, or “your company is so lucky to have me!” – and it pushes me away.”

If you want to express yourself – add a cover letter to the resume. This is an informal text, a short story about your motivation for working in this company or project. Take up to 200-300 words to tell smth relevant and good-to-know about you. Keep a neutral tone of voice and not get too comfortable talking about yourself: recruiter is not your best fella (at least for now) and familiarity is not a good choice for making the first impression.

Photos

Candidates are not required to attach photos from ID’s (sometimes it’s better not to show them to anybody at all, agreed?). However, if there is an option to add a photo of you to the resume, be wise. Natalia received quite strange pictures with the CV: “One candidate was in a T-shirt on a photo, with his hands raised above his head and crowded train on the background. Another time I get a photo of a girl, she’s bent over the keyboard, so you see only the top of her head, with the signature: “This is how I look almost always because I’m a workaholic!”. Catchy idea but not a 100% good decision.”

Experience

If you have no commercial experience in a new specialty (didn’t have previous official employment in IT), it does not mean that you have nothing to tell. Inna Chernova, an HR consultant at Beetroot Academy, advises never to say: “I do not have a CV because I have not worked anywhere yet.”

Maybe you were attending conferences, studying at art school, taking part in FLEX or AIESEC, were volunteering somewhere? If just graduated from IT courses, show your graduation project – that’s already something!

Another mistake is to write all your jobs and activities in a row. Even if they do not relate to IT. Recall two or three recent or most revealing of them: where you worked for the longest, what position did you had, what duties performed, what results achieved.

Here’s a good example from HR Consultant (Full-Stack), Beetroot, Volodymyr Vovk:

Software Engineer at ***. August 2016 – present. Technologies research and developing new functionality.

Achievements: designed and developed completed microservice, implemented a set of build scripts, made infrastructure wrappers for 3AWS services.

Environment: Scala, Finagle, AWS, Guice, Git, Akka, Docker, Flatbuffers, SBT, CircleCIand IntelliJ IDEA.

Replace “Software Engineer” with “accountant”, “manager”, “decorator” – or what you’ve been doing before – and describe your experience and competencies using this scheme.

If your hobbies are somehow related to the vacancy, give a few words about them. Better to be brief about embroidery, singing karaoke, collecting postcards and other irrelevant to your new occupation activities.

entry-level CV

Dialogue with the recruiter

Even if you wrote an amazingly brilliant CV, it’s still unlikely that someone will send you a contract for signing right away. The whole employment process takes about a month: ~ 2 weeks for reviewing the resume, then the interview with the recruiter, fulfilling the test task, a few more technical or client interviews. The point is do not expect that the recruiter will answer you immediately.

The rule of good manners in HR is to answer all the CVs. Even if the candidate does not meet the requirements and must get a negative response. Only after two weeks, if your mail is still empty, tactfully recap: ask if they did get your CV and read it. It’s better to send the request in the same thread.

If you received a negative response, you might still benefit from it: ask the recruiter the reason for the refusal and what skills should you improve to get the job next time. It’s totally OK, as well as asking HR-manager to contact you when a new vacancy opens.

Spam

Juniors have a sneaky tendency to send the same CV to all the companies, thinking that this increases their chances of getting the job! Well, it’s not the wisest thing to do: a recruiter can determine if the person is motivated to work on this particular project, or just looking for any kind of work anywhere. Even if you have to pay the bills for the apartment, spamming a template-like CV to every IT company out there is not an option. Do not be too lazy to write a new CV for each vacancy that interests you (or re-write yours considering project characteristics). At least you can try to find a temporary work so you’d have resources for waiting for your dream job to come up.

To sum up

Don’t write a CV in a rush. Give yourself some time: sit in a quiet place and make a plan, structure the resume today, add some extra information tomorrow and give the text to someone the day after. When you’re working on smth for a long time you can miss obvious mistakes, it’s easier to find and correct them just asking another person to look through the text.

Remember, when a company opens an entry-level vacancy, they do not expect you to be an extraordinary professional. Most likely, they are looking for a flexible candidate with a good basis in technologies and good soft-skills to become such a pro inside the team or particular project. Look through the requirements: if you have at least 60% of the core skill set, apply! If not, look through the list once again: it is a right vector for self-development and future learning!