T Shaped Knowledge

T Shaped Knowledge

I saw post about a similar graph on social media recently. Someone posted it on twitter, but I don’t remember who. I thought it was interesting and that it would make a good topic for a post.

The graph above represents someone’s depth of knowledge. In this case it shows someone who is very knowledgable about one specific topic (or a small handful of closely related topics), but aside from that has very broad and shallow knowledge as you get further away from that topic.

The shape of this curve should probably be familiar to anyone who has attended the CLA Summit. Being among so many smart people is both reaffirming and humbling. Things that you know deeply and are second nature to you are completely new to some of the other attendees and vice versa. It is a very weird experience. It definitely helps you to realize the breadth of the LabVIEW ecosystem.

I think focusing on building our knowledge in this way is very useful. We all have our area of expertise, so that part is easy. Having the additional broad yet shallow knowledge is the really useful part. The LabVIEW ecosystem itself and the ecosystem in which our projects live and operate are both huge. Having some knowledge (even if it is shallow) of all the moving parts involved is really useful in helping to see the big picture. If you combine that with the ability to quickly learn and pick up new skills, then it becomes very powerful. It is also really useful when combined with a large network of people whose skills complement yours. If you get thrown into something that is not your forte at least your shallow knowledge provides a good starting point.

Self Awareness

As important as this whole concept is, I think the more important part is to be self-aware. What am I really knowledgeable about? and what do I just have some shallow knowledge about? Where are those bounds?

For me, my depth of knowledge is really around the process of designing and writing high quality software in LabVIEW. I also have a pretty deep knowledge of the software engineering tools around that such as Source Code Control, Unit Testing and scripting. As you start to get into TestStand, RT/FPGA, I am definitely moving up the V in terms of my knowledge. When you get to things like Web Technologies, Vision, etc. then my knowledge gets very shallow very quickly.

What about you? What is your forte? What are you deeply knowledgeable about?