T-Shape or H-Shape Skills Set

Being a CTO requires a diverse set of skills. Career advisors often refer to building a “T-shaped” skill set, where you possess in-depth knowledge of a specific skill while also having a broader but less detailed understanding of various other skills. In the case of being a CTO, it usually begins with a deep practical technical expertise. However, as time and one’s career progress, some of those practical skills may diminish, making room for a broader yet less detailed technical knowledge. The most challenging part of this transition is often the need to deepen your business skills.

For me, this journey has involved learning more about legal aspects, budgeting, accounting, HR and people management, project management, leadership, communication, the industries I’ve worked in, negotiation, stress and cognitive load management, risk management, and the list goes on. It leads me to wonder if my career is evolving into more of an “H” shape than a “T,” with deep and extensive IT and engineering skills, along with substantial business knowledge. Then, when I reflect on the skills I’ve developed, communication skills seem to be the most crucial and profound. This encompasses written communication, skills for framing “crucial conversations,” empathy and understanding, as well as tactical skills for knowing what to say and when.

So perhaps I am a “T” with serifs: deep technical skills, a broad range of other skills, and a dip representing business knowledge and communication. Or maybe communication is becoming my primary skill now. What are your thoughts? Is your skillset more of a “T” or does it lean toward an “H”?

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