Yes indeed, Catalysts has moved, but that doesn’t mean we are gone, we just moved to our new website
together with our partners from Crisp Research to do the same things we used to do in an improved way. We still do great software and we are still great people, more or less only the color has changed except from our domain 😉

Handbook Part 11: “T-Shaped” – What Is That?

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We value “T-shaped” people

Watch our video 🙂 or read the description:

That is, people who are both generalists (highly skilled at a broad set of valuable things – the top of the T) and also experts (among the best in their field within a narrow discipline – the vertical leg of the T).

This recipe is important for success at Catalysts. We often have to pass on people who are very strong generalists without expertise, or vice versa. An expert who is too narrow has difficulty collaborating. A generalist who doesn’t go deep enough in a single area ends up on the margins, not really contributing as an individual.

We’re looking for people stronger than ourselves

When unchecked, people have a tendency to hire others who are lower-powered than themselves. The questions listed above are designed to help ensure that we don’t start hiring people who are useful but not as powerful as we are. We should hire people more capable than ourselves, not less.

In some ways, hiring lower-powered people is a natural response to having so much work to get done. In these conditions, hiring someone who is at least capable seems (in the short term) to be smarter than not hiring anyone at all. But that’s actually a huge mistake. We can always bring on temporary/contract help to get us through tough spots, but we should never lower the hiring bar.

Hiring is fundamentally the same across all disciplines

There are not different sets of rules or criteria for software developers, analysts, usability engineers, animators, and Scrum masters. Some details are different – like, software developers participate in a coding contest before coming in for an interview. But the actual interview process is fundamentally the same no matter who we’re talking to.

“With the bar this high, would I be hired today?”

That’s a good question. The answer might be no, but that’s actually awesome for us, and we should all celebrate if it’s true because it means we’re growing correctly. As long as you’re continuing to be valuable and having fun, it’s a moot point, really.

“If all this stuff has worked well for us, why doesn’t every company work this way?”

Well, it’s really hard. Mainly because, from day one, it requires a commitment to hiring in a way that’s very different from the way most companies hire. It also requires the discipline to make the design of the company more important than any one short-term business goal.

And it requires a great deal of freedom from outside pressure – being self-funded was key. And having two founders who were confident enough to build this kind of place is rare, indeed.

Another reason that it’s hard to run a company this way is that it requires vigilance. It’s a one-way trip if the core values change, and maintaining them requires the full commitment of everyone – especially those who’ve been here the longest. For “senior” people at most companies, accumulating more power and/or money over time happens by adopting a more hierarchical culture.

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