Following my read on Coveo’s hiring process by my colleague Isaac, I thought to myself how well he captured Coveo’s desire to build the best team possible. Every new hire went through a similar process and yet, each and every one had their own experience and anecdotes to share. The one that stood out for me was learning why ‘T’ is Coveo’s favorite letter of the alphabet.

Coveo is built on a T-shaped model

I was invited to meet C-A Tremblay, Director of Talent Community, and Mark Floisand, CMO, in a hotel meeting room downtown Montreal because at the time there was no Montreal office. The discussion we were having was genuine and without any artifice. As the discussion continued, Mark said something I was hearing for the first time in an interview, “we are looking for T-shaped people to build our team here in Montreal”. I knew he was referring to people having deep expertise in one field (the vertical bar of the T), and also having some applicable knowledge in a variety of others (the horizontal bar), but it was the very first time I’d heard it specifically expressed during an interview. That is refreshing I told myself, as I always considered myself as someone with a  T-shaped skillset.

To give that more context, a mere couple of months back, I was in another interview also speaking about my professional path. I have a technical background with a Computer Science degree, but also have many years of experience in web analytics and more recently in growth marketing. The recruiter invited me to speak about my path by incoherently waving her hands in what could only be described as a Brownian motion. Thinking at it retrospectively, this is when I understood that Coveo won’t only welcome my different interests but also wanted to capitalize on them and help me grow personally and within the organization.

Traits of T-shaped people

There are generally two ways of seeing the skills of a professional: either as an ‘I’ (depth thinking) or a ‘T’ (breadth thinking). So what are common traits of T-shaped skilled people? They are people that strive for novelty and learning in a lateral way, between different yet connected fields. They like the challenge of being thrown into something new. They see patterns across expertises and they can see the big picture. But most importantly, they are people who can transfer and apply knowledge from one field to another, generating creative and innovative ideas.

Being a T-shaped person comes with its challenges though. Often times it means that you will have the sentiment that you are never going to learn something thoroughly. Every task leads to another task, equally as interesting and useful as the last. Maybe T-shaped people are more aware of the limitations of their knowledge and capabilities, or perhaps they know a bit more about what they don’t know.

The effects of hiring for broad skills

It was clear Coveo was committed to hiring people with a broad range of experiences and interests while of course occupying a defined role, but why exactly? Coveo, as you may know, is currently building an entirely new team in Montreal, made up of employees having complementary but also overlapping skillsets. The benefits of this is twofold. From the individual’s perspective, that means that a person occupies a large “footprint” on the marketing map. For example, a seasoned Content Editor could also offer valuable input on an SEO strategy. Or a UX Designer could have enough ease with different analytics tools to get the insights she needs for her mockups. In other words, having a team of T-shaped people minimizes the risk of a gap between different disciplines. From the team’s perspective, it creates positive network effects. People within the team can exchange ideas that actually resonate with one another and these ideas can potentially be supplemented, refined or expanded upon.

On the first week of our onboarding at Coveo, I was exchanging design ideas with our Web Designer, Tanya, for an ebook and not long after I was brainstorming on a menu redesign with Maia, our UX Designer. The cross-discipline intermingling was in full effect early on, which is a clear indication that the T-shaped model is alive and well within Coveo from the very onset. Both ‘I’ and ‘T’ skilled people have important roles within organizations. Both love to learn and to push the limit of their knowledge, they simply don’t do it the same direction.

Are you a fellow T-shaped professional? We’d be glad to hear from you, check out our careers page. (Psst we like ‘I’ people too!)