Skill(s), tool(s) and talent

If you are familiar with LinkedIn you know that one of the ways to customize a profile is by listing “skills”. LinkedIn leaves it to the profile owner to determine what is a skill. Some would claim there are listed “skills” that are more appropriately labelled “tool”.

[For what it’s worth I participate on LI, Dice, TechRepublic, HBR (Harvard Business Review), The Economist and anywhere else I can post what I believe is a thoughtful comment. Therefore I’ve been able to read others (hopefully) thoughtful commentary regarding skills versus tools.]

What is a skill?

Is “C” (or whatever programming language you like) a skill, or a tool? I, and others, would suggest that programming is the skill, and “C” is a tool. Same can be said for networking; is Cisco (or any other networking solutions) networking a skill or a tool? Setting up a network is a skill; the hardware and software you use are simply tools.

I submit that if you have the talent for “technology” then you will develop the skill, and learn the tool(s) necessary. Whether it’s networking, systems, applications, or administration, if you have the talent, you can learn the skills and how to use the tools. However, let’s be honest; talent/skill in one area of technology does not mean you will excel at all areas. You might be able to do the various jobs, but there will only be one or two at which you will become very good. Can we all say “IT Generalist”?

Is Project Management a skill? I say yes. The particular PM software you choose is the tool.

Shell programming/scripting? A skill. “Bash” is one available tool.

Database programming? A skill. SQL, Rdb, etc. are tools.

Let’s frame in in the world of photography; your skill is photography, not “Pentax K10D”. The K10D is a tool.

So, I’d appreciate comments from anyone who reads this blog entry. Agree, or disagree and why?


About R Michael Small

My experience ranges from PCs (and Apples/Macs) to mainframes, but I do not own an Xbox, or Gameboy, and I am "Wii-free". I've held tech programming, networking, administrative, support and leadership positions, and am a substitute teacher. I have two business degrees, and several years experience in law enforcement as a Patrolman/Training Officer concurrent to my IT experience. My brand is technology as a tool, not a life. Avocational interests include Scotland (all of it), inventing and modifying SCUBA gear, writing, and photography.
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2 Responses to Skill(s), tool(s) and talent

  1. mortoray says:

    “Programming” however is an extremely vague type of skill description. When you list “C” as a skill is implies you have experience in certain types of low level programming. If you list “Flash” as a skill it implies a distinct higher level front-end type of programming. That is, certainly “C” is the tool, but it does require a specific skill set to be able to use it properly.

    • mortoray,
      Thanks for your response. The “skill set” to properly use a programming language will depend on the environment in which you are working and the intended use of the program/app you are developing. Obviously some employers will require more depth of knowledge than others.

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