Aviation Professionals: Broadening our perspectives

In many professions and fields around the world we are admonished to become “T-shaped”. The terminology means to have in-depth knowledge and/or skills in our specialized field but be knowledgeableand/or skills in a wide area of related or ancillary knowledge, and in some cases knowledge that is not directly related to our specialization.

For related readings, see also; ‘The Aviation Professional: Continuous Personal Development.’, ‘Pilot ‘Seasoning’: Degradation of Flying Skills’, ‘Acquisitions: A Path to Growth for Aviation Businesses?’, and ‘Discrepancies: Pilot Training vs Professional Pilot Careers’,

Key Takeaways 

  1. Becoming T-shaped: The terminology refers to an individual having deep knowledge and/or skills in a specific field while having broad knowledge and/or skills in related, ancillary, and sometimes unrelated fields.
  2. Understand your specific field: Becoming T-shaped starts with a deep understanding of one’s specific field.
  3. Seeking out new information: Once the specific knowledge and/or skills are acquired, it is important to seek out broad knowledge and/or skills from other fields and industries. That can provide further insights into one’s specific fields.


One of the biggest pitfalls for aviation professionals is believing that our jobs are always in high demand, and we need not worry about employment prospects. This is particularly the case for pilots. No doubt there is a pilot shortage and at any given time there can be aviation businesses clamoring for pilots given current market conditions. However, at the same time since the pilot shortage is an ongoing problem you can rest assured that airlines and other operators are working diligently to minimize the effect of the pilot shortage. We’ve seen this with mergers and acquisitions both at the charter and airline levels.

So how do aviation professionals become T-shaped? In order to become T shaped as an aviation professional we may do the following things.

Gain deep understanding of our specialization

Having a complete and thorough understanding of one’s specialization is the place to start. The key here is to know your specialization inside out, and always be trained and current in that area. This is important because by understanding your specialization in depth you are better able to see where there could be improvement in specific key areas of that specialization and to set the stage for how you were going to gather supporting or ancillary information and training from outside your specialization. In essence, setting the stage for you becoming T-shaped.

Seek out new information

Here’s a question: How many times have you seen an individual or group of individuals lose out on opportunities because they believe that they knew everything they needed to know for their respective field? The answer to that question is more times than anyone can count. One of the most fatal professional mistakes individuals can make is to believe that they know everything they need to know to be truly successful in their field because they are the best at the special knowledge that they currently possess in that respective area. This way of thinking is severely misguided. And it has led many aviation professionals to ruin.

Let’s be very clear, in the fast paced high demand world that we currently live in, it’s the professionals that are constantly staying sharp, well knowledgeable, and very informed, not only in their respective specialization but other areas related to and ancillary to that specialization. The other obvious question here then is: How do one seek out new information that is relevant and valuable to one becoming T-shaped?

Here are a few tips:

Read – often and widely: A lot of professionals like to read, unfortunately, some of us tend to read primarily in a specific area of specialization or when we do read outside of our specialization we read mainly for entertainment. Once again this is misguided. As professional as we should seek to read broadly not only across our industry but in other industries as well. There are lots of insights that can be gleaned from reading about an industry that we are not particularly a player in, and material that is not particularly germane to our specialization. For example, a professional may be stuck on solving a problem in their specific field, however, by remembering an article read in the past of how another individual or institution in another industry has solved a similar problem, can allow that professional to solve that problem and add tremendous value to their organization or customers. The professional who has not been reading that widely might’ve never come up with that solution that quickly or at all.

Share insights – with those within and without your specialization: By sharing insights with individuals inside and outside your respective specialization, as well as inside and outside your respective industry, you are able to provide them with perspectives that are outside of their respective field allowing them to possibly gain tremendous value from your insights. Through the law of reciprocity, they generally will return the favor. This way you can gather tremendous amounts of insights that will help to make you more T-shaped in your respective field.

‘Manage’ time – extracting the most value out of time: No doubt there’s a lot of literature out there about time management. The challenge is not only that there is so much material to sift through to figure out what time management advice is the best, but also that most time management advice misses one key point. That point is that: It is not so much that it is time that needs to be managed – since time cannot be controlled – but first figuring out what our priorities are, and then organizing our activities in time around those priorities. In essence stop prioritizing schedules and schedule – in time – your priorities. This way you can figure out what is most important to you and be able to focus on those things within the limited time you have in a day, week, month or year. Once you have clarity in this regard, you are better able to organize your life around becoming T-shaped through the points listed above.

stop prioritizing schedules, and schedule – in time – your priorities.

Practice, practice, practice

The old adage, “practice makes perfect”, is still very important. As aviation professionals as we seek greater understanding of our specialization, gather new information, prioritize our activities in time, all in a bid to become more T-shaped, we must never forget to practice what we are learning. In many fields the cliché “use it or lose it“ applies. The new information and insights gleaned should be used at every opportunity. Note, not every insight gleaned will be readily applicable to one’s field, but those that are, should be applied as soon as possible. Then keep practicing those that are effective to make them better.

Take care of yourself

While this one might seem like a no-brainer, sometimes  as professionals we get caught up in ensuring that we are well-oiled and effective at what we do in order to become successful that we forget the most important thing in success; our health. Importantly you must always remember: Without YOU there is no YOUR success. Therefore, as professionals we must take the time to take care of our mind, body, and for those of us who are spiritual our spiritual well-being as well. This is what keeps us balanced and without being balanced we eventually will become ineffective and lose the success that we are seeking.


Many aviation professionals might read this article and think to themselves: “Why go through all this mumbo-jumbo, am I not doing just fine the way I am today?” For some aviation professionals this might be true, however, for most professionals this only seems to be true. The highly complex and competitive environment that we currently operating as aviation professionals is constantly changing, job security is not as great as it used to be, there are upstarts everywhere looking to unseat us from our business and careers, and with the current economic challenges coupled with what is the come in the future, it is almost guaranteed that the aviation industry will go from an employees market, to an employers market at some point. This means that the employer will have the upper hand in recruiting, selecting and promoting employees. This means that we must become more attractive. We must be able to add much more value to the organization we wish to join. If we are business owners, we must be able to add more value to our customers and clients. While there are other factors, this in itself is reason enough to start today in becoming T-shaped and broadening our perspective with regards to our respective professional aviation careers.


Thank you for reading this week’s On Aviation™ full article. Do you believe it’s important for us to be T-shaped in our professional aviation careers? Please share your thoughts in the comments below and remember to continue the conversation on our Twitter and Instagram.

Orlando – On Aviation™

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