Today’s age is the age of skilled specialists. While we all along had people skilled in their trades- carpenter, plumber, fitter, electrician, nurse, doctor, architect etc are all examples of trades that require specialised skill- the reference is more appropriate for jobs requiring multiple skills such as civil services or banking. Earlier, a graduate civil servant would be a revenue secretary or planning commission deputy chairman or in stray cases even RBI Governor towards the end of his career. Similarly a graduate banker, mostly joining as a teller or clerk would rise in the cadre to Head credit, treasury or risk functions. We used to call him a General Banker- a jack of all ( I would refrain from using second part of this saying as some of them proved to be pioneers having written reference books on their domains) , who would provide flexibility to the top management to be used anywhere from admin to treasury!

However, increasingly the last of the bastions of the generalists are falling to skilled specialists, more noticeably civil services and banking. We recently read about the Government contemplating lateral recruitment of professionals into civil services. Banking in any case is today more about IT rather than pure banking and with robotics and artificial intelligence next big disruptions, I see general bankers becoming redundant over the next decade or so! It’s not only heads of IT and Law, but several other domains such as HR, Marketing, Product development etc that have industry professionals heading them rather than traditional bankers.

Is no specialised skill also a skill? Is there any importance or value assignable to practical knowledge, experience or first hand exposure to a domain or subject? Actually, the idea of writing this blog struck me while reading my favourite cartoon strip “Blondie” in today’s newspaper. Bumstead is appearing specially cheerful while going to office and his wife Blondie asks him the reason. He replies, “whenever anyone in office makes a real dumb move, the boss says they’ve pulled a Bumstead!” Blondie tells him that this isn’t exactly a compliment to which he remarks, ” May not be in the traditional sense, but it’s the first time I’ve ever had a skill named for me.” Sometimes even innocuous cartoon humour can have such underlying meaning that it can hit you hard!

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