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Becoming the Expert Generalist

Becoming the Expert Generalist

Rachel Peck was the former CoS at Harry's and currently leads Learning and Development across her 500+ person team. Rachel has spent her career navigating through generalist and specialist positions. Both types of roles have their own merits and nuances in the types of skills required to grow and excel.

In this workshop Rachel led us through an overview of these differences and some fun exercises to help align on where you sit on the spectrum, the top skills that define great generalists, identifying why these skills are important to your long term development and goals, communicating this with your principal or team, and opportunities to develop.

The 3 Es

In particular Rachel introduced a very helpful framework great for any approach to professional learning and development:

  • Education
  • Exposure
  • Experience

Building on this, Rachel was also kind enough to share an amazing set of resources covering some of the key skillsets central to a generalist function including project management, emotional intelligence, and meeting facilitation. Available in the appendix of the presentation below.

Group Notes:

Meeting Goals

Very similar to what you were discussing with worrying about marketability
Same worry about being a generalist when everyone around me seemed to be specializing
Thinking about exit opportunities for this role internally and externally
I’d call myself a generalist. I don’t mind staying a generalist but would like to be better at marketing
How to be an expert generalist in a larger org where there is a full management team
How to just be really good at this
Curious how to be the best expert generalist and earn the respect of the experts.
Developing “hard” vs “soft” skills - finding opportunities to develop both and creating a strong narrative
Feels like because it’s a “background/low ego” role, I worry about my visibility and progression
How to know how much I need to know about functional areas
Same as Brandon. Figuring out where being a generalist can add value where the specialists in each function are increasingly

Specialist vs. Generalist Poll

1 (specialist) <> 10 (generalist)

(Where I am Today / Where I Want to be / Where my company Needs me)

  • 4/7/5
  • 8/5/5
  • 5/5/5
  • 5/5 (but different area) /3
  • 8/8/8
  • 4/6/7
  • 4/8/7
  • 7/8/8

Additional Generalist Skillsets

  • Context switching!
  • Being the “ear of the people” on behalf of the CEO
  • Putting the pieces together
  • Therapist 🙂
  • Conflict resolution


Building Generalist Skillset Questions & Template:

  1. What’s one generalist skill or competency you want to build or improve? Write it down
  2. What makes that skill important — both to you personally and to your org?
  3. How will you use each of the 3 Es to build that skill over the next 6 months?
  4. How will you talk to your leader(s) about the value you’ll add by making progress, and measure impact and improvement over time?


Link to source ↗