The Other Tech Trifecta: Mindset, Skillset, Toolset

The People Part

Who will take retail to the next level? Personally, I’m betting on my team. As Walmart rolls out shelf scanning robots, payment apps, hybrid cloud stacks, personalization, and other technologies to digitally transform the business, it needs people who think flexibly and act precisely. How do I build an adaptable team? Via a tried and true axiom that has never been more relevant: Mindset, Skillset, Toolset.

Of the three, I’ve found most companies bank on Toolset — the tactile skills and physical tools we use every day at work. For the sake of this conversation, they include hardware know-how, specific programming languages, the ability to develop to a spec…and, a host of other faculties. These types of skills are learned and easily defined, and can be expanded with study, experience, or both. Skillset is related as it also grows and changes — it’s how someone acts based on the tools they know.

I’m always looking for the right candidate with the specific expertise we need. Yes, I definitely pay attention to Skillset and Toolset. But, let’s face it, tech is always evolving. What was the hot programming language five years ago isn’t my first choice to develop today’s technologies. We can’t be using tools from five years ago — we need modern open-source platforms, easy to access infrastructure, great engineering laptops, simple collaboration tools, etc…and — we’re constantly updating them.

Mindset though is hard to switch up. Do you meet a challenge holistically and incrementally? Are you willing to try new things? Do you work well with a team? That’s what I’m talking about, and it’s, for the most part, innate. From a hiring perspective, if I have a choice between a candidate who knows the requisite coding language and a candidate who has an innovative Mindset, I will ALWAYS hire for attitude. I’ve found that talent has a lot more to do with persistence and adaptability than a coding language — of course some of the best people I’ve hired have used several and have strong opinions about each. The right attitude is a tool that refreshes itself. It’s much more constant and pervasive, and it’s what I look for first.

The biggest problem a growing organization has is how to change behavior, how to increase agility. Innovation never lifts off if even 5% of a team isn’t onboard. I have no use for an employee who thinks “That will never work!” I want the person who reacts with, “I can ship that!”

For the last six months, I’ve been getting everyone on my team on the same toolset (you know them — Github, Jira, Slack, #OneOps http://oneops.com/, CI/CD pipelines, etc.). Given the variety of projects we’re implementing, and others we have in the pipeline, this is no easy task. But with a future-ready, anticipatory team it’s doable. We are constantly simplifying and offering training and encouragement so that everyone has the opportunity to update their toolset and skillset. With an elastic crew, it’s really not so hard.

A company can say it’s agile but this is lip service if it’s not an integral part of the hiring process. To be successful, teams like Walmart Labs need dynamic minds who can adapt as the industry changes. If someone has the right mindset — motivation, versatility, curiosity — I can give them everything they need to develop their skillset for a variety of positions around the company (or even in another company)! The right mindset opens possibilities, but a candidate who only has the right toolset will become obsolete.

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