Episode 4

#004 - Accelerate Your Career with the Talent Stack

Published on: 10th September, 2020

Igor, Charles, and Robert discuss the concept of the Talent Stack and how you can use it as a guide for long-term career growth. This is definitely a concept we wish we knew early on in our careers.

Whether you are trying to get unstuck in your career and don't know where to go next, aiming towards that next big promotion, or looking to add a little flavor to your personal and professional life - the talent stack can keep you focused on your long term goals while providing clarity on what to focus on today.

We referenced the following resources during our discussion, be sure to check them out if they piqued your interest:

Thanks for joining us today and don't forget to subscribe and drop us a line if you enjoyed the episode.


Robert Greiner 0:02

Welcome to the Wanna Grab Coffee podcast. In today's episode, Igor, Charles and I discussed the concept of the talent stack and how you can use it as a guide for long term career growth. Whether you're trying to get unstuck in your career and don't know where to go next, aiming towards that next big promotion, or looking to add a little bit of flavor to your personal professional life, the talents stack can keep you focused on your long term career goals while providing clarity on what to focus on today. Thanks for joining us. And don't forget to subscribe and drop us a line if you enjoyed the episode. Have a good one?

What's up, guys?

Igor Geyfman 0:34

Hey, what's going on, Robert?

Robert Greiner 0:36

Hey, so if you ever had a time in your career, where it wasn't really obvious what you should be focusing on today, this week next month, in order to reach your long term career goals. I frequently get asked by our junior folks, hey, what should I focus on next? What skills should I develop? What programming language should I learn? And the short answer is it doesn't really matter just as long as you're building some skills

and improving in some area over time. And that's what I really introduced him to the idea of that of the talent stack. And Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, coined the term and so for for Scott Adams, he's really funny. He's really good at art. And he has some business acumen. And he packages those things up into a unique combination that creates a Dilbert. And so we've been talking about this idea of the talent stack for a while now. And so definitely wanted to bring that up today, and really talk about how people can reach their career goals by building this unique combination of skills over time. And the cool thing about this is it doesn't really matter. If you're building hard skills, soft skills, something off the wall. A lot of times those will add flavor to your talent stack and make you even more unique. And so that's really what I wanted to talk to you guys about today. See if there's a way we could help people unlock the next level of career growth for

them. And I know since we've been talking about this for a while, Charles, I wanted to get your thoughts on how the concept of the talent stack can help you focus longer term on your career while still keeping the present in mind.

Charles Knight 2:12


Well, I've certainly been in that situation before that you described, where, you know, I have these aspirations in my career that I know will take 10, 20, 30 years to accomplish. And with such kind of longer term goals, it can be really hard to say, okay, from where I am right now, in terms of my abilities, but also, you know, the type of work that I do, like, how do I get from here to there, and I really like the talent stack as guideposts along the way, in terms of a career journey for a couple of reasons. I think the first one is that, it is something you can control. It is something you can reflect upon.

And you can decide, it's like, hey, these are these combinations of skills and talents that I want to focus on right now. And

those are tangible. You know, it's something that I can do, you know, starting right now, tomorrow. I think the challenge, though, is that it may be hard at first to see how those talents can contribute to long term career, you know, growth and accomplishing those goals.

But that,

you know, the whole point is that this is this is like a practice, right? It's like, you don't just identify, like artistic ability in business, academ and creativity. And then all of a sudden you've got Dilbert. It's like now Scott Adams probably worked quite a bit to identify those talents. And then every single day made it his craft and mission to put those into practice. And that's why I think this this is a good concept for long term career goals and things like that is because there's discipline that comes along with identifying what your kind of unique combination of talents and skills are. So yeah, I think that's how that's how it helps from a long term standpoint. Gives us a little bit of clarity on what are the few important things that we can focus on now that if we apply every single day, you can start to see material results.

Igor Geyfman 4:43

What's on deck for you right now, Charles, for your talent stack.

Charles Knight 4:49

Writing, writing, yes, writing, writing, writing, which is you know, I've just for a while years, I've thought that, I'm just not that good at writing. Like, it's a I've, I've had.

Igor Geyfman 5:07

Why did you feel that way?

Charles Knight 5:09

Well, I think it's because

Igor Geyfman 5:13

Is that like feedback you receive, like you, you would do some writing and then somebody would say, hey, Charles, you know, can you can work on this a little bit more?

Charles Knight 5:21

No, it was it was nothing external. It was all internal. Like, in my mind whenever I sat down to write something, whether it's a presentation, or I don't know, at an email or something like that, it was just really, really hard for me to put words on paper. And it wasn't until recently, probably, maybe a couple months ago that I realized, like, hey, this is a skill, this is a skill that I can learn and get better at and I had to really get over myself and I took a Coursera course for free, I just audited a course on Coursera around business writing, and really basic stuff. But if you again, if you apply it every single day, it can really make a difference. So that's, that's what I'm focusing on right now.

Robert Greiner 6:15

Yeah, I'm gonna ask that. You you're focusing on writing you want to get be a better writer, you took a class on business writing. I'm assuming that was that was the focus, right like you wanted to be. You wanted to apply your enhanced writing skills to your job. So this was not a hobby. This is this is professional development. Did you look at any other mechanism for improving? Did you look at writing fiction or writing comics or something like that as a way to spur the ability to create a creative, compelling narrative even in a business setting?

Charles Knight 6:54

I did. And there are a few courses out there that would fit that I looked at creative writing. In particular, the reason why I picked this one, it's a specialization. So if you don't know anything about Coursera, there are bundles of courses that you can take that are related. And what I liked about this is that it was three different courses, one on business writing, essentially, how do you write a memo? To be honest, I've never written a memo in my life, but it's just about, you know, the written word. The second course was actually on graphic design. And the third was on public speaking. And so, what I actually liked was that these three different professors identified these core principles of effective communication that span the written word, you know, graphic design, and, you know, public presentation, or presentation skills, public speaking. And so even though I did it to focus on my writing, I'm really excited about the graphic design piece. I would tell you, I don't think I'm a good designer at all. I wouldn't say that I know anything about design really. So it's it is a little broader than just writing.

So I like that.

Igor Geyfman 8:16

Robert, what's what's on deck for you?

Robert Greiner 8:22

So for me, it's it's got to be this idea of relationship building in a virtual setting. So things that are not tended to decay, and as an extrovert and I've maybe I feel this a little bit more acutely than others, but I can just feel what I felt was a pretty robust series of relationships heading into the COVID lockdown. They're decaying at a rate that for me is like I can viscerally feel it right. And, you know, were on a given week where I made bounce back and forth between, you know, one, two client sites, the office, you know, grabbing coffee with you guys, if I had some kind of quantitative measure of positive relationship experiences, just generally speaking, that number might be like an 80 on a given week. And now it's like an eight. Like, it's just really, really difficult to, to cultivate relationships. And I think part of that is stylistic preference on my side, but I need to apply a lot more intentionality to really a core component of being able to be effective at that our level is you get results through the relationships you have, right I can do virtually nothing on my own now. Like I need I need a concerted, mobilized collective effort of a team to accomplish anything That's just I can feel it decaying. So I'm working on a few things around. reminders. Charles, I took your advice the other day to heart and starting to send people handwritten thank you notes and just really looking to put in intentional, on purpose, a synchronous, positive relationship experiences, right. You're kind of limited to the virtual coffees and meetings and people are fatigued with being on camera and things like that. And so there's sort of a limit a ceiling on what you can accomplish there. So I'm trying to figure out how to asynchronously improve relationships, how to track it, which is not something that I'm typically wired or inclined to do. To make sure in the same way, if I'm trying to lose 10 pounds, you know, I'm tracking my calories. I'm tracking my workouts. I'm seeing the progress go up, looking at really the intentionality behind, the core behind that relationship building idea that comes much more naturally to me in person.

What about you Igor?

Igor Geyfman:

Yeah, you know, for me,

I think, um, I call it account management, but it's something a little bit more specific than that. And it's how do you align the activities of a disparate set of teams to, you know, similar goals. And it's quite complicated and difficult and right now, you know, we're doing that through through OKRs. And, but there's a steep learning curve there for me, and then also the account team. And so you know, that aspect of getting getting your teams to align behind goals and making forward progress. I don't know if that's a traditional stack that you put into your into your talent stack. But it is a practice I would say. Like once you've done it, you understand the mechanics, you have experience of how your teams have reacted to like an OKR system, you know how to create momentum, how to help them. And, yeah, I've been learning a lot, but I think there's, you know, a mountain still left for me to learn on on that side. So I'm looking forward to that over the next I would say, you know, six to 12 months is my time horizon for getting that skill dialed in for myself.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, well, one thing that's definitely on your talent stack is the ability to ask really good questions at the exact right time. So definitely something that I've always appreciated about working with you for sure.


Yeah, sure. So while we're on this note, what what are your thoughts, Igor, on how this idea of the talent stack thinking about your career more intentionally around the skills that you're building? What's your opinion on how that could lead to broader life satisfaction, happiness, that kind of thing?

Igor Geyfman:

Yeah, you know,

there's this concept of Icky guy, right? It's this Japanese concept. And it's like a strange Venn diagram. You know, Venn diagrams usually have two circles, and then whatever's in the middle, like, that's the good thing. The icky guy has like four circles. Each of them obviously, you know, interconnect with another circle, and then they all interconnect to make the middle circle. And it's the intersection of these like four components. And it's what do you love to do? What are you good at doing, you know, those aren't always the same. What can you be paid for? And what does the world need? You know, and I like to think that, you know, your talent stack could probably follow some of these things, right? You don't always have to build your talent stack in what you can be paid for. For example, the talent stack that I'm developing right now, you know, around account management and aligning teams, it's really pretty squarely in the, what can you be paid for? By bucket, right, like, that's not something that, I mean, you can argue that that's something that the world needs, but usually it's a corporate organizational need. Right. And it's something that's, that's paid for, and that's what I'm developing. But you know, sometimes I develop my artistic skills, because I love them and I may not be good at them yet. But as I develop them, those artistic skills can translate into helping me become better at business communication, right? Because Charles, you mentioned that one of the course components is like graphic design. Right. And, and so over time, you know, probably every stack that I develop has one of these, or two of these, or sometimes three of these as a component into it. But over time, as you build up a diversity, as you build diversity in your talent stack, you get to a point where you can employ these things towards your Icky guy. And, and I think that's sort of sort of the the connection there. I'm on vacation now. So I'm taking taking a little break. And one of my goals during the break is learning how to DJ. Might sound like a very strange sort of thing to want to learn, but I've wanted to learn that ever really since I was 13 or 14 years old. And I can also think about as my my talent stack. And at some point, it's going to come in handy as I learn more about DJing because I really have no idea what DJing was before I started now I'm on YouTube, I'm watching you know, all these videos, and

reading the crowd

and playing the right song at the right time, like understanding people's energy levels. And then introducing things into the system at the right energy level, to make movements towards like momentum up or momentum down. That is the basic skill of the DJ. And that's abstractly a very useful skill for somebody in business. Right, you're in a meeting, you're reading the energy of the room that's, sort of the cumulative energy of the people in that room and getting good at acutely reading that. And then being able to respond in the right way, what can I introduce? Maybe it's a good question. Right? Maybe it's a little bit of forced silence. Maybe it's a provocative statement. Maybe it's agreeing with somebody, that that skill, and I think abstractly, you can apply a lot of these skills and especially once that's about sort of reading humans, as a bedroom DJ, that's maybe a little bit harder, but I can sort of read my mood, and that's what I'm working towards. So even, you know, what you probably think is a pretty frivolous, sort of thing to learn, might really turn out to be pretty useful for you in the right context if you let it be.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, that that's really interesting. I think about hobbies as a first class citizen in this framework, right? And so one thing that I picked up a couple years ago is golf. And just like, started out playing with my father in law, my brother in law, and we're out having fun, and I'm doing horribly, but it's a good time you're outside, you get you find yourself in conversations that normally wouldn't have at your house or something like that. Right. So I definitely caught the bug early. And so then I was asked the natural question, Well, how do you get better at golf and that's like a huge rabbit hole. And there's all of this. Like in the in the clubs and the type of club heads and the length of the club and right and what kind of ball you use, and there's all these like, it's an infinite number ofpossibilities and dimensions to, to dig into. In pursuit of that, like you're you're still building this level of analytics and this that the idea that you're you're learning a new skill, you're trying something hard, you're measuring improvement you're learning how to get better at something, fighting through it in a way that's unique to you, I think is a really interesting lens to put on this because one it does really focus on the well being and happiness right and golf. there's a there's a pretty easy analog into into business anyway. But second, this idea of connecting. We talked about relationships earlier, connecting passions right on, golf or really, probably won't have much to do with my profession, but the idea around teaching was like my daughter came out and started playing with me as well, she's seven. I don't know how to even play golf barely like so to teach it as something else as well. But you know, we're out there having fun, it teaches me how to connect with my daughter more, I can kind of observe her and in a in a physical element, we're riding in the cart together and so that in my talent stack I very much one being a being a world class father to be in my talent stack. And I think through these connections that we don't always perceive, playing golf doesn't help me be a better father. It creates an environment and a tool that I can apply towards being a father shared interest with my kid, time alone on the golf course, that kind of thing. And so it's really interesting as we start to unravel this idea of the talent stack, it's a pretty nuanced thing, right? And you're now I have that, I have it forever and as you build these ideas and concepts, you add flavor to who you are and what you bring to your personal and professional life. And that's kind of maybe one main point I wanted to make is you know, it's it's not about just hard skills, just business skills. It's much broader than that and so maybe we can take a minute and Charles you could start off by what what's like one area of your talent stack that you're good at that at that brings that flavor into work. That's not a hard skill, like a programming language or writing or public speaking graphic design, things like that.

Charles Knight:


What comes to mind is,

this probably a few years ago when I really, I don't even know how I got I got on to this but it's storytelling, actually, it's effectively telling stories. I remember, there was a podcast that I was listening to. And this person posed a really interesting question. And it was based off of the fact that they found, like ancient human remains, they originated from maybe Madagascar or, off the coast of Africa. There, they find they found fossil records of this group of ancient humans in Australia. So can you imagine, like these ancient humans in Madagascar, also being found in Australia? And this person poses like, how do you think, those humans got from Madagascar to Australia? Is because somebody told a frickin compelling story. Somebody on Madagascar you know, maybe it's a, you know, elder in the tribe or something said, we have to sail across this body of water that we have never been across before, and face whatever challenges and trials that will face for some good reason. They had to tell that story in such a compelling way to convince people to risk their lives to go do that. And they did it. That blew my mind when I was listening to that, that podcast. And and I thought about the importance of stories in everyday life, not just in business. Like if you're trying to sell something we'll sure if you're a good storyteller, that's great. But what if you're telling a story about your brother at his wedding? You know, for example. Do you want to fumble over your words or do you want to tell something that is entertaining and heartfelt and filled with emotion and joy for a special occasion for somebody that you love. And I realized this like, you know what, this is something that if I invest in, it can impact all areas of my life. And

there's a lot of resources out there. That's the amazing thing. No matter what your talent is that you want to add to your talent stack. So many resources that are available, whether that's Coursera or Igor, you were talking about YouTube videos for DJing. There's so much out there. It just requires you to be intentional about investing some of your time and attention on that thing. For me, it was storytelling. I think that that has had really interesting benefits and impacts in areas outside of my life that are not obvious, right? As a console. I don't think people would self identify as storytellers. But I do. I do.

Robert Greiner:


Igor Geyfman:

I love storytelling. I think that, you know, the the stack that I'm working on right now, this idea of team alignment, the aspect of storytelling would be huge. Right? So adding that in into the mix and over these 12 months, giving some intentionality towards becoming a better storyteller, and a more effective communicator with those teams. And

providing an environment where people want to,

do something together, right? For some that might mean crossing an ocean For others, it might mean doing something that they count. But I love that the storytelling component, I can see how it very squarely fits into a lot of things that can be very useful.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah. And you you've been helpful Charles in my career with that idea, that concept of storytelling when I had a really big presentation deliverable due this idea of either the hero's journey and how tension comes up and down Igor that there's even a tie into the DJ piece you were saying before. And the cool thing about building a talent stack is, like, I would say, I'm very, very low on the storytelling bell curve. But those two or three concepts that you gave me at the time really helped elevate this one thing I was working on. And so a talent in the talent stack is also I'm good at learning new things, or I can take tactical components of this skill and apply it somewhere else that elevates that. And I think this idea of introducing tension and drama into into a story or putting a story around something that previously had no story, it was void of any kind of tension. It was was really helpful for me. And I think that's a cool, often overlooked part of the talent stack as well as, you don't have to be in the top 80% of these five things. You can get just good enough over here to be accretive to what you really care about. So, yeah, that's that's really interesting. Igor, what about you, man?

Igor Geyfman:

Um, well, I want to go back to something that you said, which I think just made me think of something. I think it's really cool. That you know, learning. Right? So if somebody comes to you and they're okay, I don't really know what to focus on next. Right. And, you can you can talk to them about Icky guy you can talk to them about talent stack, but this idea of learning how to learn better. How to dive into a subject how to, take it apart, and how to sort of approach each piece and extract the most learning from it over the shortest period of time. That's a talent in the talent stack that has like, geometric dividends that it pays, right? So if you're stuck, and you don't know if it's DJing, or storytelling, or C sharp, or whatever, maybe investing into becoming a better learning. You know, one of the best learning tools for me has been mind mapping, for example, right. So that allows me to learn things in a much more efficient way. And doesn't have to be a mind mapping but other learning techniques. I think that's a wonderful way to spend time and to provide accelerants for you. But yeah, so you know what's kind of like a non-work related stack that I've been trying out. About a year ago I developed like a very keen interest in dungeon mastering for like Dungeons and Dragons, which is a tabletop RPG. And I bought like a little booklet, watch some videos on youtube, this is becoming a pattern. I watched some videos on YouTube on how to do it. And I brought it. I've never played it before. I've never dungeon mastered nor have I participated as a player, watch some videos. And then I'm a bit I'm an experiential learner. So learning by doing, we you know, the big we had a corporate management retreat. And I just brought like my little set was a little red box. I prepared some folders for folks. I had no idea if anybody would be interested when I brought it by the way, it could have been a very good have been a very short night for me, where I've been like, Hey, y'all do you want to go dungeoneering with me? And, I would have heard crickets and everybody would have gone to play poker, or whatever else. And I would have just kind of sat there sad, y'all got into it. Other people got into it even more, we had a great time. But more than that, Dungeon Master skills also helped transfer in the workplace. So investing this time into this really, for me fun activity. Hopefully it was fun for y'all. Um, helped me how do you progress, you know, a team through a story, right? And how do you provide the right level of challenge at the right time? And how do you maintain interest? And make the right encounters and so on. So I would say very random, but learning how to Dungeon Master, was kind of like a out there talent sack sort of deal.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah. And so one one interesting piece of inside baseball this will go into storytelling as well. So our office manager Brooke, join the game. And she had never played before, right. So picked it up pretty quickly. And was the the one who actually dealt the killing blow on the final monster, which you had a hand painted. So we you put the little tokens out in your tracking positions, and it was this big, sort of nasty looking thing you hand painted it and then at the very end, since Brooke killed the monster, she got to keep it. And I remember she was like, super excited about that. And then took it took it to her cube and it's there to this day, and she that's like a fun story that she has to tell. Right. And so I think this idea also coming back to creating positive experiences, stories, shared experiences with the people around you, that's a huge thing. And that's also a skill that, I guess is nested into the dungeon master skills, as well.

Igor Geyfman:

It was it was super cool. I'm really glad. Brooke, approached it with a lot of vigor. She moved to a different office. The thessalhydra, that's the monster, the thessalhydra that was painstakingly painted by me, took me probably a good two or three hours to paint it, made it in her move. Which was like shocking to me. I was like, Whoa, like it ended up on her shelf at her new office. And, yeah, it was it was really cool. It's a great story. And yeah, I enjoyed it. Robert, what what's your out there talents stack?

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, so I've been thinking about this as you guys were talking, I think it has to be this, this idea around humor or levity that I can apply to tense situations and so that we all know this. If you've been in the workplace for more than five minutes, there's people that are abrasive, your interactions with them are abrasive. They're situations that are ongoing that are just that drama and dysfunction creeps in and then it's like the boiling the frog analogy, a year later, that's how feuds start right. And I really try to be intentional about and almost feel like I have a gut feel on this too. Where a situation is, is too tense. It's too serious. And I try to bring it completely overcorrected on the other end of the spectrum, around humor like when you took over facilitator for our weekly meetings, I gave you a yellow card and a red card that you could, you know, hold up when people are talking out of line and the idea was like to play on, hey, I'm running this show, even though you're like MCing, like it's like this authoritative thing, right and, and so I really try to, in, in work situations bring an air of of levity of humor. I like to joke that I don't even like to talk about work, like let's just go have coffee and talk about personal stuff. Right. And, and I think that over time, if you have if you strike the right balance there, it creates a more cohesive, human centric environment where good things can happen because the people that are around are happy and moving forward. I think that's like if you if you look at sort of the professional version of gallows humor, like your manual labor, 10 hours a day, dark, damp place. Like all you have at that point is humor. Right? And so I think there's a, there's sort of a professional analog there, which I've been honing, probably since the second grade.

Igor Geyfman:

I loved you as a facilitator, the very first moment where you started to assign random point values for people's actions during during the meeting. And it was something I was like, man, really only Robert. It was awesome. like you, you always say there's probably somebody out there with the Excel spreadsheet that's keeping track of all the points you've ever assigned. And one day we'll know who the winner is.

Robert Greiner:

We will.

Igor Geyfman:

But for you is this really great joke. And it became sort of a running gag.

Robert Greiner:


Igor Geyfman:

On your way out, because you were the outgoing facilitator, I was the incoming facilitator. Like you mentioned, the last thing you did was give me the yellow card and the red card. And I was able to practice humor. Thanks to you, right? I didn't fall on the points scheme. You gave me the mechanism for humor. Moving on that I can make my own right, which is really generous and brilliant. You know? So you you weren't just funny in your own flavor. You helped enable me to be funny and engaging as I took over the role for you. And that was really cool. I just big kudos. The points. I just remember. I just like I couldn't stop laughing.

Charles Knight:

Robert, didn't you didn't you take over facilitating for me?

Robert Greiner:

Uh, well, you were you the original? Yeah, maybe I did.

Charles Knight:

Yeah. So what were you going Robert, we're not are not saying which I will say I was a terrible facilitator. I was terrible. I was to the rules. You know, I was trying to educate people on how they should do things according to, the style that we've laid out. And I'm just chuckling over here because such a stark contrast between my facilitation and Roberts, and people just absolutely loved your facilitation like that. That is not a skill that I have tried to improve upon and yet clearly way, way, way valuable. So really nice job on them.

Robert Greiner:

I think. Thanks, guys. One thing I'll say too, is I could probably name two people who have the spreadsheet and the winners tabulated. And if I had to bet they would both have picked the same winner. Like both of the calculations would have been 100% correct. So, there you go.

Igor Geyfman:

We won't name those people right now.

Robert Greiner:


Charles Knight:

We'll invite them to a future episode.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, that's right.

Igor Geyfman:

And just ask him what the score is. And they'll know right away what your talking about.

Robert Greiner:

They'll know. They'll know what the score is. Yes. Absolutely.

Alright guys, well, hey, this has been an absolute pleasure. You want to close it out for today?

Charles Knight:

Yeah, let's do it. I think, hopefully the takeaway here for those listening is that we define talent stack and I'm sure Scott Adams did too. We define a pretty broadly. You know, we shared a few examples of what are some different talents. And so, I would love to hear from our listeners what they consider their talent stack. And maybe what's one talent that they want to add to their stack. Because I know the three of us, we're huge fans of lifelong learning. We get joy out of that, and we feel that's important to our careers in our lives. And so I'd encourage you to think about your talent stack. And wherever you're listening, find a way to reach out to us and let us know, added to a comment or something like that.

Robert Greiner:

Awesome. Well, with that, let's end it. Great seeing you guys.

Igor Geyfman:

Right on. Great. See you

Robert Greiner:

Have a great week.

Charles Knight:

Take care. See ya.

Igor Geyfman:

Cheers. Bye.

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