Cross-trainers and pi-shaped people

I have been participating in an online course with Tara Mohr “Playing Big 2021”; this week Tara focused us on the idea of callings. According to Tara, some women are cross-trainers when it comes to their calling “…people who have expertise in one field and experience, that lens, to a new field”.


Similarly, in the book “Range”, David Epstein describes people who are pi-shaped, relentlessly curious, with broad knowledge based and deep expertise in a few subject matter areas.


These concepts really resonated with me; ever since I can remember I have been curious about everything! Over the years I have learned a wide variety of skills and a few areas of deep expertise. My interests have ranged from being a music performance major in college, being a basic neuroscience researcher, studying art history in France, starting my own business, etc.


Others have been perplexed by my broad interests and asked why I spend so much time and energy in different subject areas. For many years it was difficult for me to explain this, but now I have come to understand that I live to connect people and ideas in new and unexpected ways. This is what it means to be a cross-trainer and I love to see a-ha connection moments with my teams!


One example: in college I was taking a course in French Feminist Theory (for my French major) and Physics (for my premed). Physics always came right before Feminist Theory, and sometime it felt jolting to go from one topic to the other! One day I had been studying optics in Physics, and studying the theory of how “otherness” is viewed by Feminists. In the French class, I had a giant a-ha moment when I realized that some of the physics of human sight could relate to the way the “other” is viewed by the mainstream population. I nearly fell out of my seat with excitement and shared my thoughts (realizing it was difficult to explain optics in French!) with the group. It was a completely novel way of understanding the material and gave rise to a fascinating conversation.


Those moments of connecting the dots sparks such joy and fulfillment for me, and has brought great value to my teams and my work product. I am now unabashed in my relentless curiosity because I understand how it all comes together!

Dr Jennie Byrne © All Rights Reserved