In light of the current skills gap in the technology sector, it might seem strange that competition for I.T. jobs is still as stiff as ever. Not only are companies searching for talented programmers with plenty of relevant industry experience, they’re also looking for individuals who possess similarly refined soft skills to sweeten the deal.
Broadly defined by Google as “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people”, some tech leaders believe these soft skills are absolutely vital to the modern office.
And, although the significance of these traits differs from business to business, there is clearly some advantage to developing these skills: I.T. professionals would do well to cultivate these 5 in particular.
While strong written and verbal communication skills are indispensable in basically every profession, they are especially valuable in the tech sector. Given the complexities of technology and its arcane lexicon, it’s crucial to be able to express this complex information in clear, easy-to-understand terms, whether you’re in discussion with an experienced co-worker or a complete layman. As far as the latter’s concerned, whereas the virtues of one specific piece of software might seem obvious to an experienced programmer, it almost certainly won’t to someone outside of the industry.
The self-same skills are equally important for entrepreneurs looking to take their ideas to investors who perhaps lack the intimate technological knowledge of a seasoned professional. Under such circumstances, no matter how impressive the concept is if you’re unable to effectively pitch the product and detail the benefits you hope it’ll bring, it’s unlikely it’ll receive the funding or support needed to get it off the ground in the first place.
Honing your oratorical skills is of great advantage when it comes to applying for jobs too. During the high-pressure atmosphere of the average interview, an eloquent and lucid speaking style is critical if you hope to correctly promote your skills and explain exactly why your previous experience makes you suitable for the role; you might be a better data analyst than the other candidates, but if you’re unable to express this clearly, you won’t get hired.
Teamwork is essential for any would-be technologist. Whether a centralised team of talented programmers are working together on a single product or an array of individuals from different disciplines are co-operating on a large composite project, collaboration is common in the tech sector.
Feeling confident about sharing your own ideas with teammates is, obviously, a significant part of this collaborative approach, however, it’s equally necessary for you to listen and appreciate their ideas in turn. It’s this exchange of knowledge that leads to transformative technological developments and increases the likelihood the final product is as good as it can be. Likewise, whilst not everyone is comfortable doing it, being able to give and take constructive criticism (when called for) fosters a strong and effective team environment.
Apart from providing substantial benefits to the company itself – a well-run team is a more productive team, after all – ambitious employees who have their sights set on a management position later in their career will find a collaborative approach increases their chances of promotion too. Tech leaders tend to favour those who prioritise the team’s success over their own personal achievements; in other words, those who put the company ahead of themselves.
It might seem likely a slightly redundant trait in a technological field – something relevant to doctors and nurses, not coders – however, empathy is something highly sought-after by many employers in technological industries.
First and foremost, an empathetic approach to your work helps you fully appreciate the needs of the people that use your products and services, as distinct from what you’d consider satisfactory in terms of quality; there’s nothing wrong with advising a customer, but ultimately your job is to fulfil their requests. In turn, rather than going back and forth with ideas you think will improve the product, empathy allows you to create applications that match your client’s specifications exactly or design a game capable of delighting your customers.
Managers, meanwhile, will find the task of overseeing their team far simpler if they are able to understand the needs and wants of the team, quickly identifying when morale is low, what process changes are needed to support the team for the duration of a particular assignment, evaluate if the current deadline is reasonable etc. Consequently, they’ll be in a better position to make responsive business decisions and offer advice on future projects.
The ability to motivate your colleagues and/or employees is another soft skill that is as desirable in the technology sector as it is in every other industry.
Especially important during stressful periods when looming deadlines put additional pressure on employees, managers must know how to inspire their charges if they’re to ensure morale and therefore productivity remain at a consistent level throughout a project’s lifecycle. Similarly, motivation is a key factor in retaining employees since without it, managers may find their workers feel disinterested in the company or generally apathetic toward the product itself.
As for individual employees, an inspirational demeanour helps you get your point across when explaining an esoteric subject or instructing a colleague in the finer points of a new system, making what might otherwise seem boring appear at least moderately stimulating. And if you’re interested in mentoring a graduate – either to help the company grow or to improve your chances of promotion – motivation is an attribute an employer will look for when deciding if you’re a suitable candidate for such a role.
Advances and developments in technology occur rapidly (consider the meteoric rise of the smartphone), forcing those working within technological disciplines to take an adaptive approach to their field.
Flexibility allows you to keep up with the innumerable developments and alterations happening every day in the tech sector as and when they occur. Augmenting your existing skillset, this also allows you to incorporate relevant new technologies and processes into your role with minimal impact on performance during the transitional period; benefitting both yourself and your employer.
Creativity, meanwhile, is a real boon. With an open mind, you’re able to view problems from multiple perspectives and thus find the most efficient solution, whilst as valuable as this kind of creative problem solving is, imagination is the crucial driving force behind innovation. The gadgets, products and advancements that constantly improve our society year upon year would simply not exist without human creativity, therefore companies are always looking to hire the most innovative employees whom they hope can disrupt markets and, ultimately, make money.
Regardless of the importance of soft skills to the today’s technologists, it’s your practical talents that determine how far you progress in your career and how much you’re able to earn. A below average coder who happens to have incredible interpersonal skills, for example, isn’t as valuable to an employer as someone who, though uncomfortable discussing projects with customers, possesses advanced technical skills.
For this reason, ABRS (part of the TEC Partners Group) merely wish to highlight some of the key supplementary skills that will help individuals in a competitive field understand the secondary factors that may give aspiring techies a competitive edge in the sector.