Hard skills are great. They help with an exact profession and ensure that you have the skills required to complete tasks. Don't underestimate the power of soft skills, though. These are the skills that apply to many areas of life and can be used to hone in on a specific task or profession.
The tech industry is filled with processes, roadmaps and wiring. However, skills other than strict technical knowledge can take a tech professional to the next level. Keep reading for soft skills all tech professionals should have.
1. Communication and collaboration
Technology doesn't exist in a vacuum, and building tech with someone else and as part of a team is much more fun. This makes for better applications and products, according to Marta Jasinska, vice president of engineering at MOO.
"It's also really hard to scale something if you build it on your own," she said. "You don't always need to work in a hub or in the office; you can still work remotely, but as part of a wider team all working towards creating something together."
Being able to communicate is also crucial. There are two factors to communication, according to Richard Tyndall, owner and founder of IT services and consulting company TYN Consulting: "You have to be able to explain how something works, but you also need to be able to explain why – translate a person's needs and explain why they need a certain solution."
He added that another aspect of communication is knowing your audience. Being able to adjust your tone and understanding based on who you are explaining to is a great soft skill, especially when explaining to an older generation that is not as familiar with certain technology.
Jasinska touched on this as well, adding that the ability to explain complex problems in common language is also important. "We are always dealing with quite complex problems, but being able to explain them in non-tech ways is a game-changer. This is a skill which will open the doors, make life easier, and ultimately allow you to position technology as something that is key to the success of the whole organization."
Jasinska suggested using graphic presentations, analogies and everyday language rather than tech jargon to be more easily understood.
2. Time management
"Having good (or bad) time management skills can create a ripple effect on the rest of the team," said Christopher Navalta, public relations manager at Check Point Software Technologies. "When a team is working on a project, that project could go sideways very quickly if one person misses a deadline. As a result, the entire team could face consequences by upper management simply because one person wasn't able to manage his or her time efficiently."
This is especially important given that IT isn't in charge of just a single system; there are many moving parts that all need some TLC.
"Creating a schedule for maintenance, and then finding the in-between time for things that are not part of the normal schedule, is crucial," Tyndall said. "This kind of time management will decrease a company's exposure to cybersecurity threats, because you will have allowed yourself time to deal with and manage systems appropriately."
Time management has an effect on many other soft skills, like dependability in meeting deadlines.
"When someone can get work done in a timely manner, they immediately become more valuable," said Steven Page, vice president of digital strategy at data and digital marketing services agency Giant Partners. "Also, your employees will want to give you important work to do because you can have an optimal turnaround time."
Page added that workers who lack time management skills become a hassle to work with and ultimately put more work on the other team members, because no one wants to give that person tasks if they'll take forever to complete.
Networking is important on many levels. One of the benefits of a strong network, according to business coach and consultant Connelly Hayward, is that it becomes a resource to help overcome challenges and solve problems.
"When we have people to discuss things with, we open up the possibilities for insights and solutions," Hayward said. "We not only elevate our own thinking, but we get their best think also. Great thinking happens when ideas, thoughts, challenges, problems and solutions are openly and freely discussed. A strong network of people we are comfortable with reduces the barriers of free-flowing conversation."
Tyndall echoed this sentiment. "You'd be surprised how often someone else hits the same problem at the same time. When you get together to discuss, now you have a brain trust of different expertise that can help come up with the best solution. Networking is crucial for solution development."
Building technology is about solving problems, but you can't solve a problem unless you understand the user's pain.
Christopher McCann, CEO of AI-enabled healthcare company snap40, said the worst products are ones where it's clear designers and engineers have no real understanding of the user or their daily lives. The ability to empathize with your user and understand their problem is core to solving that problem.
"The lack of ability to empathize may lead to tech professionals feeling frustrated by stakeholders who do not see eye to eye with them as a result of their ability to communicate in a way that is understandable," said digital/IT consultant Clarence Lam. "This is further worsened when tech professionals have a lack of understanding of the overarching business objectives they are trying to achieve, which can lead to plenty of miscommunication."
Having skills directly related to your field and specific job are great, but there are so many other skills – soft skills – that not only help you in life, but also in your career.
Additional reporting by Shimon Brathwaite.