5 Soft Skills Every IT Pro Needs - InformationWeek

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5/14/2015
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David Wagner
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5 Soft Skills Every IT Pro Needs

When it comes to being a great employee, an IT professional can no longer sit in isolation. It's time to develop some soft people skills to help your career. Here's what one recruiter looks for when evaluating tech talent.
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Communication Skills
The term is obviously broad in meaning, but Gimbel finds a very particular aspect most important. 'You have to be sure what you are saying and what your staff is hearing is the same thing,' Gimbel said. Imagine going into a meeting with a client to discuss requirements for a new application. The client lists his or her needs. The IT pro takes notes, and everyone leaves thinking they are on the same page, only to discover that they are not at all on the same page. It happens all the time in the enterprise. Gimbel has a simple but profound solution: 
'We've been encouraging our customers to have a phone conversation with a [potential hire] where they tell the IT pro about a problem they have. And then they ask them to write an email back describing the problem and potential solutions.' 
According to Gimbel, communication skills have to be verbal, written, and even visual, so this is a great way of testing the individual's ability to convey ideas in multiple formats, and most importantly, to listen and return communication accurately. 
(Image:  05com via Flickr)

Communication Skills

The term is obviously broad in meaning, but Gimbel finds a very particular aspect most important. "You have to be sure what you are saying and what your staff is hearing is the same thing," Gimbel said. Imagine going into a meeting with a client to discuss requirements for a new application. The client lists his or her needs. The IT pro takes notes, and everyone leaves thinking they are on the same page, only to discover that they are not at all on the same page. It happens all the time in the enterprise. Gimbel has a simple but profound solution:

"We've been encouraging our customers to have a phone conversation with a [potential hire] where they tell the IT pro about a problem they have. And then they ask them to write an email back describing the problem and potential solutions."

According to Gimbel, communication skills have to be verbal, written, and even visual, so this is a great way of testing the individual's ability to convey ideas in multiple formats, and most importantly, to listen and return communication accurately.

(Image: 05com via Flickr)

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kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
5/29/2015 | 8:02:03 AM
Testing for soft skills
One company I know of has a series of technical questions to solve in front of a group of potential coworkers. Seeing how they react helped them narrow down their possible hires. The ones that got flustered at the simple questions were not only not technical enough but had neither the patience to deal with difficult customers or communication skills to talk through the problem. They wanted to make the people sweat a little to see their gamut of soft skills.

If soft skills are important enough within a company they can also work on training their employees. Even patience can be learned.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
5/18/2015 | 10:09:50 PM
Re: Much of this is not new
that is a good point. Right now, IT skills only aren't enough to juggle all the challenges found in the workplace. I think people skills are important, if you don't get along with your teammates or aren't very cooperative with others.  It could really impact a project's results.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
5/18/2015 | 1:50:38 PM
Re: Much of this is not new
@David    Good point and you are probably right - so this is where I am making my mistake! : )   It is all about how one sees themself.   
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
5/18/2015 | 1:12:27 PM
Re: Much of this is not new
@technocrati- I'm not sure Gates, Jobs and the others felt like their job was "the computing profession." I think they thought of themselves as technology pioneers or entrepreneurs or visionaries or some other lofty word. :)
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
5/16/2015 | 9:52:19 AM
Re: Much of this is not new
@jries921,

Thank you for your comment.

This is within companies and project teams you have Business Analyst that can help the process of trying to nail down what the end user wants, what the developer needs to deliver and any limitations that may exist.

When dealing with matrix teams, where a single person is assigned to 6 different projects, it takes a lot of effort to be able to succesfully manage all of the business requirement to assure things get delivered as requested.

Agile methods teach us that dedicated teams leads to the greatest productivity, but we can all atest that most companies have the same resource assigned to multiple efforts.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
5/15/2015 | 10:04:47 PM
Re: Much of this is not new

"...The purpose of the computing profession is to serve computer users, not to amuse the supposed professionals or to extract money out of their employers (or said employers' customers)."

 

 

@jries921   While I agree with your point that writing skills are paramount,  and this applies to any profession actually, but I wonder if Gates, Jobs and the countless others who have made outrageous sums would feel the same.   Not saying it 's  right, but it certainly is.

shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
5/15/2015 | 9:51:44 PM
Re: What Time Is IT ?
@david. Yes you are correct. Do you believe in having a specific time frame for IT staff? 
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
5/15/2015 | 9:48:33 PM
Re: soft skills for IT people
@mpochan156 I agree with you. By knowing the business it will help in providing the best solution to the business.
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
5/15/2015 | 8:45:08 PM
Much of this is not new
My now-retired father who was a long-time systems analyst and technical consultant and manager was stressing communications skills (especially writing) back when I was in high school in the 1970s; and the software design and development class I took in college had a good deal to say about the importance of building systems around the user's wants and needs (requiring real communication between the designers, developers, and users).

The purpose of the computing profession is to serve computer users, not to amuse the supposed professionals or to extract money out of their employers (or said employers' customers).

 
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
5/15/2015 | 1:33:23 PM
Re: What Time Is IT ?
@David  Me neither.  But you might be surprised ( or probably not) how much companies expect now-a-days. I have applied for night shift positions before and have yet to get one - that is probably a good thing.

But that silence would be golden ! : ) 
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