It’s an abstract term that often gets thrown around but what are soft skills and are they necessary in tech? In short, soft skills are the combination of communication and people skills among many other interpersonal competencies. While you can’t necessarily certify or standardise these skills like more hard skills such as coding – soft skills are still undoubtedly integral to your success in the tech field.
Sometimes, there is a perception that soft skills in technology are not that necessary or that the personnel working in the industry don’t need strong soft skills and its not necessary to be polished in this area. It’s sometimes perceived as only relevant for someone working in industries such as Inside Sales for example.
However, this really doesn’t hold true. Soft skills in tech- just like in many industries- are fundamental for success. Everything you deliver is ultimately done either through – or for-people. Employment, advancement and peace of mind in the work environment are some of the reasons why you would want to improve your soft skills.
Maybe you work in tech and are already social, gregarious and have your soft skills very much on point? If so, good for you! But if not, don’t feel this is something you can’t learn – because you can; and practice makes perfect!
Let’s look at some of the important soft skills that are paramount to the tech sector.
Soft Skill #1 Communication
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw.
Communication is integral to everything you do. Whether it’s with your colleagues, customers or superiors in your organisation, your ability to communicate in the workplace is paramount to your success. To understand and ultimately to be understood in the exchange of information is what allows things to happen. Without communication– work cannot take place – or at the very least, work can’t take place efficiently.
Taking a complex issue and explaining it to a client or a colleague in an understandable way… is a common but important task. It is here where often we must communicate without jargon to really be understood.
While you may know all the nuances of the languages of data analytics, cyber security or blockchain for example… your team members or clients may have no idea what these terms really mean. Less jargon is always better.
Soft Skill #2 Writing skills
While under the umbrella of communication – good writing skills are another key every-day skill that can really distinguish you from others and help communicate your message effectively. Most typically through email, we are required to write very clearly. Writing in a cohesive and effective manner without too much jargon is integral. Yet we’ve never been formally trained on writing emails! Some writing tips for better communication include:
- Taking the time to read over what you’ve composed before you press send is a good way to double check how clear you’re being.
- Alternatively taking a few minutes away from the email and looking again with fresh eyes can often help you to communicate in a clearer manner.
- If it’s a particularly long email – bullet points, headings and dividing up paragraphs all help your message to be understood.
- In general, less is better; can you make your points concisely only giving extra detail where absolutely necessary?
Soft Skill #3 Problem Solving and Critical thinking
Think Solutions – Not Problems. Yes, there may be a problem you are facing at work…but if you can accept it and find creative ways to overcome this problem – you’re not only helping yourself and your own career, you’re helping everyone around you. How you handle and react to problems will largely affect your success with a company.
Pre-empting a problem is an even better step – developing these solution-focused skills is often tapping into that entrepreneurial side of yourself that may be lying dormant! Before you can resolve the problem – you may have to do user research, to fully understand and see the problem from someone else’s perspective.
In general if you are going to raise a problem with the people you work with; whether that’s the internal team or external clients, its good to either have a possible solution to discuss also or to have a pathway you recommend to find a solution.
Soft Skill #4 Open-Mindedness
Another great way to develop your soft-skills set is by actively searching out and hearing other opinions and points of view. In your workplace, there may be many different departments all with different skillsets and personalities. Asking questions is a great way to get an overall picture.
Having this sense of curiosity will allow you to see your organisation and the problem in a more holistic way. This ultimately allows you to do your job more efficiently and more enjoyably. Outside of work – attending industry events and training programmes are a great way to broaden your mind and develop your soft-skills.
Soft Skill #5 Leadership
The ability to organise and take the initiative is a great skill to have working in tech and beyond. Going back to the skill of problem-solving is a key aspect of leadership. If you have a project with a tight deadline – staying calm and collected while organising yourself and your colleagues to work together in the most efficient way possible – is a great skill to have. You can acquire this skill by practising it when you feel under pressure; engage with the team around you to work effectively together towards a solution…….
Soft Skill #6 Team-Work
In fact, a culmination of all the above is vital to have effective collaboration in the workplace.
The ability to combine different skills in an interdependent way is what makes a project successful. Your skills nor your colleague’s skills by themselves are enough. However together- great things can happen.
Final words on soft-skills
Technology is on the march and it is only going to become more prevalent in our personal and working lives (if that were possible!) However, AI and technology will not be able to replace the more natural part of the human brain. The truth is to succeed in technology, we need both hard and soft skills.