Expert Insights

The One Soft Skill Every Technology Professional Needs

We surveyed our Certified Experts and asked them what soft skills were most important to have as a technology professional.

October 19, 2021

What are soft skills?

As much as we don’t like to admit it - pure technical knowledge (hard skills) doesn’t always translate into success in the workplace. No matter how technically skilled you or your team are with your specific area of expertise  - if you don’t have the right soft skills your team won’t be able to effectively perform its true function: act as the backbone of your entire organization.

Soft Skills are skills that are not tied to one specific job; they're general characteristics that help employees thrive in the workplace, no matter their seniority level, role, or industry. They're often called transferable skills or interpersonal skills.

What soft skills are important?

We surveyed our community of Certified Experts and asked them what soft skills they found were most important to have as an technology professional looking to grow their career. Because these experts hold vastly different positions in companies worldwide, we expected answers to vary wildly. They didn’t.

Nearly everyone told us that people & communication skills were the most critical soft skills for an IT professional or tech professional.

How technology professionals fail to communicate

Organizations often experience breakdowns because of miscommunications between the IT department and the rest of the company. For technology professionals, it can sometimes feel like we’re speaking a different language.

Well, that’s because sometimes we are.

We as IT professionals often struggle to interpret what someone means rather than what they say.

This results in miscommunication that can be detrimental to the organization as a whole.

Technology Consultant Rob Jurd pointed out the root of the issue: Expectations.

“Expectations are such a huge component of any interaction - and to be successful means making sure that all of those expectations are met on both sides.”

If you’re not clearly defining expectations at the beginning of a project - you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Improving your communication skills - and why you should

So, what are some tools to improve our communication skills?

Certified Expert Andrew Leniart points out that identifying the ‘type’ of person he is helping is a skill that’s served him well for decades - one that he advertises on his own website.

Do they want you to explain what you’re telling them to do, or would they prefer for you to just do something for them?

Most IT professionals are problem solvers; we’re the people who spent our formative years disassembling and reassembling computers because we wanted to know how they worked.

Not all of our coworkers share the same motivations. Sometimes, they just want something fixed. They don’t care to know how you solved the problem - all they care about is whether or not you solved it.

While this situation isn’t always the case - what’s important is defining their expectations before you begin working. Defining expectations can be as simple as asking a question like:

“Are you interested in learning more about this problem and how to fix it, or would it be more helpful for me to solve this on my own and let you know when it’s fixed?”

A simple question like this can not only help the business run more smoothly - it also showcases that you’re committed to finding the best way to serve others.  

Citrix Technology Professional (CTP) Sam Jacobs brought up the tougher side of communication: when a project is going badly.

He says that the worst thing you can do is delay informing a client/coworker of project delays, cost overruns, etc., in the hopes of things ‘getting better.”

He says that though there could be blowback when informing a client that things aren’t going as planned - not keeping the client in the loop is much worse.

This brings about a larger point - good communication often starts and ends with the willingness to communicate in the first place. Being proactively open to suggestions and criticism means that stakeholders are more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt in the case that something goes poorly.

Investing in your future

People committed to serving others end up serving their organization. Even though regular communication and assurance can feel unnecessary and silly, they often lead to sustained, long-term success for your career and your company.

Management doesn’t often let those things go unnoticed.

If you want to succeed at work - whether that means getting promoted, getting an entirely new position, or simply removing day-to-day stressors - there are two abilities you need to cultivate.

Interpreting what someone means rather than what they say
Talking to people using non-technical language

There are millions of highly skilled tech professionals in the world - but the ones who are most successful are the ones who learn to communicate effectively.