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Must-Have Soft Skills For a Tech Professional

Our previous article discussed the importance of soft skills in career development and outlined the 10 most important soft skills for a tech professional. We also established that:

  • Soft skills are transferable and useful in any career or field
  • Soft skills are required for leadership roles and career advancement
  • The most important skills in life are soft skills (you will need them to build not only a successful career but a successful life overall)

Now, let’s go over each of those 10 skills and discuss them in a more granular way.

Communication and negotiation skills

Communication in tech is all about getting your message across in the most concise, simple, and engaging way.

Lack of communication skills usually manifests in two ways:

  1. you don’t communicate enough
  2. you don’t communicate precisely enough

Let’s imagine a situation.

You work at company A. You rarely communicate with your co-workers other than in team meetings. Your work chat is dead most of the time and you have only a vague idea of what other people on the team are working on and how your work impacts the project at large.

When you do have meetings, they are mostly unproductive. You argue over minor issues, don’t have a clear purpose or goal, and forget a lot of what you discussed soon after the meeting is over.

What you can do in order to instantly boost your communication skills are two things:

  1. Overcommunicate

Share ideas, and updates on your work, ask for feedback and reiterate critical points. This can help you avoid miscommunication and save time on rework and troubleshooting.

2. Have a goal

Ask yourself: “What do I want people to take away from my message”? Don’t ramble aimlessly. Take a moment to formulate an idea in your mind, then put it into words.

Teamwork

Teamwork does not only mean working together in real-time. A lot of modern-day teamwork is asynchronous and remote which brings its own set of challenges. When you successfully navigate those challenges, the pay-off is astounding and the results you achieve are incredibly rewarding.

Successful teamwork requires streamlined and consistent collaboration on all levels of the organization.

One of the biggest threats to successful teamwork is communication silos.

Imagine the following.

Your company has over 15 developers. Each of them works individually and is solely focused on doing their tickets and closing their tasks as fast as possible. They don’t think about how their work impacts the project. They are really unwilling to discuss the business needs of the project and accept feedback from other developers because they see it as something that’s outside the scope of their responsibilities.

This situation can spiral into all sorts of issues: frustrated clients, shambly products with poor user experience, etc.

To improve your teamwork skills, you have to change your perspective on your role in the company. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. How does my role contribute to the company’s success? What value does my role bring to our product or service?
  2. How can I use my skill set to help other team members/departments?

Leadership

Leadership is about being able to take ownership of your work. And it starts on an individual level. You can think like a leader without being formally recognized as one.

Thinking like a leader ultimately means thinking for yourself as opposed to blindly following orders.

Here are a few things you can do to start improving your leadership skills:

  1. If you have an idea, share it. Don’t keep it to yourself.
  2. Think in terms of solutions. Whatever it is you do, ask yourself: “What problem is this going to solve”?
  3. Look at things from different perspectives. As an engineer, you might see a product from a completely different perspective than an end-user would. Identify what those differences are and be mindful of them.
  4. Get feedback from others and give feedback yourself. Feedback is one of the key pillars for personal and professional growth.

Flexibility

This is also known as the ability to “go with the flow”. In other words, you have to be prepared to pivot at any given moment. This can be outright painful sometimes, however, if you have that mental flexibility, you’ll be able to turn negative feelings into motivation.

For example:

You start working on a new project. The work is going well. You worked for weeks and got a lot done. Then you find out that the project had been canceled and all your hard work just went down the drain.

These things happen, and it’s important to not let them affect you.

Here’s what you can do to improve your flexibility.

  1. Embrace other people’s perspectives. If their suggestion is ultimately better for the project, you should go with it.
  2. Accept that things don’t always go according to plan.
  3. Focus on the future. There’s no point to regret the time you’ve lost. Learn from the experience and move on.
  4. Remember that good ideas will always prevail. If a project didn’t work out, you can still take certain ideas you were really passionate about and implement them later on down the road.

Problem-solving

This is probably the single most important skill for a software developer, or any tech professional for that matter. It takes a long time to develop and refine that skill, however, here are a few practices that will help you get better at it right now.

  1. Identify the problem

As self-evident as it sounds, you first need to understand what the problem is and why it is a problem. This will help you understand what your first step should be. A lot of the time, you will even be able to think of a solution while you’re breaking down the problem in your mind!

2. Research the problem

Google it or ask other people. You’re probably not the first person who faced this problem, so understanding how other people tackled similar issues can be very helpful.

3. Take a break

When you find yourself stuck on a problem, take a 15-minute break and focus your mind somewhere else. When you come back to it, you will have a fresher perspective, and you might even realize that you have magically solved the problem without consciously thinking about it!

Creativity

The worst thing you can do for your creativity is to remain stagnant. Don’t be surprised if you start running out of ideas when you work at your desk all day staring at a computer screen.

Here’s what you can do to become better at creative thinking and innovation:

  1. Schedule brainstorming sessions with your team

You can run them yourself or ask someone else to run them for you (ideally, someone who is a good communicator). The point of these meetings is just to get ideas and opinions from others. Even the worst ideas can stimulate your mind into coming up with something creative.

2. Plan “discovery time” on your calendar

Set aside 1–2 hours each week for trying something new. Go to an event, attend a webinar, listen to a podcast, network, etc. Again, the idea is to stimulate your mind and allow yourself to embrace different perspectives.

3. Do some physical activity

Physical stagnation is just as detrimental as mental stagnation. Go to the gym, take a walk, try a new exercise routine, etc.

Empathy, self-discipline, and mindfulness

These skills are directly connected to your level of emotional intelligence (which we will cover later).

If you’d like to take a deep dive into emotional intelligence, check out the book “Emotional Intelligence 2.0”.

Here is why emotional intelligence is important:

  1. 90% of top performers have a high emotional intelligence
  2. Emotionally intelligent people earn $29,000 more on average
  3. Over 50% of your job success depends on your emotional intelligence
  4. Over 95% of people think they are emotionally intelligent, but only 10–15% really are

Let’s do a quick activity.

  1. Review all the skills we described above
  2. Identify one skill that you would really like to improve
  3. Explain to yourself why you need to improve it
  4. Think about what you will do to get better at it.

Want more tips? You can learn more about soft skills for FREE in our 3-day IT English Challenge.

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