5 Soft Skills Every IT Pro Needs - InformationWeek
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5/14/2015
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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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(Image: Yoel Ben-Avraham via Flickr)

(Image: Yoel Ben-Avraham via Flickr)

Whether you are an IT professional or a hiring manager looking for tech talent, you know that soft skills are becoming an increasing part of the IT job.

Consumerization of technology has changed the demands of a company's customers, and those of the people who work in it and rely of IT for their jobs. In turn, this process has changed the nature of what it means to be an IT pro. In order to get a better handle on soft skills and what they mean for IT, InformationWeek spoke to Tom Gimbel, founder of the respected recruiter LaSalle Network, to talk about the changing IT department.

"If you have a company that doesn't have a lot of customer interface, if you're just a technology company, and you want to have a bunch of technology people who are all head down, that's fine," Gimbel said in an interview. "Does that still exist? Yes, it does, but it is rare. Most larger organizations have internal and external customer needs. And with more customer-facing IT you need soft skills and empathy."

He also pointed to the changes in IT services procurement as a major aspect of the change as well.

"So many IT pros find themselves between two groups now. You might be between [the] end-user and the vendor," said Gimbel. Or you might find yourself negotiating between two parts of the business with different tech needs that touch the same application. This requires IT pros to navigate toward the right solution between multiple stakeholders, and it means a certain amount of nontechnical skills.

One thing Gimbel suggests to managers goes against the grain of much of the current IT hiring practices.

"If you can get IT folks with a good liberal arts education you are ahead of the game," he said. "Technology has to work, but it also has to interact with people. It isn't about how the technologist interacts with the technology, but how the end-user does."

Basically, what Gimbel is getting at is a set of soft skills to get you through your new responsibilities. He suggested five in particular that he feels every hiring manager should look for, and that every IT pro should therefore try to cultivate. Check out the list and tell us what skills you think are most important to your success right now.

[Did you miss any of the InformationWeek Conference in Las Vegas last month? Don't worry: We have you covered. Check out what our speakers had to say and see tweets from the show. Let's keep the conversation going.]

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio

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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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