Soft Skills Propel Tech Professionals in Their Careers
When Charles Darwin, the 19th century naturalist who is best known for his contributions to evolutionary biology, realized the importance of adaptability among species, the 21st century technology sector certainly did not even exist; however, some of his observations about survival skills are relatable even today, when we consider the critical skills that today’s technology professionals will need to survive and thrive in present times.
Yes, Charles Darwin had not made any key observations about the latest technical or hard skills, which are often misconstrued by some to be the only skills that may be required for career growth in the technology sector. What he referred to, over 200 years ago, was a crucial trait called “adaptability,” which even some of the leading employers of today acknowledge as one among the most critical and immensely valued skills in their search for leading technology professionals for highly rewarding job roles and career tracks. As per EY, a survey among 150 C-suite leaders found that adaptability was one of the top five skills that is needed to succeed in the future.
A tale of triumphs and failures
Major technology shifts, which generally used to occur over 5 – 10 years earlier, are currently taking place in just over a couple of years and sometimes, even in a few months. Rapid shifts tend to leave a trail of both triumphs and failures — triumphs usually, when technology professionals are able to adapt to the changes quickly and sustain or propel their career progressions; and failures generally, when the professionals are unable to adapt at all or quickly enough, thereby potentially leading to their career stagnation and sometimes, even more serious consequences, such as job losses.
Adaptability and the four Cs
“Adaptability” is just one of the “must-have” soft skills to thrive in technology-related careers; however, there are various other soft skills, without which technology professionals may find it difficult to navigate or propel their career progressions or even sustain them. In addition to “adaptability,” here are the four other soft skills that I consider to be highly pertinent —communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity— the four Cs.
Communication: Tech professionals’ communication can be sometimes filled with jargon, perhaps based on an assumption that non-tech persons would understand their everyday “tech lingo.” The problem is not just limited to speaking, but also sometimes about their inadequate listening skills, where tech professionals may fail to make optimal efforts to actively listen to users and customers. This sort of ineffective communication can potentially lead to the development of flawed tech solutions.
So every time you see a critical feature missing in a solution, for instance, delivery tracking in an e-commerce app; or notice a series of complex steps to be performed even to acquire basic information from your bank; or realize that an app can’t be leveraged effectively from your mobile devices, ineffective communication skills of the tech professionals involved in developing those solutions could potentially be one of the key reasons for your not-so-desired experiences. As per a research referred by Mckinsey, communication is one of the foundational skills needed to succeed at work.
Collaboration: There is relatively little scope for just a few individuals or small co-located teams to address various requirements of technology projects, by working in silos. For instance, an IoT (Internet of Things) application that needs to do predictive maintenance of equipment in a smart factory, can ideally be developed only through an effective collaboration of specialists from different domains, such as software, hardware, networking, cyber security, data engineering, and data science. The World Economic Forum places "Collaboration" among the top 7 skills every leader needs.
Critical Thinking: If the solutions are designed and developed based on only the surface-level understanding of the business challenge(s), without taking into consideration critical information from the user’s environment or architected without deeply analysing a variety of possible routes to addressing the requirements, it will most likely lead to a faulty, not-so-efficient, and sub-optimal solution. As per the leading employers, “critical thinking” is a rare skill and significant number of technology professionals are unable to grow in their careers and participate in rewarding projects, due to absence of this ability. A 2020 survey conducted by Dale Carnegie training across 20 countries confirmed that critical thinking is among the top skills needed to succeed in a complex work environment.
Creativity: Every time, one orders a meal over a food delivery app, books an air ticket on a travel portal, or reserves a vaccine slot over a government website, their user experience is not just defined by the technologies that are at work, but also by the creativity of the professionals who designed or developed those solutions, portals, or apps. While several technology professionals may know how to work on a technology or a set of technologies, not many may go the extra mile to delight or pleasantly surprise the customers with innovative, flexible, and/or comprehensive solutions. In the 2020 "Future of Jobs Report," the World Economic Forum ranked creativity as one of the leading skills that are high in demand.