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Many people, myself pc_huggerincluded, thought that once you decided to become a technology professional (developer, programmer, quality assurance, etc.) you are safely nestled away from dealing with the daily annoyances of the human race. The expectation is that once you have reached a certain technical threshold that only those technical skills and mastery of various programming languages are all that is needed to live a successful client-free career life. The next line of code or bug is the only hurdle to jump over. People are someone else’s problem.

That is an unfortunate misconception! The truth is people never go away, nor does our reliance on one another to reach mutually beneficial outcomes….

Which means that it will always be important to develop what has been coined as soft skills, people skills, interpersonal communications and all those buzzwords that basically require a somewhat decent level of social interaction and the ability to communicate with other mortals (yes, developers are still mortals). Having worked and networked in the technology industry for some time I can’t help but notice the huge disconnect very technical professionals have in regards to “soft” skills versus technical “hard” skills. The general thought is that if you are smart enough and work hard enough that is all that counts. I couldn’t disagree more…

It is true very technical people are able to land a job but it will take a strong set of soft skills to keep a job, grow in a career and maintain a respectable standing within their profession.

Some key reasons to develop soft skills as a tech professional include:

  • Career Advancement: Maybe it’s time to move to the next level and there is room for growth with your current employer. Key soft skills that can be used in this situation:
    • Networking: Having established a positive connection with the right people inside your organization or influential stakeholders outside the company could make a big difference.
    • Positive interactions with colleagues: If people know you as not only good at your job but approachable, dependable and someone they wouldn’t mind working with it can be very meaningful.
    • Get a mentor: Soft skills are those handy character traits that might lend itself to getting someone who actually can tolerate you long enough to mentor you (formally or informally). I’m just saying…. 🙂
  • Team Collaboration: You’ve heard the slogan, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” More than likely you will have to work with a team, size may vary. Being able to effectively work with a diverse set of people, skill sets, communication styles can make all the difference in the world. It is also a well known fact that camaraderie and collaboration are hallmarks of tech’s evolution and every major player enjoys frenemy status with its adversaries. It takes a pretty people savvy person to navigate complex professional relationship like this… even if you aren’t trying to be a manager.
  • Make a better product: A good product is simply one that delivers the minimum viable features and functionality the client would expect. A great product requires truly understanding the needs of a client/consumer/stakeholders, delivering on that expectation as well as creating enhancements and value added functionality that speaks to core of their needs…. this isn’t accomplished by just being handed a user story and coding to specs. This requires active listening skills, clear  consistent communication. ability to extract, interpret and translate vague ideas…. I could go on… but as you would guess by now – SOFT SKILLS.

Soft skills aren’t really all that soft and just like coding they can be taught, practiced and mastered.

It just takes someone willing to put forth the effort and move beyond the code to make the difference.

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