Without wanting to get alarm bells ringing, change is afoot, my friends. The endearingly awkward I.T. guy that we all know and love is evolving. Not content with rolling 20-sided dice and avoiding skin-to-skin contact, the new breed of tech-savvy professional is now becoming what we all secretly feared – personable.
The typical I.T. professional has admittedly got the short end of the stick for quite a while now. With shows like The I.T. Crowd painting an archetypal tech worker as socially inept, self-conscious and generally uncomfortable, the perception of the public has inevitably skewed. But for anyone who has dealt with the realities of a life in tech, this caricature couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Soft Skills to Get Ahead
It’s been known within tech circles for quite a while that raw, unadulterated brilliance will only get you so far. At some point on the path to success, a person’s soft skills – their ability to communicate, collaborate and negotiate with other people – will outstrip the importance of their technical ability.
So often written off as an unchangeable aspect of someone’s personality, in reality, these soft skills are able to be learnt in much the same way as any profession’s hard skills are – the degrees, certificates and qualifications. What’s more, while changes in technology mean that hard skill requirements are constantly in flux, soft skills, which deal in basic human behaviour, remain constant.
Spending time developing soft skills is one of the wisest investments any committed tech professional can make. Learning work ethic and personability, gaining problem-solving and organisational skills; these are the oft-ignored but ever-valuable areas of expertise that separate the professional journeyman from the super-successes.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the tech-centric melting pot of Silicon Valley.
The Soft Side of Silicon Valley
In the cut and thrust world of Silicon Valley, any idea is only as good as the person presenting it. In a marketplace flooded by hopeful start-ups all looking for precious investor capital, soft skills are paramount. You first need the ability to create and manage a team that is able to produce something that’s worth investing in. You then need the ability to present the prototype as something that an astute investor would be wise to finance.
As James Currier, co-founder of Silicon Valley venture firm NFX Guild has stated, ‘pitching is a physical activity. It’s about getting people excited. If you’re out of your seat and having fun, your investor will have more fun, and you’ll raise more money’. Not exactly the actions of your conventional I.T. wallflower.
For Those Who Aren’t Zuckerberg
Admittedly, generating seed capital for a start-up is one thing; simply plying your trade in the technology sector is completely another.
But if you think that soft skills are less important for day-to-day tech worker bees, you’d be very wrong. A recent survey in the UK found that 97% of employers felt that their employees’ soft skills were vital to their success, while over half rated soft skills such as communication and teamwork higher than hard skills like academia.
It makes sense. Those with soft skills, even if they aren’t in a management or leadership role, are far better at directing and policing themselves. They solve disputes without the need for external assistance, and function far more smoothly than a team with high-level technical ability, but low-level co-operative ability.
Change is afoot, my friends. Rehearse your small talk and prepare those hands for a fearfully pleasant shaking. The soft skilled techies are coming.