In the previous part, we examined skills from a design, development and deployment perspective.
In the conclusion of this mini-series, let’s take a look at something very critical that makes a well-rounded professional. Often neglected or de-prioritised, soft skills are as important as other skills. I can count numerous instances in my career where an outstanding technical resource’s career flat-lined due to poor communication or inter-personal skills and the inability to work in a team. Granted, some of these are personality traits that cannot be taught, but there are things that professionals, especially young engineers joining the workforce out of college, need to be aware of. In my experience, these skills can be primarily listed as:
a. Professional communication -
We often work in a global environment where we collaborate with peers, bosses, other functions such as HR, Finance etc from across the world. The ability to communicate with these different stakeholders of one’s career, both verbally and in written form, is critical. Everyone might know what to say, but how they say it might sometimes make or break opportunities.
b. Persuasive presentation skills -
An idea or thought that is not articulated well, dies an instant death. When presenting an idea, a root-cause to a problem or status of a pending task, it is of paramount importance to know your audience, what level of detail to get into and how to structure your thoughts. Frequently, even experienced professionals falter here. When presenting to a large room on a topic where you are seen as the expert disseminating valuable information - it is essential to get into details. On the other hand, while presenting an idea or status to a senior executive, brevity and getting to the bottom line quickly is your best friend. Some presentations might need a focus on numbers (eg: financial planning) while others might need a good story (eg: trying to pitch a new product idea). There is far too much focus on the slides and way too less focus on the message and the take-away - there should be a good balance between the two.
c. Negotiation skills -
Organisations are nothing if not give-n-take carnivals. Any individual at any level in the pecking order will always to negotiate with others on something he/she has to offer and wants in return.
A good combination of knowing what you want or are good at, the technical competence in relevant domains and collaboration skills to work in a complex matrixed world are the pillars of a successful career. The first few years are always great learning regardless of which company you are in, how much you get paid and whether your title is less cooler than you friend’s. After getting that solid foundation, it becomes more important to fixate on what you enjoy doing. The benchmark eventually should be - are you happy getting up in the morning and showing up at work?
Good luck in building your dream careers.
About the Author :
Nagen Nyamgondalu is the Co-founder & Principal Advisor at Skill Velocity. After over two decades of technology leadership roles in software majors like IBM, and leading a spin-off as Director of Engineering at Honeywell, Nagen bootstrapped the concept of SkillVelocity. A true blue technologist at heart, he has a Masters degree in Software Engineering from Brandeis University, USA.