Operating in the constantly evolving world of information technology is like steering a ship through ever-changing waters. The winds of technological progress blow strongly and propel the ship of IT forward at an exhilarating pace. On this journey, the ship's crew, or in our case IT professionals, must not only master the technical aspects of their craft, but also develop and hone a portfolio of less tangible but equally critical skills - their soft skills. What was once desirable is now a fundamental requirement. These skills are the breeding ground for success in any IT project. The World Economic Forum (WEF) sets the tone in this area and consequently also comments on this topic in their "Future of Jobs Report 2023".
We compared further forecasts from renowned companies and minds and crystallised the 11 most important soft skills that every IT professional should master - in order to remain fit for the future and confidently take the helm of their career. Join us on a journey into the realms of emotional intelligence, critical thinking, creativity, leadership and more. Together we will find out what these skills are all about and what role they play in shaping the IT landscape of tomorrow.
Communication is a universal skill that people in all walks of life should always sharpen - not just in IT. In this area, communication skills serve as a bridge between technical and non-technical stakeholders. IT professionals often struggle with complicated technical details that need to be promoted in simplified form to clients, managers or team members who may not have the same technical expertise.
This involves translating technical jargon into understandable language, adapting the communication style to different platforms (emails, reports, presentations) and ensuring that messages are clear and concise. In addition, empathetic communication that focuses on understanding and responding to the concerns and needs of the target group helps - this strengthens the development of cooperative and trusting relationships. Because with all the digitalisation, people still work with other people.
- Translate technical jargon: Making complex ideas understandable to a non-technical audience.
- Versatility: adapting communication to different platforms and audiences.
- Clarity: ensuring messages are concise and easy to understand.
- Empathy: Understanding and responding to the concerns and needs of the target audience.
Problem solving is equally a universal skill and an integral part of the IT profession. Professionals are required to consistently develop solutions to various technical problems. This involves systematic assessment of problems, using analytical skills to understand the scope and causes of the problem. Furthermore, IT professionals often need to develop innovative solutions, which may include developing new tools or methods to effectively address problems. So does adapting skills to the ever-changing tech stack.
Risk management, i.e. identifying and mitigating potential challenges during the problem-solving process, is also essential to avoid exacerbating problems. The implementation of solutions and the subsequent evaluation of their effectiveness is a central component of competent problem solving.
- Analytical skills: Systematic assessment of problems.
- Innovative solutions: Finding new and effective ways to solve problems.
- Risk management: Identifying and mitigating potential challenges.
- Execution of solutions: Implementing and evaluating the effectiveness of solutions.
Adaptability & Resilience
According to the WEF, this is called "resilience, flexibility and agility". In rapidly evolving fields such as IT, adaptability is indispensable. Professionals must be open to change, i.e. they must be willing to adopt new technologies and methods, as just mentioned, in order to remain relevant and competitive. A flexible mindset allows IT professionals to adapt their strategies and workflows in response to new information or changes in the environment, ensuring continuous efficiency.
Continuous improvement of skills and knowledge through learning and development initiatives is also a critical factor in adaptability - we will return to this topic in more detail later. In addition, resilience, the ability to sustain performance in the midst of change and work pressure, ensures continued productivity and morale.
- Embrace change: Willingness to adopt new technologies and methods.
- Flexible mindset: Adapting strategies and processes in response to new information.
- Continuous improvement: Regularly updating skills and knowledge.
- Resilience: Maintaining performance in the midst of change and challenges.
Collaboration / Teamwork
Collaboration is the basis for successful (IT) projects and requires professionals with diverse skills and knowledge to work together. Effective teamwork in IT means working synergistically with diverse members and ensuring that individual skills are used to achieve common goals. Conflict resolution is also a crucial aspect, as effectively managing disagreements ensures a cohesive work environment.
IT professionals must be guided by collective goals and ensure that individual efforts are always aligned with overall team goals. In addition, interpersonal skills that involve building and maintaining positive relationships within the team facilitate a cooperative and supportive work environment.
- Collaboration: Synergistic collaboration with diverse members of the team.
- Conflict resolution: Managing disagreements effectively.
- Shared goal alignment: Focusing on overarching team goals.
- Interpersonal skills: Building and maintaining positive relationships within the team.
Continuous learning & curiosity
Continuous learning or lifelong learning is essential in IT due to the constant advances and innovations in the field. IT professionals need to keep learning, improving both their technical and soft skills to stay relevant and successful in their role. Keeping up to date with trends and advances will ensure that professionals can anticipate and prepare for changes in the industry.
Participating in learning initiatives such as courses, certifications and workshops provides structured pathways for skills development. In addition, knowledge sharing within the organisation ensures that the benefits of continuous learning are passed on and improves the collective knowledge and skills of the team. At the same time, it is the best way to consolidate what has been learned.
- Enhancement of skills: Regular improvement of technical and soft skills.
- Industry knowledge: Keeping up to date with trends and advances.
- Learning initiatives: Participate in courses, certifications and workshops.
- Sharing knowledge: Share the knowledge learned within the organisation.
Customer Centricity is about placing the needs of the clients at the centre of IT initiatives. It is essential to understand and prioritise the needs of the clientele to ensure that technology solutions are developed or adapted to meet their needs and achieve their goals.
Where possible, IT professionals should also provide consistent and reliable support and service to clientele or stakeholders and ensure that any problems or issues are resolved promptly and effectively. Incorporating feedback from these individuals into continuous optimisation processes also plays an important role - allowing IT solutions to evolve according to the needs and preferences of the clients.
- Understanding needs: Gather and prioritise the needs of the clientele.
- Solution alignment: Ensure that the technology is aligned with the client's objectives.
- Support and service: Provide consistent and reliable support to the client.
- Integrating feedback: Using client feedback to improve IT solutions.
Emotional intelligence includes the ability to deal with one's own emotions and those of others, which has a significant impact on cooperation and interpersonal relationships in the IT sector. Self-awareness means recognising and understanding one's own emotions and their impact on thoughts and actions. Furthermore, self-regulation means managing and positively directing these emotions to facilitate constructive interactions and decisions.
Empathy plays a central role, as it is not only about understanding and sharing the feelings of others, but also about responding to them with consideration and compassion. It is essential to support colleagues, understand the needs of clients and promote a harmonious team dynamic.
In addition, nurturing interpersonal relationships by fostering positive interactions and effectively managing conflict is critical to creating and maintaining a supportive and collaborative work environment. Emotional intelligence empowers IT professionals to navigate the emotional and social complexities of the workplace to improve teamwork and client relationships.
- Self-awareness: Recognising and understanding one's own emotions.
- Self-regulation: Managing and directing one's emotions positively.
- Empathy: Understanding, sharing and responding to the feelings of others.
- Interpersonal Relationships: Maintaining positive interactions with others.
Critical Thinking & Analytical Thinking
In IT, critical thinking, coupled with analytical thinking, links to effective problem solving and decision making. This includes careful questioning of data and details to ensure comprehensive understanding and accurate interpretations. Analytical thinking is crucial, using logical thinking to analyse and understand problems and ensure that underlying causes and potential solutions are thoroughly investigated.
Objective evaluation, where decisions are made based on facts and logic, ensures that decisions are made rationally and without bias. In addition, IT professionals should always strive to make informed decisions, i.e. consider all available options and understand their potential impact before deciding on a course of action.
When troubleshooting and problem solving (see item 2), a systematic and analytical approach is essential to develop successful and sustainable solutions and ensure the robustness and reliability of IT initiatives. Thus, critical and analytical thinking together ensure precise, logical and informed action in the diversified and dynamic field of IT.
- Information analysis: Meticulous checking of data and details.
- Analytical thinking: Thinking logically in order to analyse and understand facts.
- Evaluating information: Evaluating data and information systematically.
- Objective judgement: Making decisions based on logic and facts.
- Informed decisions: Making decisions after considering all available options.
- Problem solving: applying systematic and analytical analysis to troubleshoot and solve problems.
Time management is a factor that is often forgotten. And yet it is also essential in IT to manage numerous tasks and projects efficiently. IT professionals need to prioritise their tasks and allocate time according to the importance and deadlines of tasks to ensure that critical activities are completed in a timely manner. Efficiency of processes and tasks must be ensured to ensure that productivity is maximised within the time available. Careful planning and structuring of activities ensures that tasks and projects run smoothly and are completed on time. Meeting deadlines ensures that work products are submitted on time so that the project timeline is met and client satisfaction is ensured.
- Prioritisation: Allocating time based on the importance of tasks and deadlines.
- Efficiency: maximising productivity within the time frame.
- Planning: structuring activities to ensure timely completion.
- Meeting deadlines: ensuring timely delivery of results.
Creativity in IT involves the ability to think innovatively and develop new solutions to problems. IT professionals should be able to think outside the box and look at problems and solutions from new and different perspectives. This is because solutions often come in heaps due to the multitude of technologies. Looking for ways to improve existing systems and solutions ensures continuous improvement and the further development of IT initiatives. Moreover, creatively adapting existing solutions to new or transformed requirements ensures that IT solutions remain viable and effective even under changing conditions.
- Innovative solutions: Developing new approaches to problems.
- Unconventional thinking: looking at problems and solutions from new perspectives.
- Continuous improvement: looking for ways to improve existing systems and solutions.
- Adaptability: Creatively modifying existing solutions to meet new requirements.
Talking about leadership: Leadership in IT is not only about managing projects, but also about guiding, inspiring and developing the team. A leader must provide a clear vision, align the team with overarching goals and ensure that individual efforts are aligned with those goals. Motivating members through recognition, encouragement and support ensures a positive as well as productive environment. At the same time, these are the cornerstones of a strong corporate culture. Our colleagues at alphacoders have continued to work hard on the topic of a meaningful culture that attracts top developers.
Effective decision making, encompassing strategic and operational decisions, is critical to successfully addressing challenges and opportunities. Furthermore, an executive should focus on team development, building the skills and cohesion of the team to improve its collective capabilities and performance.
- Vision: Aligning the team towards overarching goals.
- Motivation: Inspire and encourage team members.
- Decision-making: Making strategic and operational decisions.
- Team development: Nurturing and developing the team's competencies and cohesion.