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Developing Soft Skills in IT

Leon Pohilj, Project Manager

The first time I heard of soft skills was 8 years ago when I was still a student, seeking for a job. One day, while hanging out at the student center in Zagreb, I saw a flyer for a soft skills academy organized by the Electrical Engineering Students' European Association (EESTEC) at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing Zagreb (FER).  The program included 3 days of intensive workshops which led me to join EESTEC as a volunteer. This academy changed my life. The academy gave me the skillset to approached job interviews with confidence and later helped me to effectively communicate in the workplace.

Ever since my early childhood, I was always interested in soft skills. Without me realizing it, it was soft skills that helped me in school and later in the workplace working in the ICT sector. Over the years, I have helped others develop their soft skills and I would like to share some of my techniques to effectively communicate, think and to generally have understanding for others on their team.

As a project manager, skills like communication, collaboration, adaptability, critical thinking, time, and project management, problem-solving, and being compassionate and empathetic are now essential for success in IT. They are so essential that some CIOs have started to name these skills essential.  Kassie Rangel, senior director of IT at Healthmarkets has said, „The ability to think creatively and solve problems by working with others is really important, “and that one has to, “... be able to think outside the box and not be limited to just the syntax of a language, code, or program.”

Communication, collaboration, and adaptability

Clear and compelling written communication is essential. Effective verbal communication is equally as important.

As an IT employee, you often have to explain technical processes in clear, easy-to-understand terms for customers and employers. You must also be able to explain your ideas in such a way to make others want to support and finance your projects.

IT professionals often face setbacks or unexpected changes, ranging from a technical problem with their project to a last-minute issue with a vendor. You need to learn to be flexible, accepting of these changes and immediately start looking for creative solutions. Additionally, you must be open to suggestions and feedback, whether it is from your employer or a client.

Critical thinking, problem-solving, time and project management

IT jobs are predicated on problem solving. It isn’t just about reacting to customer's issues, but it also requires you to think ahead and proactively manage risk before troubleshooting is required. Solving a problem might mean thinking outside the box with your own ideas.

Good project management involves the ability to make professional plans, the ability to set and achieve goals, and then work with colleagues to resolve issues. Project management is about three things- Time management, quality management and staying within budget. This is especially important for IT workers to note as IT is not a single-faceted job responsible for a single system.

Passion and empathy

Building technology is about solving problems, but you cannot solve a problem unless you understand the user's needs. Finding enjoyment in learning and creating new things and genuinely wanting to know how things work are major pluses for IT workers.

Although IT is not traditionally thought of as a customer service-oriented field like medicine or social work, a big part of almost every tech job revolves around helping people, whether you are creating new technology that makes people's lives easier or helping them figure out ways around technological hurdles.

And a sense of humor goes a long way!

Sense of humor is not just a soft skill; it is a fundamental cultural trait of the IT community.

„Why did the project manager use Agile PM to change a lightbulb? He heard that waterfall and electricity don’t mix. “

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