Here’s a little secret. If you want to be a good technologist, it doesn’t matter how brilliant of a technical mind you have. Without the right skills to support your tech-savviness, your tech career will flounder.
So what’s a technologist with aspirations of making it to technology greatness have to do? You’ve got to hone five other skills, and combine it with that technical know-how. Then, and only then, will you become a successful tech professional.
5 Non-Technical Aspects of Good Technologists
1. Soft skills
One of the most vital components to a successful tech career is your soft skills. Yes, those things like your ability to communicate, understand others, and lead. Those with soft skills who are sensitive to their team’s needs make for much better team members than those who are all tech and no soft skills.
With a lack of soft skills, you’ll approach your team in the wrong manner and alienate them. Here’s an example. Let’s say that you, with your exceptional technical know-how, find the solution to the technical issue at hand. If you have the soft skills to know that your team gets frustrated when solutions are pushed upon them, bite your tongue. Let them come to the answer, or point them in the right direction. Don’t be the bull in the china shop.
It doesn’t matter how smart you are. If you don’t understand your team from an emotional point of view, you won’t be an effective part of the team.
2. Ability to speak to clients
It doesn’t matter how brilliant your technical solution is, or how crazy the client’s demands may seem. If you can’t explain your technical capabilities or a client’s visionary shortcomings in a way that others will understand, you’re not going to be successful.
This ability to explain complicated technical issues to non-technical people is tied in with soft skills. If you can determine a client’s level of technical expertise, and gauge how well they’re following your explanations, you’ll be in a good place. You’ll be able to talk to them without being condescending, and build a client relationship that benefits the project at hand.
An inability to speak to clients, no matter how technically gifted you are, will lead to failing projects that harm your professional reputation.
3. Being Presentable
There’s this common perception that tech people get to wear whatever they want to work. Ratty t-shirts, jeans with holes … you get the picture. While many shops do have a relaxed dress code, you should be more presentable than this. You should, at a minimum, wear jeans and a button-up shirt.
How come? On the most basic level, you need to be presentable so that your team and clients take you seriously. How much faith are you going to instill if you’re wearing a hoodie and ripped jeans? Not too much.
Putting a bit of time into your appearance will increase your credibility. While people shouldn’t judge your technical capabilities by how you dress, they will.
4. Problem solving and decision making skills
These two, problem solving and decision making, definitely go hand-in-hand. You can be brilliant technically, but if you don’t have decision-making skills, you’re not going to make it to tech professional greatness. You’ll be too caught up in the technical problem solving, and won’t always make the right business decisions.
Nine out of ten times these business and tech needs are congruent. The other ten percent of the time, however, you have to remember to put the business needs, not the technology needs, first. Lackluster technologists forget this. They get so caught up in solving the technical issue, that they make bad business decisions that ultimately hurt not only the client, but also the project, the team, and their professional reputation.
In order to be a good technologist, you have to step back and see the complete picture. You need to be able to solve the problem, but also be able to decide whether or not that is the right decision for this particular client’s needs.
5. Learning from your mistakes
History repeats itself, or so they say. We’ve found that it’s true in the tech setting, but only when technologists don’t take the time to learn from the past.
If you’re not taking the appropriate measures to learn about your team’s strengths and weaknesses, or where the pain points have been in the past, you can’t strategize and avoid these instances in the future. To be great, you not only have to know technology, but you also have to understand how both past technical and personnel decisions have affected a client and a project outcome.
While some of these seem like no brainers, it’s very difficult to find a technologist who has the technical know-how and all five traits. The soft skills, problem solving, and decision-making skills combined? Sure. Combining those traits with someone who can talk to clients and understand past mistakes? Much harder. If you’re one of the few who can hone these skills and your technical expertise, you’ll be golden. Companies will be knocking down your doors in order to get you to work for them.
Thanks to Marco Verch for the use of their photograph.