Soft skills and Why we must improve them
The stereotypes are an “easy” and “toxic” way of grouping and split the people, we can find it in every society and it is extended to the professions. The IT field it is not the exception, in fact, the IT workers profile don’t fit in many of classic “supposed to be” and being realistic, the stereotype is so far to be true, you should read this interesting article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Profile of an IT Worker” (https://www.wsj.com/articles/profile-of-an-it-worker-1382128556).
If we know that stereotype looks like an urban legend, why we should try to fight against this general misconception. Because, like every stereotype, the only way of winning this battle is through the education and teaching by example, is in this point that Soft Skills represent an amazing challenge and allow us to light the shadows. Probably, it will be great to start defining in simple words what I understand for Soft Skills: “The group of features and behaviors that allow us to empathize in a healthy and harmonious way for all the people that interact with us”. In an enterprise environment, it is not enough to be proficient technically spoken, we should polish our soft skills, which include subjects as effective communication, team working, mentoring and leadership.
Through my professional life, I have been a witness of many unfair situations, promotions that were not fair, political games and lies, however, I have to be honest, many of these situations were only a reflection of the society where I have grown, did not I mention that I grow up in Nicaragua? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicaragua) What is it mean exactly? Well, for the different historical reasons, the IT profession arrived too late in my country, delivering some old-fashioned vicious and misconceptions, where a lot of managers have a limited vision about the role of IT workers and how they can contribute toward company’s goals. There is a predominant concept of “monkey coders”, the utter result is that a great mass of IT professionals is literally forced to limit their tasks to code and excluding a big and important part of every developer would be embedded: active participation in meetings, technical design and mentoring process (not only for developer, it could include business people).
Maybe these vicious that I observed in my country are not the majority, especially here in Europe, however, I continue observing a lack of training or self-taught in soft skills. I believe that the first step for improving something consists in to identify it, in this point is where we should examine ourselves, what area or skill I always been trying to avoid, for example:
- Effectively communication: We are capable of explaining our ideas, evaluate the risks and explain them clearly, intended not only for tech people but also business people too.
- Self-Management: We are mature enough for self-managing our day to day. All we are agree about how disgusting is the micromanagement, but we must be conscious if we are ready to assume our tasks and control our fate.
- Team work: Nowadays, is so far these days when only one developer was able to build from scratch a complete software, including games – I encourage you to watch this documentary: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atari:_Game_Over. We have to play in a team, every developer needs to understand how so much important is this soft skill. The great companies are a clear example about it, therefore everyone who develops software should learn how to cooperate, interact and add value for any team.
I have not any recipient to follow, in fact, I am struggling to improve in many areas of my professional life, but I am a strong believer in the human being capable to overcome in front of adversity, a starting point that I would like to recommend you is Jon Sonmez’s book (Soft Skills- https://www.amazon.com/Soft-Skills-software-developers-manual/dp/1617292397/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1541033706&sr=8-3&keywords=soft+skills), another great resource is Pluralsight, it is a video platforms where you can find many interesting courses related to professional improvement.
A simple premise is that if we want to see different result in our experiments, we should change our approach, we can’t pretend only improve our technical skills and exclude the soft skills and try to see improvement inside of our career, because the companies are looking for developers with a wide range of skills and fundamentally, people who can add value and contributes for improving the quality of the company.
I hope that this small blog encourages you to notice the importance of other subjects which do not focus only on programming areas, sometimes we should remind us a simple thing: “we are not coding monkey”, we are IT workers and many of us don’t spend fourteen hours coding (and wearing nerd’s t-shirt and old-fashioned glasses).