Career / Career Progression

Top Non-Tech Skills for Techies

by Raju Woodward
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Published on May 22, 2014

IT types aren't known for being the most social bunch. They're often stereotyped by Hollywood and the media as introverted, socially awkward, and aloof despite their brilliant minds.

"Some of the best IT folks are introverts," said CBT Nuggets trainer Chris Ward. "It feeds the general cliche view of the 'IT nerd' as anti-social, unable to communicate except in binary/hex, etc. If they can learn the relational skills, it will go far in increasing their value."

Chris is right on point. It's always a good idea to be versatile, and developing and possessing more than just IT skills can help advance your career. We asked our trainers and Facebook followers what non-technical skills benefit IT pros and put together this list:

10. Customer service: You might work behind the scenes 99 percent of the time. But what if nobody is available to assist a customer? Being able to step up and help can make you a huge asset to your company, even if it's the furthest thing from your job description. The same goes for other team members (AKA "internal customers") who might not be tech-savvy.

9. Project management: PM skills can help you be more organized. Staying on top of things and delivering tasks on time is crucial to an IT pro, especially if you aspire to become an administrator or manager, where knowing PM processes, project scope, etc., is especially handy.

8. Mentoring: It's a good idea to seek out a mentor. But what about being a mentor? Share your knowledge and skills and take someone under your wing. It shows you care about the success of everybody on your team. Plus, it's just awesome to help others succeed!

7. Even temperament: Working in IT often means juggling a lot of pieces at the same time, or having to drop everything and start on something completely new. It also means dealing with people who might have no idea what you're doing. Frustrating, sure, but don't lose your temper. Whether you're dealing with a customer or a supervisor, you need to be able to maintain your composure.

6. Diplomacy: Along the same lines as #7, diplomacy is a must-have skill. Maybe you don't agree with a task or the direction of a project, but getting huffy about it isn't the way to go. Get your point across without attacking others, getting defensive, and, more importantly, not ruffling the boss' feathers.

5. Business knowledge: You might be far removed from day-to-day business operations, but you still play a part in your company's financial success. Being familiar with the business model, the target markets, etc., can help you define your purpose better. It also can help you relate to people outside of the IT department.

4: Incident/disaster response: Nothing will endear you to your boss like being able to react quickly to adversity, whether it's stopping an overflowing toilet, putting out a kitchen fire, or dealing with a physical security threat. Even basic CPR skills can come in handy. Like a Boy or Girl Scout, be prepared!

3. Teamwork: Effective teamwork is crucial to a company's success. Being able to work with others proves that you're open-minded, a good listener, and adaptable. Besides, nobody wants to be around a selfish person.

2. Writing: Part of being an effective communicator is being able to convey your ideas through writing. Whether it's a simple interoffice email or a project report to a company stakeholder, writing well is essential. We aren't just talking about spelling and grammar; flow and voice are important too!

1. Interpersonal skills: Being able to break down complex IT concepts and make them easily understandable to anyone, including the average Joe on the street, is crucial. It shows humility and that you care about a person's ability to understand.

The bottom line: Be great at your job. It's what you were hired for and are paid to do well. But don't be afraid to diversify and develop other skills because it will make you that much more valuable and could make you a prime candidate for a promotion!

Bonus tip: Making a good cup of coffee for others will go a long way, too. So don't be afraid to let your inner barista shine!

What other non-technical skills do you think are important for IT pros to have?


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