Succeeding in the I.T. industry after school

March 2, 2010


There are two kinds of skills that define employees: the hard skills and the soft skills. The hard skills are the technical skills you learn at school such as programming, software engineering, software reliability, operating systems. The soft skills refer to everything else you’ll need to know about working in an organization. Both sets of skills are always important but early your career the hands on technical skills are a little more dominant. As your career advances the soft skills become more important. Senior people are always expected to be leaders, and to play a strategic role in the team, and those expectations set a higher emphasis on soft skills. Both hard and soft skills are needed at every level of your career but the balance changes over time.

Hard and soft skills

During the first 5 years of a career the challenge is typically on developing soft skills, because the nature of our work during that time forces technical skills upon us. After 10 years in the business the converse is true. Soft skills are thrust upon us by virtue of the situations we are put in and the roles we play, and most people
find that staying current in their technical skills remains the hardest challenge. Wherever you find yourself in the path of your career, you will get a head start by sensitizing yourself to the need to develop yourself in both dimensions and finding time to make that happen. Most people develop skills “on the job”, which means they wait for the job circumstances to present a need for them to grow in some aspect of their skill set (soft or hard) and develop the skills at that time. That’s the default strategy that most people use, and it’s a poor one.
First because when you need a skill it’s already too late to start learning it. Second, because one of the great secrets of career success is to develop skills and perform beyond your expected job level. A characteristic of the best technical and business leaders is that they make time for skills growth on a regular basis including
skills outside their immediate business need.

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