By Debra Auerbach
Workers with information technology skills are some of today's most in-demand workers. In fact, employers are having a hard time finding people with the right IT skills to fill open positions. While technical skills are naturally important to employers seeking qualified IT candidates, that's not all it takes to get a job or be successful in an IT role.
Here, IT experts share the non-technical skills they believe are needed to succeed in IT.
"I think it's critical that IT professionals must be analytical in nature -- the ability to look at trends and problems with an eye on cultivating a solution that can speak to an overarching trend rather than a particular, nuanced issue is critical." -- Richie Lauridsen, director of operations, SEOhaus
"The most important non-technical skill for IT professionals in my experience is empathy. With empathy comes understanding of the clients' and/or end-users' problems. This breeds an 'ownership' of the problem, which, in turn, breeds clarity in delivering communication of the problem and its resolution." -- Yehuda Cagen, director of client services, Xvand Technology Corporation
"After 30 years in this industry, which began as a programmer, the skill that helped elevate my career most is that of communication. Learning to be succinct and communicate clearly to your intended audience is absolutely essential for continued success in this business. Communication skills should be developed early and attention paid to detail that is expressed in emails, presentations, phone conversations, meetings and so on. I often coach our younger staff members on communication and why understanding the context of communication is critical." -- Kevin Carlson, vice president and chief security officer, Optaros Inc.
"Presentation skills make the difference between your ideas being implemented in the real world and them never seeing the light of day. When an IT professional complains that no one in the business understands them, they often have their own faulty presentation skills to blame. To have effective presentation skills, an IT professional must understand how to communicate clearly to a non-technical audience, to be comfortable with the tools and techniques of speaking to a group and have the ability to create a business 'value proposition' for their audience. The key to learning to present is practice, practice, practice -- to your IT peers, to friendly colleagues and even to the mirror." -- Jon Eberly, CEO, Clock Four
Ability to listen
"The ability to listen to the needs of those you support can directly determine the types of products and projects you are assigned to. And while everyone in IT may want the latest and greatest, it does not mean it is necessarily the right fit. Listening to staff needs will also affect your judgment(s) concerning specific products or methods required to fulfill those needs. Lastly, listening will help to foster relationships within the department. Working and listening so closely with one another establishes a sense of trust, reaffirms their faith in your abilities and aids in ensuring all IT personnel meet or exceed expectations." -- Sean Harris, network administrator, City of Palm Bay, Fla.
"Today's IT professional needs to be sure they possess the 'soft skills' that can help them really merchandise their work -- and worth -- to the organization. They need great people skills, the ability to anticipate questions, and most importantly, a good business sense. I'd recommend IT professionals get really smart about return on investment and showing how their work impacts the bottom line. They should also make sure they're absolutely clear about the organization's business goals as a whole and find ways to show how their work contributes to those goals. In today's market, it is not enough to have great IT skills and knowledge, it is equally important to position yourself as a strategic business person." -- Peter Nordberg, CEO, InSite
"I believe that entrepreneurship is the most important non-technical skill IT professionals should possess. Entrepreneurship is more of a mindset than a skill, a perspective that can transform problems into opportunities and opportunities into innovation. In the world of IT, innovation large and small can be viewed as 'career currency' that increases the value of the IT professional to their organization." -- Ara H.