No matter which company you are working on or which company you are interviewing, there is much more than your excellent administration skills or UNIX wizardry. It was just yesteryears that the corporate IT was looking for people to bridge the gap between the administrators and the end users. Don’t believe that? Just check the bios of some CIOs and see which degrees they have.
It is obvious you cannot survive by your tech skills alone.
First skill is my all time favorite: excellent communication skills. It never goes out of style. You have to be able to read, write and speak clearly and effectively. If you cannot express yourself, if you cannot communicate your ideas, opinions, recommendations clearly, you are really in bad shape. And no, your texting skills and creative emoji uses are worse than nothing in the corporate world.
The next important soft skill you need to have is reaching an agreement. Gone are the days when IT says “no” and it’s over. Today, IT is the “enabler” rather than the “preventer”, which means the IT professionals need to has to understand the issues people are running into and try to work out the disagreements and arrive at a common decision. Of course there will be different projects, different goals, different interests in the company. You – the IT pro – has to know how to work with people and find a common path to walk together.
Working with people is significantly different from working with systems: systems are 100% binary and people are 100% analogue. That means, you have to work with the gray areas, where there is no right or wrong answer, often there are many right and many wrong answers which one of them should be chosen. You can bring his problem solving skills to the table: identify the problem, bring it out, analyze it, have it solved. You cannot imagine the effect you will have on the project.
When you are working with people on a project, you are working in a team. For many IT professionals, isolating themselves in their own expertise make them feel secure. But in a teamwork, this isolation work against them. Teamwork values people who can work for the good of the team and the project. Among those who can see the overall big picture and work towards it are the ones valued most. And they are the candidates for promotion.
Another skill that you have to master as the IT pro is to understand the end user. Your job is to work with the intricate technical details of the systems and simple computer operations seem obvious to you. This is not the case for the end user. You have to understand the difficulties the end user is going through, understand the environment that he is working in and apply these to your designs. These designs can be user interfaces, applications or any other issues the user is having hard times with.
Speaking about understanding the end users, teaching and sharing knowledge are one of the greatest things that you can do. Not only these activities are invaluable for the project/new application rollouts, it helps you personally in various ways: you really understand which issues people face, how they try to solve problems, what parts of the applications they use and for what purposes (you cannot imagine how creative and “abusive” users can be), plus you build relationships with people you only see in the cafeteria. On the other hand, when you are teaching (or mentoring) them, you teach them how to use the systems properly, which in turn will translate into less support tickets.
IT is not only connected to the end users in the company, there are also the contractors and the vendors. With the rise of the outsourcing in the recent years, IT pros have to work more with the contractors. We know that we, IT pros prefer to carry out our own duties instead of managing contractors. But contractor management is an area where we can show how we can work with the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Service Level Agreements (SLAs), together with our administrative and management skills. Looking deeper, the projects, tasks and/or the daily routines that the contractors are carrying out are essentially the responsibilities of the corporate IT, which are in fact our responsibilities. Managing them effectively and adding value where possible is where an we can shine. Therefore contractor management is an excellent area that holds potentials for promotion.
With the rise of the cloud-based solutions, an IT pro can easily find himself in contract negotiation. It is important for the IT pro to develop himself in contract management and legal matters. Not only these developments will make the IT pros recognized easily but also puts him in the position to be rewarded, often with executive positions.