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Monday
Aug202018

5 "soft" tech skills

Source https://www.youtern.com/thesavvyintern/index.php/2018/07/26/new-soft-skills-evolution-infographic/

Soft skills are the personal attributes, personality traits, inherent social cues, and communication abilities needed for success on the job. Soft skills characterize how a person interacts in his or her relationships with others. the balance careers

Last week our district hosted a day-long workshop on coding. And that's fine. If one looks at coding as technique of problem-solving and means of developing rational problem-solving abilities, I am all for it. If teaching coding is about creating life-long tech skills at third grade, it is a waste of time.

Computer programming and coding when seriously undertaken at high level can be valuable work place skills. Programmers and data integration specialists can make a good living and the need for their skills will only increase. Still, even computer professionals need "soft skills." I'd argue that these soft skills (especially needed by a group often stereotyped as asocial) are a better predictor of career success than programming or other hard technical skills. 

Here are five of those soft skills that come to mind:

  1. Communication for understanding. People in the technical field have a reputation for being poor communicators. The specialized language of technology is not familiar to the lay user and far too often, techs delight in compounding the problem of clear understandings by flaunting acronyms to demonstrate some sort of intellectual superiority. The successful technologist of the future will be able to "translate" tech talk in ways that users, decision-makers, and even politicians might understand.
  2. Programming with empathy for user needs. A program can be extraordinarily powerful, but without at least a semi-intuitive interface, most of that power will go unused. Or the training will be long and very painful resulting in the number of people able to use the product in the organization being small and resentful. What seems simple and straightforward to those of who work with technology on a daily base, can be puzzling and frustrating to the end user. Great technologists view their products from the user POV.
  3. Project management. Any time a task requires more than one person having responsibility for its completion, project management will be critical to its success. I am living this in real time currently when trying to get separate large databases to share data reliably. It is no longer enough just to be competent at one's own job as a programmer - you have understand your role in the larger project and even add value by managing the project, helping with building timelines, objectives, responsibilities, etc.
  4. Ethical decision-making. As AI become more powerful, ethical considerations for technologists become vital. We are already seeing reports of search engines with cultural and sexual biases in their returns. The technologist who programs thinking about right and wrong, equity, and cultural proficiency will be of more value not just to his organization, but to society as a whole.
  5. Attention to creativity. Too often coding classes and programming are teaching and testing the ability to simply follow a recipe. The heart of good technology skills is creative problem-solving. This is not creativity for the sake of being creative, but in designing new ways to solve stubborn problems, increase efficiency, or add value. What problems are you asking students to solve in their programming lessons?

The technologists to whom some of these soft skills come naturally will rise to the top of the tech pool. But many will need to asked to consider and practice improving their ability to interact with people, not just with keyboards.

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Reader Comments (3)

Totally agree! However, I have NEVER seen any curriculum or even a class on these "secondary" skills. The way that I develop my computer science classes I have been able to add a quick overview of these skills - and I hope to add more this year.

August 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

Hi Kenn,

Maybe these skills are less about what one teaches and more how one teaches. We learn interpersonal skills by example, I suspect.

Good to hear from you.

Doug​

August 25, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Kenn,

Maybe these skills are less about what one teaches and more how one teaches. We learn interpersonal skills by example, I suspect.

Good to hear from you.

Doug​

August 25, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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