3 must-have soft skills required for success in IT

3 must-have soft skills required for success in IT

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November 16, 2015
CIO Digital Training

Most IT employees know that success at their jobs is entirely dependent on their skills. But they think of these skills in terms of software development know-how, proficiency with coding tools or databases, knowing how to use the latest Web functions, and so on. Soft skills — the kind that help you interact with colleagues whether they're in IT or not — have always come lower on the list.

That's a mistake, according to Jason Wudi, CTO of JAMF Software, maker of the Casper Suite, which helps companies manage Apple devices. "Our team has found that so-called 'soft skills' are essential to how we recruit co-workers, and how we grow and develop our organization," he says. "We believe that technology is meant to empower humans, which means we don't just create, deliver, and support technology. We actively support the overall customer success our technology is part of."

Delivering this level of service requires a focus on delivering outcomes rather than products, and it must pervade the entire organization, he says. "When done right, we have found that this mentality will even extend to how members of our user community interact with each other."

Here are the three soft skills that Wudi considers most important:

1. Problem-solving

"Problem solving and critical thinking skills are at the forefront," he says. "The most successful people in our environment have the ability to not just hear what is asked of them, but to dig in and find out WHY the request, issue or opportunity is important and apply the full scope of their knowledge and skills to satisfy it."

With this approach, the end result may bear very little resemblance to what was originally requested — and that's just fine, Wudi says. "Understanding what outcome we are looking to achieve allows the talent of our people to come through to address customers' needs," he says.

2. Empathy

JAMF technology employees talk about something called the "co-worker mentality," Wudi says. "Truly understanding someone else's environment, circumstances, and potential pain points leads to a very powerful shift in your interaction. It allows you to move beyond a traditional vendor-client relationship to a world where 'we' can exist. When a potential customer realizes the support technician is going to stick it out to find a solution no matter whose technology is involved, the way you can do business changes. Customer satisfaction scores, retention for both customers and employees, and how your brand is viewed all change for the better, leading to quantifiable, measurable business improvements."

3. The willingness to roll up one's sleeves

This isn't so much a skill as applying all the skills, Wudi says. "It's the ability to jump in no matter what needs to get done, get dirty, and do the work. It's important for our employees to be able to leave their egos at the door and see what is in front of them in order to achieve success."

Good processes are important, as is the need to help employees use their time most efficiently, he adds. Still, "We all have times where individually or collectively we need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Whether you are a software engineer working through someone else's technical debt that you are pretty sure is a Grand Canyon-sized hole, or a finance team member working through the always-riveting annual audit, those who can embrace the challenges and find a way to carry themselves through tough times make themselves and everyone around them better."

There are other soft skills JAMF looks for when hiring, he adds, but these are the top three. "In the end, we believe being intentional in both what you look for when hiring and what you measure leads to stronger results, and we have spent time looking at many areas of performance. When you can align skills, motivations, attitudes, and activities, amazing things can happen!"

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Jason Wudi serves as the chief technology officer of JAMF Software, the leader in Apple device management. For the last nine years, Jason has been an integral part of JAMF Software, which helps over 5,500 customers across commercial, education and government verticals manage more than 5 million Macs, iPads and iPhones. Prior to his role as CTO at JAMF Software, Jason held the positions of director of services and support and chief cultural officer. He previously spent seven years in the information systems services department of the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire.

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Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and columnist for Inc.com. She is co-author of "The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive," as well as several other books. She lives in Snohomish, Washington. Find her at www.mindazetlin.com.  

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