IT careers: 5 soft skills for engineering teams in 2022

In today's hybrid work environment, soft skills are more important than ever. Consider these key attributes that will be in demand for IT candidates in the coming year
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soft skills: relationship-building

2021 showed the tech industry that we have to think long-term. We can’t afford to hire all of our talent based on one specific hard skill, because things change fast, and today’s in-demand hard skills will eventually be tomorrow’s outdated skills.

5 soft skills for IT teams

Technical skills like cloud and automation will still be a hot commodity, but soft skills will be even more important in a rapidly changing hybrid work environment. Here are the top five skills that engineering and IT leaders are looking for in 2022.

1. Coachability

2022 will be about hiring people who are coachable and eager to learn. New business realities are emerging by the minute, including the back-and-forth shifts from remote to in-person, supply chain shortages, and the push for more sustainable computing practices.

Engineers and IT teams will need to keep adding to their toolbox, no matter what technical skills they already have, and that growth comes from coachability. Engineering managers need people who are motivated to improve: Are they receptive to feedback? Do they proactively seek out information to learn more? Can they continuously iterate and adjust their approach based on shifting business priorities? These are the questions that we’ll be asking more in 2022.

2. Systems thinking

Systems thinking has always been a foundational soft skill for engineers, but in 2022 it’s a necessity. Systems thinking is about having the ability to both see the whole picture and the details within it. Engineers need to be able to think in terms of processes, events, and triggers. This mindset enables engineers to adapt to the challenges we face in 2022: As budgets shrink while customer demands increase, how will we ensure resources are being used efficiently?

[ Read also: IT talent: 3 hot IT roles in 2022 and beyond. ]

As the amount of data grows and more businesses embrace data-driven insights, how can we harness that data and analyze it to answer business questions? Systems thinking helps us map bigger business problems back to engineering and IT solutions, a soft skill that will be invaluable as engineers play a bigger role in business decision-making.

3. Open communication

Communication and collaboration skills will be especially critical in the hybrid work setting of 2022. These skills take more effort in the more distributed, less face-to-face environment of remote work. My engineering team favors “sharing by default:” openly communicating anything and everything, from documenting workflows to sharing new ideas and differing points of view. This kind of transparency has always been challenging, but it will be even trickier in an era when you can’t just stop by a colleague’s desk to share information.

Transparency is also helpful for onboarding in a remote-first environment since new employees will need access to standard operating procedures and workflows that they normally would have absorbed in the office. Engineers who know how to communicate more openly by default will set both themselves and their teams up for success in 2022.

4. Customer-centric mindset

In a time of uncertainty, customer experience is one of the things we can control. Today’s customers expect products that are dynamic, flexible, personalized, and simple to use. In 2022, new customer needs will continue to drive demand for engineers who can understand those needs and build solutions tailored to pressing industry trends and challenges. Customer-centric thinking is the north star that can help engineering teams stay focused on their organization’s purpose and create solutions that will actually move the needle for end users.

5. Empathy

When we’re stuck behind our screens all day, it’s easy to feel disconnected from the larger team and get burned out. The “Great Resignation” is a big red flag that IT and engineering teams everywhere are feeling unmoored. Empathy is the glue that will hold teams together as we continue navigating the hybrid work environment because it enables us to think about our teammates’ mental health and well-being. It’s more important than ever for engineers to empathize with their teammates and prioritize culture and connection just as much as they prioritize strong code.

[ Read also: Leadership: How to show empathy to hybrid work teams ]

At the end of the day, engineering and IT managers don’t just want to build a team of people who have the best technical skills: We want to build a team of people we’re proud to know. By focusing on those key soft skills, engineering teams will head into 2022 stronger than ever.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Molly Brown is Vice President, Engineering and Customer Success at Qumulo. She brings over 20 years of experience designing, building, and leading teams to deliver high-quality storage software to customers.