The tech industry is one of the hottest industries across the globe because it offers flexibility, career possibilities and low barriers to entry. Like every other space, there’s a strong focus on employees’ skills.
Those with strong coding skills, relevant certifications and professional licences are often the most sought-after employees. But in recent years, there’s been a demand for the development of soft skills not just by employees but employers and every other major stakeholder in the industry.
For instance, most of the scandals witnessed by the Nigerian tech industry in 2022 wouldn’t have happened if attention has been paid to these skills. Louis Farrakhan Sr., an American black supremacist who heads the Nation of Islam, said "When you see great men fall, don't laugh. Learn! Because you are on your way up. And you and I are not free from the temptations or the weaknesses that made them stumble and fall..."
So, having the right technical skills is just the beginning. To truly thrive in this field, you need to develop strong soft skills that can help you communicate effectively, work collaboratively, and adapt to changing environments.
Why are soft skills important?
Soft skills are non-technical skills that describe how you work and interact with others. They are personal traits, attributes, and behaviours that support situational awareness and enhance how you interact with others.
Research from Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research centre found that 85% of career success comes from having well-developed soft skills. As a professional in the tech industry, most of the time you spend at work will be spent as part of a team. Even computer programmers, who often work alone, must be able to work in teams to accomplish certain goals.
Soft skills allow employees to effectively share knowledge with their teams, collaborate in a team and tackle difficult issues with a positive attitude. Therefore, here are 10 soft skills you need to develop for your tech career:
Effective communication is key to success in any industry, but it's especially important in tech, where you'll be working with complex concepts and often need to explain them to non-technical stakeholders.
Strong communication skills can help you build relationships with clients, work effectively in teams, and convey technical information in a clear and concise manner.
Related post: 20 top tech skills that require no coding
In tech, things can change quickly. Whether it's a new software update or a shift in company priorities, being able to adapt to new situations is critical. A willingness to learn new skills, take on new challenges, and pivot when necessary can help you stay ahead of the curve and make the most of opportunities as they arise.
You can improve your adaptability by being open to learning new skills and technologies, being proactive in finding solutions to problems, and being willing to take on new challenges.
In tech, problem-solving is a crucial skill that can help you overcome challenges and find innovative solutions to complex problems. Being able to analyse data, identify patterns, and think creatively can help you stand out in a competitive job market and excel in your role.
Related post: Five steps to becoming a technical writer
Whether you're working on a team or collaborating with clients, the ability to work effectively with others is essential. Good collaboration skills can help you build trust, foster innovation, and achieve better results.
Even if you're not in a management role, leadership skills can help you stand out in the tech industry. Being able to inspire others, motivate teams, and communicate a vision can help you take on more responsibility and advance in your career.
Related post: Four organisations training African youth in tech skills like coding
Emotional intelligence involves the ability to recognize and manage your own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. In the tech industry, this can be especially valuable when working on high-pressure projects or dealing with difficult stakeholders.
It's important in tech because it can help you build stronger relationships with your colleagues and clients. You can improve your emotional intelligence by practising self-awareness, empathy, and active listening.
In tech, creativity can be the key to developing innovative solutions and staying ahead of the competition. Being able to think outside the box and come up with new ideas can help you stand out in a crowded field.
Time management is an essential soft skill that is necessary for all professionals, especially in the tech industry. The ability to prioritize tasks and manage time efficiently can have a significant impact on productivity, job satisfaction, and career growth.
Effective time management can help you meet deadlines, avoid procrastination, and reduce stress levels. It can also enable you to take on new responsibilities and work on complex projects with ease. You can improve your time management skills by creating to-do lists, setting realistic deadlines, and learning to say no when necessary.
Networking is an essential skill in the Nigerian tech ecosystem because the industry is still nascent. Most opportunities are never advertised publicly, rather they are filled through personal connections and referrals.
So networking rightly can help you learn about new trends and techniques, and gain valuable insights and advice from experienced professionals. This helps you stay current and competitive in your industry.
Strong work ethic
Work ethic refers to the principles and values that guide your behaviour in the workplace. Having a strong work ethic involves being reliable, responsible, and committed to your work. It involves putting in the effort to achieve your goals and striving for excellence in everything you do.
How to develop soft skills as a tech professional
Soft skills can be built over time the same way technical skills are built. If you’re lacking in any of the areas we mentioned, it might be time to put some time into strengthening those skills. Here are recommendations for building tech soft skills.
Being open to – constructive feedback is essential to the development of soft skills. While asking for feedback may make you feel vulnerable, it’s a surefire way to learn where and how to grow. Superiors, managers and colleagues can all provide valuable viewpoints.
Take an online class
For soft skills like leadership or communication, you can find valuable resources on platforms like LinkedIn and Udemy. Your Human Resources department may also have partnerships with online learning companies offering relevant classes.
A mentor is someone who’s where you want to be. The right mentors know where to focus your attention and how to challenge you. Their knowledge and experience become yours. They’ll also provide immediate and realistic feedback on your work, so you can improve more rapidly.
Read a book
Reading books is a personal development strategy that is always valuable when you are trying to build a skill. And it’s no different with soft skills. Some books you can consider are:
- How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie
- The 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey
- 10 skills for effective business communication: practical strategies from the world's greatest leaders by Jessica Higgins JD MBA BB
- Soft Skills: The Software Developer’s Life Manual by Jon Sonmez
- The Softer Side of Leadership by Dr Eugene Habecker