Group Interview: the Importance of Soft Skills in IT
There are numerous articles on the Internet that list down the most important soft skills for IT professionals. But in order to not only know about these soft skills but also understand their importance and roles, it is essential to provide real-life examples from one’s own experience. Thus, we’ve asked SoftTeco’s specialists from different departments to share their thoughts and ideas about the most essential soft skills for any IT professional and explain their significance.
Questions to the Project Manager: Aleksei Shevchik
A Project Manager is responsible for managing the team and working with several different specialists at once. With this in mind, it’s natural to ask a PM about the soft skills expected from good developers and how these skills help during work.
Q: What are the most needed soft skills for any developer?
A: Judging from my experience and from observing the people in different teams, I would say they are communication, empathy, team work, and self-motivation. In the IT industry, it is common to be able to work independently but to help your teammates as well. Therefore, a good software developer needs to be both an independent individual and a good team player who knows how to communicate with different people.
As well, it is vital that a developer is willing to understand the client’s problem and to find the best solution for it. So even if a person is a brilliant developer, their arrogance and unwillingness to understand other people will not allow them to create an efficient software product simply because this product will not bring the intended value to the client.
Q: In what areas do soft skills help the most?
A: The most obvious answer would be communication with the client. All developers will communicate with the client at some point of time, be it a daily meeting or a face-to-face one. And during these meetings, the client may want to require certain changes, ask why something does not work as supposed, or other questions that may take a person aback. So in order to keep the client satisfied and the project up and running, one needs to know how to successfully resolve any issues and create a win-win situation for all the parties involved.
As well, let’s not forget about the skill of self-organization and motivation. If a developer is truly passionate about their work and shows a certain level of interest for it, they will be constantly learning about new technologies and methods and will be able to efficiently organize their time.
Overall, I strongly believe that a good developer should have two out of four PAEI code qualities - they are Producer and Administrator. Being a Producer means that a person can bring tasks to a conclusion and Administrator role implies that a person is self-organized and accurate. In my opinion, these are the critical traits of any good software developer.
Q: What soft skills do you look for in your team members and which ones are unwanted and why?
A: The most unwanted ones: laziness and narrow-mindedness. If a person is lazy and narrow-minded, that means they won’t be willing to learn anything new because they will be overconfident in their skills (which are often quite poor!).
On the contrary, I’d gladly welcome an enthusiastic, smart, and self-motivated person who displays high interest towards learning new things. Such people tend to consistently increase their expertise with time and prove to be reliable professionals.
Questions to the Sales Manager: Maxim Delendik
Even though sales managers mostly interact with the clients, they also communicate with developers a lot as sales managers basically “sell” the developers’ skills and knowledge. Thus we decided it would be a good idea to interview our Sales Manager and get his point of view on the role of soft skills in IT.
Q: Were there any cases when particular soft skills were helpful and, on the opposite, were harmful to a project?
A: I can’t remember any particular cases but overall I do agree that soft skills are highly valuable and important. The core of the sales department work is remote communication with the clients. If we worked with the clients in one office or even in the same city, it would be much easier as face-to-face communication is more efficient. But since we talk to people from different countries and different time zones, we need to master our communication skills. Our ability to negotiate, clarify tasks, actively listen, manage our and the clients’ emotions, and timely provide the needed feedback - all these factors impact the success of the project and the level of comfort that a client experiences when working with us.
And on the opposite, the lack of such skills usually leads to poor results: misunderstandings, frequent arguments, non-clarified tasks that demand to be redone, and other issues that harm the project.
Q: Are there any particular soft skills that clients demand developers to have?
A: In general, all clients expect developers to efficiently cope with their tasks, be communicative, be able to explain their technical experience in detail (but at the same time, without overloading with information), and be active listeners. As well, it is desirable that developers are non-confrontational, can ask the right questions (to get the right and needed answers, be proactive, and offer efficient solutions.
What is also highly valued is the developer’s ability to resolve not only tech tasks but also understand and even offer a solution to a business problem. Such an ability will help any developer better understand the client, get a birds-eye view of the project (instead of concentrating on one small part of it) and hence understand the client’s expectations and deliver the corresponding results.
Questions to the HR Manager: Ulia Oborina
In the IT industry, the people who assess one’s technical skills are usually project managers. But when it comes to soft skills estimation, no one knows more about them than an HR Manager.
Q: What soft skills do you pay attention to during the interview and probation period?
A: I usually do not detect any specific skills but rather try evaluating the overall person’s behavior: the way they respond to questions, how comfortable they are, whether they suppress any emotion, and things like that. I try to understand whether this person will fit well in the team and whether there are any warning signs in their behavior. But obviously, I pay lots of attention to one’s communication skills and I can usually tell if a person is a driven individual or if they prefer to be led and managed. Please note that there are no “bad” soft skills: for example, if a person is shy, it doesn’t make them a poor developer. However, if we are looking for a Project Manager, I’d expect the candidates to be assertive and self-motivated.
Q: Are there any soft skills that are specific to the IT industry?
A: I cannot say that different soft skills are specific to different industries. But certainly, there are some soft skills that will be incredibly helpful if you work in the IT industry.
For example, if a person is able to successfully interact with the team, it allows them to easier cope with any issues. And if a person can successfully communicate with the client, this often means that a person will quickly grow as a professional - all due to the ability to listen, ask the right questions, explain one’s point of view and accept the point of view of other people.
Below are the soft skills that I consider to be the most important for any IT professional:
- Efficient communication
- Ability to work in a team
- Self-organization, ability to solve problems
- Willingness to learn new things
Q: What skills are a red flag during the interview and how to work on them?
A: During an interview, it is quite easy to notice if a person cannot suppress stress or anxiety and if a person has difficulties with transferring the intended message and thoughts. Of course, I can give feedback and recommend working on certain skills - but the person should also be willing to do so. In order to improve one’s soft skills, I recommend reading books on soft skills improvement, take part in educational webinars, take part in internal activities. For example, in SoftTeco we regularly organize mini-lectures where anyone can talk on a certain topic (Java development, copywriting, microservices - anything!). So if a person wishes to level-up their public speaking and communication skills, it will be beneficial for them to hold such a lecture.
A question may arise: how do I know if I need to improve my soft skills? This is a really good question, I must say, as one may be completely oblivious to the need to improve certain skills. So in order to learn if you need to improve anything, you can ask your teammates or a project manager for feedback.
At SoftTeco, we actually started to work on an initiative to help employees learn more about their soft skills and to help them improve these skills. So our first step will be introducing a survey. This survey will be filled both by a person (a responder) and their team members. This is done to help employees get a 360-degree view of their personal skills and to suggest possible ways of improvement. And after the survey, we will organize a series of lectures to guide employees through the challenging process of self-improvement!
One more important thing that I should say: do not rush! The improvement of one’s soft skills takes quite a lot of time and effort so do not expect things to change in a few days. Be patient, set clear goals, get a good understanding of what you really need to work on and why and the results will appear!
Questions to the Developer: Roman Kashanok
If we talk about the necessity of soft skills in the IT industry, it is essential to talk with developers. We’ve asked Roman Kashanok to share his view on the most important soft skills for any developer and to share some tips on how to master them.
Q: In your opinion, what are the obligatory soft skills for a software developer?
A: That’s a tough question! I can actually name a lot of important skills, but if to choose the most essential ones, they would be communication, time management, self-organization, and self-education.
Communication is an absolute must since developers usually communicate with many different people: team members, people from other departments, clients, sales managers. So it’s really important to know how to communicate efficiently: meaning, one should be able to successfully express thoughts and opinions and, at the same time, understand and hear what other people say. It often happens that developers and a client or a sales department have a different opinion on certain things - so we need to resolve the issue with both parties coming from the conflict as a winner. That’s why communication and negotiation are critical - otherwise, we’d never come to a common denominator! And of course, we often have to explain complex technical things in simple words - and that’s part of efficient communication as well.
Then we have time management. It is important as I often need to multitask or to organize my work in a way to meet the set deadlines. So if I have zero time management skills, I’d be in trouble. Being able to properly manage one’s schedule and working hours is a great skill that can help you out in times of high workload. And I think we can add here the skill of self-organization as well. Not only do I need to organize my time wisely but I also need to properly allocate my tasks and prioritize them. Otherwise, as I’ve said, I’d get lost in all my tasks and this will lead to chaos and missed deadlines.
And finally, self-education. Though some developers can be hesitant about it, all the professionals whom I’ve met throughout my career are always looking for ways to improve their skills and gain more knowledge. Let me explain why it’s so important. First, the new tools for development are released at a very frequent rate so you want to keep up with the releases. Second, the development methods get outdated really fast and new and more efficient methods take their place. So in order to create high quality and secured software, one needs to know the most efficient tools and development methods. And of course, if you invest in self-education, you are becoming a much more valued professional.
Q: How do you improve your soft skills?
A: I honestly never did any specific research on improving my soft skills so I can say I learned through experience. I have significantly improved my communication skills when I started teaching Java courses. During this time I met many different people and I learned how to communicate with them, efficiently express my thoughts, and how to do public speaking (from speaking in front of 10 people in a classroom to holding a lecture in front of a whole conference room).
As for time management, I tried learning its basics due to my own inability to organize my time properly but I didn’t succeed. So I manage my time with the help of tools like Jira and, of course, I use the client’s requirements as the main motivation to keep up with the set time frames.
Self-organization was also quite a challenge for me. Since we now work remotely due to pandemic, I really had to learn how to manage my time, workload, and tasks by trial and error approach. I can even say I had to learn self-organization - because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to efficiently cope with my tasks and therefore I’d harm the project.
As for self-education, this (unlike previous skills) has never been a big problem for me. I face lots of new technologies, methods, and approaches throughout my work. And I actually realized that it’s better to actually learn something new and confidently use it rather than spending time to copy and pick up configurations for correct performance within a specific project.
Summary from CTO: Sergei Zenevich
I believe that soft skills are vital for people in any domain, be it an IT industry or any other. Soft skills dictate how we interact with each other and they directly impact the company’s well-being.
As a CTO of a software development company, I notice certain tendencies in the employees’ personalities and I 100% agree with my colleagues above. I would say we expect our team members to be enthusiastic, proactive, communicative, and self-organized. Of course, we gladly assist with the employees’ education and we offer help and all the necessary tools and guidance. But unless a person themselves is motivated and willing to learn and try new things, there won’t be much progress in terms of professional and personal growth. Therefore (as trivial as it sounds) I highly recommend finding an area of interest that truly fascinates you - so you can apply all your passion towards becoming a top-tier professional.
SoftTecoView all articles by this author.