Why Tech Pros Need More Than IT Skills for Career Success

“Big Bang Theory’s” Sheldon Cooper has become an icon for the genius with less than desirable communication skills. Perhaps not surprisingly, the fictional character’s lack of interpersonal skills has led to multiple career blunders on the show.

A recent study by Kaplan University’s College of Business and Technology shows the same results can occur in the real world. 250 Kaplan faculty members from across the US were surveyed on the traits they believe will give IT graduates the best chance for success in their IT careers, outside of educational training. The results demonstrate the importance of honing the following three skills for career success:

  1. Critical Thinking. The most important non-technical IT skill cited in the survey was critical thinking. As platforms shift and integrated systems multiply, IT professionals are increasingly called upon to solve problems across disciplines. It is often impossible to have training in all the applicable technologies, and higher levels of management only add to the number and diversity of system components. Therefore, it’s critical that IT professionals have the ability to think on their feet in order to resolve issues that might not involve the exact technologies they are accustomed to.
  2. Written Communication. Educational training notwithstanding, the second indicator of whether or not students will be successful in their IT careers was written communication skills. A degree and technical proficiency will open doors, but you also need to be able to effectively communicate your ideas in writing – whether it’s an email, presentation or IM – if you want to advance. Kaplan Professor Lynne Williams said, “Technology becomes obsolete quite rapidly; good communication skills remain with you throughout your working life.”
  3. Interpersonal Skills. Third in importance in the Kaplan survey were interpersonal or “soft” skills. A recent survey of CIOs conducted by Robert Half Technology reinforced the need for interpersonal skills, too. For executives who cited a lack of preparedness among entry-level professionals, more than half identified soft skills such as communication and leadership as the missing traits.

It’s clear that success for professionals pursuing technical careers is dependent upon more than just IT skills. Some final thoughts from Kaplan Professor Carol Edwards: "Work on your transferable skills – skills that you can use in any specialty – such as oral and written communication, organization, critical thinking and networking. These skills can be used in all business arenas." How would you rate your current non-technical IT skills? A+? C-? For some great tips on developing these skills, visit the summary of the CIO survey mentioned above.  

Tags: Career RX