• It becomes more and more seldom to open a tech vacancy and find only tech requirements and stack of technologies on the list. Today employers have finally accepted that hard and soft skills are equally vital for the techies and the whole industry to maintain the business on the current level and world pace. 

    We’ve gathered the best hiring expertise from our GitMax Recruitment department and would like to share with you the key points on how to enhance your advantages while searching for an IT position/or filling the job place and what interpersonal skills are essential these days on the tech market. This article will be helpful for CEOs and HR of tech companies as well as tech employees who are eager to improve their skills and build a strong career path.
  • First things first: what are those hard and soft skills?
  • Engineers are mostly not that open and talkative people, however, such skills are essential for professional growth.

    Hard skills are the skills which can be measured and proved “on paper” and they are related to the technical knowledge of the field. Soft skills, however, are all about how one's interacting with the outer living (working) world. At first glance, it may seem that what is most important for your job is the code quality and knowledge of the latest trends in the industry, however, leadership, communication and time management skills affect solving business tasks as much as the ability to code. In fact, both types of these skills are a must-have for an efficient and successful path in the tech industry. In this article, we are walking near 9 essential soft skills and will throw light on what techniques we use in GitMax to improve them.
Communication and negotiation skills
The very first and we’d say most essential soft skill which acts like a locomotive for the other wagons packed with skills is the ability to communicate. No matter what IQ we have, the capability of socializing is exactly what makes us humans. In the modern business world, knowing how to deliver your thoughts clearly and meaningfully is a key asset which leads you straight to your career advancement. If you are able to state your ideas or opinions, if your knees do not shake while you defend them in both written and oral ways, if you can sit at the table and negotiate with your business partners (or colleagues) - all these skills turn you from an asset to a great asset.
To foster communication skills it is essential to communicate as much as you can (tada!), and not simply chit chat but communicate with purpose. A helpful tool to nurture your ability to deliver your thoughts knowing how to use words in your favor would be joining a debating club. You can also take up negotiation courses and learn essential strategies and skills to close deals, maximize value in the agreements you reach, and resolve various differences (which is helpful not only in business but also in everyday life). Start a discussion with your colleagues focused on the latest topical issue in your field while having a lunch break. Set a reminder on your phone to “raise two questions at the next weekly meeting”. The secret to success is in the discipline and frequency of actions. Do the prep before any negotiations, think hard on your argumentation, think even harder on your opponent’s arguments. The best improvisation is prepared improvisation. Sooner or later you will be heard. Just like recruiters from Gitmax, carefully observing the candidates and within 15 minutes of the conversation successfully evaluating the level of communications skills in a prosperous candidate and vice versa.
Understanding what customers value
We, tech people, got used to living in the “task system” that pretty often we solve those tasks word for word as it is written in one of those trackers we use - without actually thinking of the purpose the feature is representing. Meanwhile, “What for?” question is the key question while working on any software development. Knowing the answer does its job - clarifies the task, saves valuable developer’s time and, in fact, cuts costs for the project, hence, the company and the client. It is tech specialists who must know how to define a client's business problem in a clear way. Clients mostly provide vague requirements for the project scope not just because but, truth to be told, rather due to lack of experience (and that is absolutely normal - that is why they are looking for recruitment and custom development options). So simply be aware - while getting familiar with the requirements description (especially if it was provided by a third-party), think of what questions related to the future work can be raised. It is still mostly all about people using technologies.
  • That may also be a good point for future career development in comparison to the fellow colleagues who blindly and strictly follow the requirements “because that’s how it is written here”. That is just another type of the workers who are good at executing administrative and monotonous tasks.
Emotional Intelligence (EI)

Emotional intelligence helps you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, understand what they feel and use it thoughtfully while interacting. Being attentive towards other people’s feelings and emotions can be extremely handy for avoiding unsettling situations, or at least reducing them. EI also assists in intelligently engaging in negotiations, motivating the workers by understanding the mood inside teams and it helps to hold out-of-hand workplace conflicts down. Many of us have faced how tough it can be to work in a company where there is lack of trust and empathy among the co-workers.
First, start observing yourself while you interact with someone and ask yourself what you feel. Then, try to listen to the person you’re interacting with and understand which emotions he or she is experiencing. With practice and mindfulness, it will become easier to decipher what stands behind the words and what a person truly means so you can effectively communicate. 
Teamwork skills

Employees with developed emotional intelligence tend to be more cooperative while working in a team, and software development, however you slice it, is mainly not for lone wolves. Before digging a coding hole for yourself with a hard task, it can be useful to consult your colleagues whether they have faced the same challenge. The solution while brainstorming can come up within 15 minutes instead of hours of time-consuming actions. A back-end developer can build the same components again and again, or he can create one and share it with the team, and they may directly implement it. An engineer can suggest to his PM rearranging a part of the client’s terms of reference (TOR) if he sees how TOR can be improved for the business needs of the product. All these examples are the examples of teamwork which helps to shorten total development time, add value to the final product, thus, raise company’s profit as well as your personal income. 
  • Give it a go to your routine, before approaching a complex task, to shortly discuss it with your project manager or other colleagues first. No need to book a conference room and make it a meeting. Simply drop a few words while drinking a coffee or having a ride in a lift. Like “I’ve been thinking about this task - I reckon, cartography can be done based on OpenStreetMap, what do you think?”. A problem shared is a problem halved!
Time Management

What we all crave for apart from our job is having a life apart from work - take walks, read, watch films, hang out with friends and family. To find that vaunted work-life balance, it is extremely important to have a clear understanding of what tasks you have and which are the most urgent and significant at the moment. Not recorded assignments in the tracker will cost you hours spent arranging and solving them while that time was planned to be spent on other workload.

Best practice to keep the track of your work is to be well-aware every Monday what scope of work you’ll be doing during the week. Try to decompose every task as it may bring new ideas on how to simplify it. Do not hesitate to ask for reassigning the tasks within a team. And definitely do not be shy to ask your project managers to assign the tasks for you in the task management software.
Flexibility and Creativity

Approaching a team lead suggesting “let’s not do this nonsense they wrote on ROT” is also a solution. Suggesting “let’s do this nonsense a little bit differently” is a proper solution. 

What we mean here is the skill to propose an out-of-the-box or game-changing solution to the problem to solve it faster, easier, cheaper, thus, more effectively. Being able to see it and to suggest it will highlight you from the others.

Flexible thinking is when you look at the object and see not only its standard features but also dozens of other variants of its usage. For instance, you can use a pen to write, or you can use it to fix your hair. Flexible thinking is a part of being creative, but it’s not only that. Creativity allows us to create something new based on what we saw in a different light. 

That’s why before solving a common challenge, step aside and think how you could interpret it in a more efficient way. Broaden your horizons of thinking.

In other words, proactivity stands for being initiative and being capable of thinking a few steps ahead. In fact, with such an attitude you do not go with a flow simply following the tasks, but rather monitoring the industry trends and the market thinking what feature set can be further expanded and what new implementations and solutions will raise the efficiency of the company. For example, you’ve learnt a new technology. Make up a demo and present it to your colleagues. Such practice is beneficial not for the corporate to point you out and get an award for doing a great job but for your self-study and self-improvement, because, while preparing a demo, you may come across even more helpful tools for your work.
Presentation Skills

This skill is all about your ability to engage others into your speech, into the topic you are speaking about. To find such words and such manner that will draw people’s attention, raise an interest and finally involve them into the project. The simplest way to improve this skill would be to start watching various outstanding presentations on the topics you are interested in in your field (the good part is that there are dozens of great online-conferences and meet-ups on the Internet). After noting some killer features that may be useful for you, start performing yourself. First time would be the hardest, after 10 presentations you may feel a bit more relieved (finally not having THOSE sweaty hands), when you’d do your 100th presentation, you will finally get used to it.

It is better to start with a small familiar audience presenting the material you are well familiar with and you truly like: for instance, what you are currently working on and the role of it.
At GitMax, we have a practice of “small pitches” when any employee tells their coworkers why this or that feature was released the way it was.

In fact, even the most dry facts can be told in a very informative and engaging way. While preparing for a presentation will hone your communication and time management skills as well as immensely advance your interview process.

Explained it for the third time and finally got it myself!
Mentoring is a skill of bringing your knowledge to the other employees which is extremely valuable in the corporations with a big payroll, thus, with a big number of junior specialists. To stop by a colleague, explain the challenge he or she has faced with the feature, give in some information sources, take part into finding the solution or hit upon an idea - this will make you not only a valuable worker, but, what’s maybe even more important, a nice and sociable person. However, you should bear in mind that it can be tricky to explain your ideas to the people outside your professional field as they may simply not understand all the professional words you ‘ll be throwing at them.
Mentoring is a great tool for training your communication skills. The key point to becoming a great mentor is patience. What’s also essential is a good memory. You were not born as a high-end professional, you’ve become one by gaining experience yourself and by learning from other professionals. Often, people switch to the IT sector from other fields and mentoring such newbies will assist them combining their previous experience with your knowledge in development, testing or analytics. And once such workers become “A” players, they won’t forget who helped them climb the ladder.
Instead of conclusion

A common belief that IT guys are those weirdos sitting all-day-all-night behind the screen, making weird geek jokes and being interested in nothing but coding, is fading away. While the industry was getting on its feet, we could have called IT a rare and mysterious jewel. Now, technology has gotten so deep into everyday business processes and everyday life, so that the game, how people work and, most importantly, the way they interact within the teams, has changed. It has become a pure teamwork play behind the numbers and technology stacks, and the more employees and companies want to achieve, the more they need to collaborate together. 

At GitMax, our recruiters pay a lot of attention to how fruitful candidates communicate during the first contact, at the interviews, and how they present themselves. And they always see potential. Some soft skills you get with ease, some you work on hard and finally attain them, but one thing remains the same - you create your own professional reality - through socializing. If you hire employees with honed soft skills, you can be sure that other team members working together will become more than just employees, which, hence, would directly affect the climate in the team, team’s productivity and its level of happiness. We all want to be happy and satisfied employees at work, in the end, right?

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