What's the tech industry like? What technical as well as soft skills are relevant to be successful? How would you better prepare yourself in such a high demanding field?
I'm an incoming freshman majoring in computer science. I'm industry certified with basic knowledge in python, java and web development.
If I had to summarize - learn the tech stuff, and think harder about how to apply it so that you can take a wider variety of jobs beyond just sitting behind a desk and crunching code.
Dr. Drew’s Answer
Soft skills are always a good idea. While I have seen people go quite well coding with very few social or soft skills, those people are usually tolerated because they are extremely good at what they do. However, it will severely restrict your upward mobility and limit what companies are willing to hire you. Understanding how to write well and communicate clearly are highly sought skills especially in management.
There is a reason colleges have general ed requirements. Jobs and life are not narrowly focused and mastering skills such as communications and budgeting can make you stand out and show companies you are more than just a "code monkey". These skills will also help you outside the job.
Soft skills matter in tech-related jobs because being able to use new technology is not enough if you don't have the soft skills needed to work well with others, communicate clearly, and handle challenges. Employers want IT and tech experts who have a good mix of both soft and hard skills, as both types of skills are key to a new employee's success in their position and long-term contribution to the company.
Communication, our most in-demand soft skill, has many parts, but it mostly deals with your ability to talk, listen, and understand information. You might be great at "talking code," but how skilled are you at explaining complex tech ideas or data findings to coworkers in the finance department? Sending emails, leading client meetings, working with teammates, presenting your thoughts, and listening to feedback are some ways you'll need strong communication skills to do your job well.
If you don't have good communication skills, you and your coworkers could miss crucial details, leading to technical mistakes and projects that don't go as planned. It might also result in less innovation because you couldn't properly share your ideas with important decision-makers.
Critical thinking is evaluating information, data, ideas, and more to develop an objective, logical judgment or analysis. A large part of your IT or tech professional work will be solving problems through developing and implementing technological solutions.
To effectively solve these problems, you must be able to think critically and make a fully informed decision based on the information you have. Critical thinking enables you to see challenges from a different perspective and approach problems with a creative mindset, leading to innovative solutions - essential in the tech world.
Collaboration is the ability to work efficiently with your colleagues to achieve a specific business outcome or goal.
Having good collaboration skills is of the utmost importance in a tech workplace environment, as there will be very few technical projects you alone will manage from concept to completion.
It is often the case that tech staff achieve more when working together, as each project benefits from the experience, unique talents, and insights from several diverse professionals rather than one.
Collaborating with others on your team enables you to delegate tasks in a way that plays to people's strengths, minimizes information falling through the cracks, and helps keep your workflows running smoothly.
Proactive is the opposite of reactive. So instead of taking action after something has happened, being proactive is about taking action before something happens.
In a tech workplace setting, being proactive means looking for opportunities to excel and going for them without being told to do so. Proactive individuals don't wait for instructions; they know what needs to be done and do it.
Proactiveness is an essential soft skill for tech and IT roles because it means you can self-motivate, work on your own initiative, and require less "management."
Being proactive fosters a more productive work environment, resolves minor issues (before they become more complex problems), encourages innovation, and produces faster results.
2. Data Structures and Algorithms: Grasping data structures and algorithms is vital for efficiently tackling intricate problems. This knowledge aids in crafting effective software solutions and excelling in technical interviews.
3. Database Management: Get acquainted with database principles, SQL, and NoSQL databases. Knowing how to design, query, and manage databases is crucial in numerous tech positions.
4. Cloud Computing: Familiarity with cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform is advantageous. Learn about cloud services, deployment, scalability, and management to remain competitive.
5. Software Development Lifecycle: Acquire knowledge of software development methodologies such as Agile or Scrum. Comprehending the development lifecycle and best practices for collaboration, version control, and testing will prove valuable in real-world projects.
1. Problem-solving and Critical Thinking: Tech positions frequently necessitate analyzing complex issues and devising innovative resolutions. Cultivating robust problem-solving and critical thinking abilities will enable you to effectively tackle challenges.
2. Communication and Collaboration: Effective communication skills are essential for teamwork, conveying technical concepts to non-technical stakeholders, and collaborating successfully. Practice articulating your thoughts clearly and actively pay attention to others.
3. Adaptability and Learning Agility: The tech sector progresses swiftly, so being adaptable and possessing a growth mindset is crucial. Embrace new technologies, stay informed about industry trends, and commit to ongoing learning.
4. Time Management and Organization: Juggling multiple tasks and meeting deadlines is critical. Develop solid time management skills, establish priorities, and maintain an orderly workflow.
5. Teamwork and Leadership: The ability to work well in a team and make positive contributions is highly valued. Furthermore, cultivating leadership skills and the capacity to motivate and inspire others can open doors for growth and advancement.
To better equip yourself in this challenging field:
1. Keep Learning: Remain inquisitive and never cease learning. Utilize online resources, tutorials, forums, and coding challenges to bolster your technical abilities. Investigate open-source projects or contribute to coding communities to gain practical experience.
2. Develop a Portfolio: Compile a portfolio of projects that display your skills and demonstrate your capacity to resolve real-world issues. Employers often seek practical experience, so working on personal projects or participating in hackathons can be beneficial.
3. Pursue Internships and Networking Opportunities: Obtain hands-on experience through internships or co-op programs. These opportunities offer practical experience and valuable industry connections. Attend tech conferences, meetups, and career fairs to network with professionals in the field.
4. Collaborate on Group Projects: Participate in group projects with fellow students to simulate real-world collaboration situations. This will help you hone teamwork skills, learn from others, and develop a diverse skill set.
5. Find Mentorship and Guidance: Connect with industry professionals who can offer mentorship and guidance. They can provide insights, career advice, and help you successfully navigate the tech world.
Keep in mind that success in the tech industry is a blend of technical expertise and soft skills. Continually enhancing your technical knowledge, along with strong communication, problem-solving, and adaptability skills, will enable you to flourish in this high-demand field.
From a soft skill perspective, communication skills (email, text, video, in person) are extremely important. A lot of organizations allow for remote work which means that face to face communication may be limited with your peers. Understanding how to speak the "corporate language" in all communication forms will be a huge benefit to your credibility. Networking and building relationships by being genuine will build your reputation as someone who can be trusted.
You can prepare yourself by staying up to date on what technologies companies are using in your field of interest. For example, AI is the big topic right now. Most organizations are working to figure out how to use ChatGPT as an assistive tool to help improve task efficiencies. Staying in the loop on current technology, how it's being used, who is using it and who is investing in it (follow the money) will help keep you informed.
I highly recommend getting certs to stay relevant, joining clubs to show that you go above and beyond as far as your passion for tech, going to events and conferences to stay relevant and up to date with new and evolving technologies. Lastly, I recommend picking your top 3 companies and going to every event, conference booth or club meetings they have! I knew I wanted google, IBM or Delta and I went to every event they would throw. Eventually in my IBM interview, I saw an interviewer that remembered me from all of the events I went to.
Absolutely think about diving into LinkedIn to search for internships or entry-level roles. Pay attention to the qualifications they desire. Keep in mind, every job you undertake will offer priceless learning opportunities.
It's challenging to identify the exact skills required for all jobs, but being flexible, committing time to learning, gaining knowledge from seasoned coworkers, and inquiring about your tasks are consistently advantageous.
Don't hesitate to check out LinkedIn profiles of accomplished professionals to discover what they've learned. Moreover, you can locate valuable educational resources on both YouTube and LinkedIn. Keep doing an amazing job!