It wasn’t that long ago that IT professionals were hired for their IT knowledge and specialisation. The so-called hard skills they learned through education, training, certification, and on-the-job experience were all that was important.
Now we see a shift in what organisations are expecting from cyber professionals in particular. The most prevalent trend for new IT roles is a large emphasis that’s placed on soft skills.
The inclusion of soft skills to the list of wanted skills for IT and cybersecurity roles shows that the field is maturing.
The West Monroe Partners study “Closing the Technology Leadership Gap” reveals that 98 per cent of HR leaders confirmed they place high importance on soft skills for getting a technology position, and a staggering 67 per cent didn’t offer a job to a candidate with all hard skills because of lack of soft skills:
Soft skills are an integral part of the individual’s personality. They determine how an individual will respond to pressure and different circumstances in the workplace, how they will adapt to changes and interact with others.
This shift in requirements is partly due to changes happening to the role of IT and cyber professionals within organisations now—they aren’t an isolated unit that just keeps things running.
They are becoming an integral part of the C-suite, with CIO, CSO, CISO, CTO, CDO roles helping IT contribute to business success.
Recently, IT and cyber pros are in more and more contact with the board or key decision-makers. They must have a proactive approach, and they must ensure that IT is in sync with the organisation’s long-term goals.
Most important of all, they must be able to develop strategies that will help achieve such goals and have the means to explain these strategies and complex subjects from their field to stakeholders who do NOT possess hard IT skills and won’t understand the technical focus that will make it possible.
And while there are cybersecurity and IT talent shortages across the globe, organisations are demanding that IT and cyber pros have a good set of soft skills, and opting to leave the role vacant for longer if necessary.
Their reasoning? It’s easier to teach hard skills than soft skills.
While this might be true, teaching soft skills will yield good ROI as well, as was demonstrated at MIT. It will take a while for organisations to offer professional development in soft skills, so IT and cyber pros might want to focus on developing these on their own. Doing so means being able to command a much higher salary and benefits.
Whenever an IT or cyber pro can’t use their vast knowledge and experience to get an approval for new solutions or strategies, a soft skills gap might be the culprit for it—communication skills, in that particular case.
In the digital era, IT and cyber pros have become a go-to source to help with crucial business decisions. By using the right tools and language, IT and cyber specialists can make the board understand the impact of new IT and cybersecurity developments in a way that matters most—the financial impact on the company bottom line.
IT pros who are well-versed in soft skills and know their way around business terms will have an easier time presenting their findings in front of the board. The most important soft skills for the IT field will be:
What soft skills play the most important role depends on the IT role within the company.
The biggest issue with soft skills is that it’s hard to teach and learn them, but it is not an impossible task.
The only way to get better at soft skills is to practice using them. The first thing you must do is to identify areas that you struggle with. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, so find out what yours are and then improve.
Here are a few tips on improving your soft skills:
Most important of all, always be willing to continue learning and improving your skills. The IT and cybersecurity landscape is changing rapidly and will continue to do so. So professionals in the industry need to keep up.
Cyber and IT pros must be willing to update their knowledge and share their insights and strategies with everybody else in the company and work on improving their soft skills to make communication and presentation efficient and easy to understand.
Explain why/how your solutions work, to a non-techy audience.