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8 Essential Hard And Soft Skills Every IT Pro Needs

Jeanne Hopkins| August 14 2017

| IT insights

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Employers want to see both hard and soft skills in potential employees. Here are some examples to keep in mind.

Employers like to refer to “hard skills” and “soft skills” when defining the necessary skill set for particular job. You need specific expertise: the technical, problem solving skills to apply your knowledge to perform the tasks required of you. Those are hard skills. But you also need to function well within the broader context of your workplace. You need a positive attitude, with the interpersonal skills, and strong work ethic to collaborate productively. And the people skills to communicate effectively. Those are soft skills.

Every IT pro needs both hard and soft skills in order to succeed. These days, cybersecurity is top-of-mind across all industries, as organizations struggle to fend off hacks and other attacks and find ways to better protect themselves and their data. Obviously, then, security-specific skills are a must-have for any IT pro’s resume. But what other skills are in demand by employers now?

Here are 3 hard skills and 5 soft skills essential for your resume.

Hard Skills: The Knowledgeable Employee

1. Technical know-how

You have to understand how things work – and work together, and why. That includes:

  • Understanding the architecture and management of operating systems, visualization software, and networking
  • Ability to design and evaluate systems and network architectures
  • Programming/software development and analysis
  • Proficiency in multiple programming and scripting languages
  • Understanding how components work (network routers and switches, firewalls, network load balancers, etc.)

2. Problem Solving

You must be able to diagnose problems, analyze data, and model data. That requires tenacity and attention to detail. But solving problems in a rapidly-evolving environment also requires an innovative, forward-thinking approach.

3. Pursuit of professional development

Ongoing learning isn’t a “skill” in itself, but without continuous education there can be no continuous improvement in technical skills. IT pros must:

  • Follow and understand the latest information on trends, best practices, standards, and methods
  • Recognize and understand the latest internet-driven vulnerabilities

Soft Skills: The Complete Employee

1. Enthusiasm

No one expects you to be giddy, but if you aren't excited about your job and the value it brings your workplace, you’re in the wrong career. A positive attitude keeps you on your toes day in and day out, and you’ll need that upbeat work ethic when you have to inform and inspire others in your organization on IT issues and solutions.

2. Adaptability

In a world where change is constant, nothing changes faster than technology – or the scope of threats to “peace and quiet” on the IT home front. Flexibility enables you to identify and adapt to beneficial changes, either by using technical skills or through new skill training.

3. Communication

Depending on your position, you must interact with management, co-workers, customers, and/or vendors. That requires:

    • Ability to express complex concepts verbally, and in writing, to both tech-savvy and non-technical audiences
    • Presentation skills
    • Ability to act as a team player, alongside the leadership skill to handle conflict resolution
    • Interpersonal skill to listen “actively” in meetings or one-on-one

4. Collaboration

You may be used to working closely with other IT professionals, but these days you must have broader collaborative and people skills – the ability to work well with individuals and departments throughout your organization. The ability to become a team player and problem solve is just one reason that communication skills are so critical.

5. Networking

Not the technical kind, but the “getting to know you” kind. Using your social skills and communication skill enables you to expand your personal contacts, which is good for career development. You can also tap into other IT professionals’ experience and insight to help your critical thinking toward developing improved solutions for your own organization.

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All technical protections aside, the biggest security risk factor for most organizations is human error. That makes cybersecurity everyone’s job. It is now incumbent on IT pros to teach fellow employees why security is critical and what they can and should be doing every day to protect their actions and work product. These people don’t speak IT, so you must be able to explain the risks and solutions in easily understandable language. No jargon. No unnecessary technical terms.

Aaron Auld, CEO of the German software firm EXASOL, says “IT decision makers at all levels cite a lack of skills to make the most out of the digital revolution as a frequent pain point for business, and yet, the clamor and need to adopt technologies like machine learning, AI and big data analytics is only growing stronger.” What’s needed, he believes, are data scientists – IT pros whose capabilities transcend data analytics to encompass “creativity and ability to delve deeper to find insights on a broader scale.”

His point – one that many other corporate and government leaders are also making – is that understanding data has no value unless you can convert that insight into actionable business intelligence.

With the right complement of hard and soft skills, IT pros can position themselves to grow their own future as well as their organization’s future. That’s a pretty strong position to be in. 

Topics: IT insights

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THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY Jeanne Hopkins

As Executive Vice President and CMO of Ipswitch, Jeanne Hopkins knows the value of blogging as part of an Inbound Marketing strategy. She’s been blogging for years for a variety of software companies, and understands that as an author, blog posts usually stand the test of time. And, every marketer needs to blog.

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