"On the average, it takes about three years to develop a new hire into a seasoned technology professional in our environment," said Anthony Dolan, an IT Director at Depository Trust Clearing Corporation (DTCC). "We look for students that come to us very well prepared - not only in technology, but in the "soft skills" that you need to be successful."
Virtually every CIO I speak with agrees. People and other "soft" skills are needed in IT.
I saw this early in my career, when I was given a shot at a project management position I wanted-but only because everyone else on staff had said "no." The project was sinking. It was already one million dollars over budget, and had a customer who was threatening to sue the company and throw the project manager off a building! I knew this might be my only chance to prove that I could manage a project, so I took a deep breath and said I would do it.
I immediately saw that most of the project deliverables had been badly overpromised and that what had been delivered wasn't working. The only thing I could think to do was to level with the end user on the "true" state of the project and rebuild from there. The project's "new" beginning was shaky-but it was still a beginning.
I learned from the experience how important open communications, visibility and trust were. And that even if you couldn't deliver an immediate IT solution-if you could at least deliver information that gave your user the ability to show his management that he understood what was going on and what it was going to take to complete the project, there was value.
Today, these human interaction and soft skills areas are as much in demand in IT as they were ten years ago. It is why, when I talk with CIOs, that they point to several key areas where they want to see soft skills from their managers and their new hires. These skills areas are:
Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturing company in the semiconductor industry. Mary is a keynote speaker and has more than 1,000 articles, research studies, and technology publications in print.