Leadership

Do you have the consulting skills IT managers want?

Technical skills are important, but apparently, they're not the main thing IT managers want in an IT consultant. Find out the top 15 skills IT managers want in employees.

Eric Lundquist, CIO Insight Editor, shared an interesting bit of information that might surprise some of you (I know it surprised me) in the December 1, 2008 issue of eWeek. In his article, "The Skills That Really Matter," Lundquist shared the top 15 skills IT managers are looking for in entry-level employees, as compiled by Society for Information Management (SIM).

It seems that ethics and morals are more important than technical skills:

  1. Ethics and morals
  2. Critical thinking and problem solving
  3. Collaboration
  4. Problem solving
  5. Communication: Oral
  6. Communication: Written
  7. User relationship management
  8. Creativity/Innovation
  9. Managing expectations
  10. Programming/Application development
  11. Decision making
  12. Functional area knowledge
  13. Project leadership
  14. Database
  15. System analysis

Honestly, I've always felt at a disadvantage because I'm not a techno geek; I don't dream in binary, and I must thoroughly research topics before making recommendations. However, the results of this survey have boasted my morale; I fit right in, and I didn't even know it!

I'm not suggesting that anyone stop learning, but the list is good news. Our characters and our ability to think logically and soundly and communicate clearly are more important than the sum of our technical credentials.

Where do you fit in? Share your thoughts in this discussion.

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About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

27 comments
wchaster
wchaster

Well almost my list. This is fascinating as I have felt the soft skills are more beneficial.

clarv02
clarv02

I agree that these soft skills are critical to being successful in IT. I believe that great technical skills are the foundation and are enough to keep a person employed. But to be highly successful, skills such as problem solving, collaboration, creative thinking, follow through, communications, etc need to be layered on top of this foundation.

villagemanduo
villagemanduo

i think the skills enumerated are precisely to the point since the root of the IT industry is really a people oriented one. I fit into the skills and hope that more professionals will try and follow it also. My best regards to the author KEEP IT UP!

akramhammad
akramhammad

I agree with almost all of them , but I can add one more : telling them they're wrong in a nice way.

lawbantell
lawbantell

These are good qualities to, i have obsered though that a Manager's rating is relative; most times rating may be connected to how well your relationship is with the manager.

Robert.Teilmann
Robert.Teilmann

As important as these things are I feel this might be why there are so many people employed in this industry that are not capable of doing the job they were hired for because Managers are looking for too much in the way of soft skills and not a balance between soft and technical. We also have too many book smart techs and not enough with solid practical skills.

jperick.mbei
jperick.mbei

First of all, Happy New to all! OK, I use to describe myself as the Jack of all trades. Like the author of this piece, I do not consider myself a techno geek. In fact, I am more of the strategic type of person. However, I can say without fear of being mistaken that I do have strong ethics and consider ethics/integrity paramount. That being said, I am not surprised by this emphasis on ethics although like most of you, the survey results are puzzling,i.e., unexpected. Let me dare put this interesting survey into perspective. Integrity/ethics has probably become a hotter commodity today than it was a decade ago. This new emphasis on ethics is probably the result of escalating corporate scandals. While you can train people to become technically savvy, you may not train people to become honest. Integrity is who we are, what we do when none but God sees us. It is something that is taught us as toddlers, adolescents, and that which we internalize as we grow into adulthood. If a person has not internalized ethics before entering adulthood, it is almost impossible for such individuals to behave ethically. They may fake ethical behavior/integrity, but their real "Ich" will always be the overriding attribute of their character. So, if you were a CIO, or manager looking to hire someone, whom would you select? A candidate with strong ethics--who can be trained and can grow into at least an average techno geek, or a super techno geek whom you cannot train to become honest and grow into a professional/individual with strong ethics? As you can see, having highly technical--but unethical people assume certain roles is a high risk. Such individuals are like cobras in a house. Sooner or later, they will release their deadly venom and harm the organization. Jean-Pierre

peter
peter

While these may be the core people skills that the IT managers are looking for and value more than specific technical expertise, it can still be difficult to get past the recruitment agency without ticking the relevant boxes for technical and domain experience.

brandtjohnd
brandtjohnd

I stepped out of college with not one computer skills class! I have always been good with tech but not formally trained. I landed a job as an IT consultant for Lawyers based on my ability to think, solve problems and talk to people like they are my grandmother. So I can attest to the fact that even the most technologically gifted geek wont get far without the people skills.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... that personalities far outweigh technical skills. If you have drive and intelligence, you can learn the latter.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Good technical skills may keep you employed in a cubicle farm with minimal pay increases, but if you want to be a consultant the people skills and the ability to pick up new things quickly will be far more important.

David_Sorenson
David_Sorenson

Fortunnately, where I am currently employed (as a Sr. Consultant), there is a liaison position that is a technical person. He is a company employee and gets to "gently" break the news if a business client is not correct.

eduardoamfm
eduardoamfm

I?d rather have a trusted technician team than nightmares. This team is a supervisor of my contracted super geek third party. If this team is a super geek, better, but there is no need.

ssharkins
ssharkins

I totally agree with you, but it's encouraging to know that employers consider your moral fiber more important than your technical credentials. I think what I got from this list is that employers are likely to wave technical expertise at the onset and provide training for what they really need, to get the right person for their organization.

mike.mcburney
mike.mcburney

I can agree with your response Peter that the first stage of recruiting involves "ticking the relevant boxes", but this is to ensure that you have the base level of skills for the role. Where the main skills from Susan's post comes into play is in the interview process. It is through this stage by using situation and task/role play based questioning that the higher rated qualities are determined. In short, having the technical skills and qualifications are required to get the interview, the other skills will be what gets you the job. In order to be successful, you must balance both sides of the equation.

David_Sorenson
David_Sorenson

Prior to returning to the private sector two years ago, I spent a decade teaching IT courses (networking, programming, multimedia and web). We always emphasized that it would be the ability to communicate to non-technical personnel using your soft skills that would not only land you your first IT job, but it would continue to be as important as any technical knowledge or skill set(s).

melissab
melissab

Is invaluable to anyone in the public venue of IT. You can have all the technical knowledge your head can contain but unless you can teach someone else what you know and be confident that they "got it", you're not going to be very successful consulting or problem-solving with a team.

melissab
melissab

Is invaluable to anyone in the public venue of IT. You can have all the technical knowledge your head can contain but unless you can teach someone else what you know and be confident that they "got it", you're not going to be very successful consulting or problem-solving with a team.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I taught myself every programming language I know. I believe that the ability to learn independently has been one of my best assets. That, and being able to navigate the interpersonal issues.

jszivos
jszivos

People Skills + Communication - Nobody wants to work with individuals with poor communication skills. You have understand the art of conversation. Organization - This is extremely important as projects are typically accomplished as a group, especially for larger clients. It's necessary to be organized as project documents are cited continuously, even after projects are completed. The information and data must be organized in such a way that anybody can step-in at any point, or utilize the documents. Aptitude - Not everything can be cross-trained. For IT positions you must be able to learn on your own. Computers, networking, information technology... such broad fields... you can't know everything, and you aren't expected to know everything. You are expected to learn what you need to know quickly. Flexibility - You can't do everything "your way". You have to understand that IT must work with other departments to find a good solution. Enforcing policies and new processes without consultation of the users/management can be disastrous. Technical Skills - They are important. I work with clients on a daily basis, and the most frustrating people are the people in IT who know NOTHING or LITTLE about IT. This is your career. Be good at what you do. Research before you start testing/implementing solutions.

Cerebral*Origami
Cerebral*Origami

I can communicate well but I prefer to be left alone so I can work. While my job requires a great deal of paper work I detest it. (The paper work not my job!) As for ethics and principles that should be a given. I can put up with a certain level of ineptitude or even a lack of social skills but I wouldn't hire a floor sweeper I couldn't trust. Just get out of my way let me do my job dammit! > 8^)

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

In most cases, the tech skill is the least important of the skills (so far we all seem to agree on that). And if the skill is that unimportant using it to weed out the people you are going to select from means that you've turned the Kepner-Tregoe decision matrix on it's a**. (Rational decision making says select based on musts first, then rate remaining). In short, you are probably eliminating the most suitable candidates based on the least important (and easiest obtained) skill. Not a symptom of good decision making! Glen Ford, PMP http://www.TrainingNOW.ca

mike.mcburney
mike.mcburney

Melissa is right with her statement as you need to enure that you are able to develop without removing respect. Not having that ability can create dissention, difficulties with team development as well as challenges creating reliable disaster relief planning.

melissab
melissab

Whoops! Happy clicking finger!

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]...the most frustrating people are the people in IT who know NOTHING or LITTLE about IT.[/i] Is the problem that they know little or nothing about IT, or is it that they know little or nothing about your area of expertise? In my current job, I work extensively with proprietary serial networks; if you don't know anything about these types of networks, does that then mean you know little or nothing of IT?

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The soft skills you mention are absolutely essential for success in any job, particularly in the direct support and consulting arenas of IT.

zoejacob
zoejacob

I think that Communication Skills, Flexibility and Aptitude for learning would be far greater assets than pure technical skill on their own. With only technical skill, other positions would be more suited like Programmer. Definitely wouldn't work for an IT Consultant. I don't want to perpetuate the stereotypes, but they exist for a reason. Regardless, I don't think you can apply any rules to what an IT consultant should be or should have studied, experienced etc. I think it does come down to a person by person basis.

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