9 unexpected skills you need for today's tech team

IT managers want employees who can work across teams, stay curious and be flexible enough to evolve with the business.

Job skills concept

Image: iStock/Radachynskyi

These days IT jobs are about more than email, cloud deployments and security policies. As digital transformation changes how all businesses operate, technical professionals have to expand their own skill sets to keep up and stay relevant.

Gil Pekelman, CEO at Atera, a remote-first IT management company, said the new office, whether it's remote or in-person, requires a new set of necessary skills. 

"What makes potential candidates stand out now are characteristics that determine what success looks like in this new work environment," Pekelman said. "These skills include flexibility, communication, independence and adaptability—because these traits will continue to be essential in the post-pandemic work world. 

Developing these skills—and highlighting them during job interviews—will make sure your skills keep up with the demands of the hybrid office environment.

1. Build relationships

Businesses are breaking down silos to make operations more nimble and efficient. This requires more collaboration and the ability to build working relationships with colleagues. The new twist on this professional skill is that it has to work in a remote setting.

Sara Cooper, chief people officer at Jobber, said potential hires that can express themselves and make themselves understood in a remote setting are really valuable in helping bridge that communication gap. 

"People who are able to navigate that early part of building relationships outside of offices will have easier times adapting to any setting—those are things we target, especially on a leadership team," she said.

2. Work across teams

Pekelman said professionals who can work with colleagues across the company will have an edge in the recruitment process. 

"The global business community as a whole is going through a digital transformation, and team members who can assist in tackling developing, implementing and training others on these new technologies are really able to shine," Pekelman said. 

3.   Collaborate remotely

Cooper at Jobber also said there is a different expectation for soft skills now that remote work has become the norm, particularly when it comes to collaboration.

"Now, we need to ensure potential hires can brainstorm with team members they may have never met in person," she said. "All of the things we look for with in-person collaboration now has to be present in a disconnected way."

Candidates for project management positions at Jobber complete a functional interview that involves assembling an interactive case study presentation. Cooper said this process tests a candidate's ability to build relationships and collaborate virtually.

"During this 45-minute process from start to finish, candidates who are able to pull together a solid presentation, interact with the team virtually and build up relationships during that short span of time always stand out to us," she said.

4. Be agile

Pekelman said that being adaptable is also crucial.

"More than ever, teams need to be agile and flexible—as we've learned, things can truly change in a very short period of time," he said.

Nathalie Carruthers, executive vice president and chief HR officer at Blue Yonder, agreed that change, innovation and transformation are the only constants in the tech world.  

"We look for candidates who can adapt to this constant change and who have a passion for learning," she said. 

5. Work independently

In addition to working well with others, IT professionals have to be able to set priorities for their daily and weekly to-do lists without extensive guidance from the boss. Jon Knisley, principal of automation and process excellence at FortressIQ, said employees also should be able to think critically and act. 

"With more agile and collaborative work styles, employees need to execute with less guidance from management," he said. "The ability to conduct objective analysis and evaluate an issue in order to form a judgement is paramount in today's environment."

 6. Develop transferable skills 

Carruthers said technical skills and prior experience are good, but transferable skills are ideal. 

"Transferable skills showcase problem-solving ability, versatility and adaptability—common traits in successful leaders and essential elements for career development," she said.

She looks for candidates who can grow with the company and adapt and flex as needed and when needed.

7. Understand the business side 

Jon Knisley, principal of automation and process excellence at FortressIQ, said IT employees in modern organizations need to have more business understanding than previous generations to be successful.

"Ignorance about the business or what experience customers expect is not acceptable," he said.

8. Build data literacy

The 2021 Trends Report from Udemy for Business found that data literacy is now a key skill for all IT team members, not just the data scientists. The training platform reports a 1,411% increase in people taking business intelligence courses in 2020. 

Pekelman said that being analytical provides an edge, given the need to find logical solutions on a daily basis, whether it's a technological issue or a management one. 

According to the report, product managers and customer experience managers are using basic programming and familiar tools to identify data insights. This includes Salesforce, SAP, Excel, SQL and Microsoft Power BI. IT professionals should improve their skills by mastering dashboards and data visualization.

9. Be curious

IT pros have to have technical skills but attitude is important, too. Shevek, CTO of CompilerWorks, a software company that automates how data landscapes are viewed, migrated and managed, said he looks for three core qualities in new employees: curiosity, humility and openness.  

He values humility because there are always many ways to approach a problem in development, and a candidate's belief in their own expertise will inevitably cloud their judgement.

He sees openness and humility as two important traits because developers with these qualities always question their solution to a problem and are open to alternative ideas from colleagues. 

"Communication skills are an important component of openness, since finding the best solution requires a team to brainstorm and quickly converge on a solution optimized for the specific circumstances," he said.

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By Veronica Combs

Veronica Combs is a senior writer at TechRepublic. For more than 10 years, she has covered technology, healthcare, and business strategy. In addition to her writing and editing expertise, she has managed small and large teams at startups and establis...