General management, Working practices

Good technical people need good non-technical skills

Very technical roles require very technical skills. Information security experts, software developers, architects and others all need specialist skills as a baseline.

But in general those people (like so many others) don’t work alone, and it’s important that their work meshes with others. If we treat our staff like cogs in a machine then that meshing will work fine. But most organisations will not want to treat their people like that, and even if they did most wouldn’t stand for it. So successful “meshing”, or teamwork, will rely on other, non-technical, skills, too.

A knowledgable information security expert has important insight to pass on to implementation teams and executives, but to be successful those insights need to be acted upon. It’s no good the security expert just saying “these are the dangers, this is what you must do”; suggestions and wishes have to compete with other demands on people’s time. An architect might create a wonderful design, but if it isn’t implemented then it’s a waste of effort. A software developer might write beautiful code, but if it doesn’t integrate with other people’s work then it’s not very useful.

All these jobs are technical, but they are not just technical. Skills in influencing, collaboration, listening and teamwork are all essential.

This all comes back to understanding what success looks like in our jobs. And for almost everyone it’s about making a positive difference in the real world. That’s why those non-technical skills are so vital.

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Discussion

3 thoughts on “Good technical people need good non-technical skills

  1. Interesting thought provocation. I’d agree but it shouldn’t preclude excellent purely technical people from working in a highly performant team. If team members are capable and willing to work with colleagues who might struggle in some of the more social team skills then the benefits of their superior technical knowledge can be leveraged. They do have to be in the minority though and it does mean that other team members have to be excellent not just good at influencing, collaboration, listening and teamwork

    Posted by Simon Houghton | 13 September 2017, 9:20 am
  2. Simon, I fully agree. To a large extent, if the team can work effectively together and produce great overall results then it’s less of a concern how those results are achieved. In any effective (realistic) team people’s strengths and weaknesses will be balancing each other out to a greater or lesser degree.

    Posted by Nik | 13 September 2017, 9:37 am
  3. Well said, Nik.

    “…Individuals and interactions over processes and tools…”

    .

    Posted by brian | 2 October 2017, 2:56 pm