Thriving in a technical job like coding or cyber security is about more than just knowing your particular skill inside and out.
Developing emotional skills that help you interact with your colleagues is also a vital necessity. These are known as soft skills and all employers are looking for staff who have them; which is why we offer soft skills training as part of our curriculum.
What Are Soft Skills?
The term “soft skills” (or “life skills” as they’re sometimes called) typically refers to the skills needed by professionals outside their specialist area. Commonly, this includes communication skills, empathy, interpersonal skills and teamwork.
Due to their universality, you may also hear soft skills called transferable skills, although this can also mean skills that are applicable in multiple industries (e.g. statistical modelling). These would not be considered as soft skills in the way we’re defining them here.
At Code Nation, we believe that soft skills are crucial to any student’s chances of succeeding in the future; in fact, we’ve been told this by our Pledger businesses. They’re on the lookout for work-ready talent, which means talent with soft skills.
Possessing these skills helps facilitate proper use of technical talents, and creates a healthier, happier working environment for everyone. Some of the most important soft skills are:
Being able to communicate appropriately with colleagues may seem like something that comes as second nature, but even the most chatty of people should take the time to learn how best to speak with others.
In this way, communication skills have two strands: relaying information and means of delivery.
Relaying information is very important. Having an idea of how something might work in your own head is one thing, but being able to get everyone else on the same page is a totally different story.
Learning a means of effectively describing your own ideas will take time and practice, but the results will be worth. Remembering simple models like the PEE framework (point – evidence – explanation) will help you cover all the vital information in any discussion with co-workers.
The way you deliver information to others is also crucial. Telling someone you aren’t happy with their work is unavoidable, so being able to do it constructively will influence not only your relationship with the other party but also how their work improves moving forward.
This skill can be enhanced by remembering the customer service model wherein you begin with the positive, then move onto the negative, then finish on a positive. An example in email form is included below:
Thanks so much for getting this over to me so quickly!
Having looked through the work, I’m concerned that we aren’t focusing enough on the client’s notes on a prominent CTA from their initial brief. With this in mind, I’d love to sit down and hear your thoughts on the page in more detail, particularly on the graphics used to highlight the product features as I thought this was really interesting.
Let me know when you’re free to go over this.
Learning how to manage your own time is an essential skill, as if you want to progress into a management role, you cannot be reliant on somebody else to tell you what work you should be doing and when.
This skill is also important as you’ll need a rough understanding of how long processes take when pitching a project, as otherwise, you won’t be able to anticipate workloads and costs.
In a similar vein, time management also impinges on self-motivation, which is a crucial skill to have. As much as you may love what we do, there are some days when it’s difficult to get the motor running.
Being able to work even when lacking inspiration is an important facet of time management. Anyone can work when everything clicks into gear, but it takes a particular type of person to grind through the wall and free up more time for other projects by resisting the urge to procrastinate.
Being able to delegate and plan is a very important skill should you ever wish to lead a team or even a business.
You won’t be expected to do this to the highest of standards (as there’s a reason people are employed as specialist Project Managers), but a basic understanding of how to map out a project will allow you to see beyond the face of a task or problem.
Understanding the next step in any process will always give you an advantage over other workers, as you’ll be able to anticipate issues with the work you’re doing.
Furthermore, bridging the gap between yourself and the projects team will save countless hours of back and forth, enabling you to get on with the work at hand and do the best job possible.
Teamwork is another skill that’s hard to condense down to any particular technical ability, but there’s no doubt that without it, you won’t get very far in the tech industry.
Commonly misconceived through trust exercises and team building activities, the true mark of teamwork is empathy for your co-workers and the ability to look beyond the immediate situation.
The fundamentals of teamwork are well-known (i.e. pulling together to complete different parts of the same overall piece of work), but the nuance that comes with reaching this goal shouldn’t be underestimated. After all, finishing a single project is one thing, but fostering a sense of kinship that lasts more than a few weeks is equally important.
Achieving this can be done by making admissions or allowances for others with a sense of humility, or it can even come with accepting failure for a specific part of the project. Cynics may say that you cannot be ambitious and a team player at the same time, but success isn’t earned overnight, and having more people to call on in the future is far more preferable than becoming an isolated careerist.
Arguably, all of coding can be defined as problem-solving, with every brief posing a problem that must be solved by the coders who take it on.
For this reason, it can be difficult to define how you should go about cultivating such a skill, but the best way to get into the problem-solving mindset is to encourage a reflexive mentality.
Reflexivity is the practice of self-evaluation and is a useful tool for examining your own work once it’s completed. Getting into the habit of doing this will help you consider this practice when making decisions. This means that you’re less likely to hit a brick wall when trying to solve a problem as you won’t be limited by your own experience.
Problem-solving in this manner can be tiring at first, as reflexivity done poorly can result in questioning every component part of a process. Time is needed to get better at deciding what should be evaluated and what shouldn’t, so anyone getting into work for the first time just needs to bear this in mind when trying to solve problems.
Being a team player is an important skill, however, at some point, someone needs to take responsibility for projects and decisions, and there’s no better person than you. Collaboration can only get you so far, and history is littered with products and services ruined by the hands of decisions made by committees.
Aspiring to the conventional sense of leadership isn’t for everyone, and many people may naturally shy away from being thrust into the limelight. Despite this, you can still play a valuable role as a leader in many other ways. For example, setting a studious example for younger workers is a great way to lead without necessarily being in a senior management position.
To develop this skill, as with others previously mentioned, you’ll need to learn what type of worker you are and how you interact with others. Once you have a better idea, you can start to play a more significant role in driving the direction of your team or business and generally showing others the standards that are expected.
Thriving in the worlds of coding and tech isn’t merely about having a keen understanding of languages and techniques.
Developing soft skills is vital for anyone looking to stand out from the crowd, and that’s why we here at Code Nation, give our students the training they need to start growing these skills.
Want to hear more about how our courses could give you an edge over the next wave of university graduates? Get in touch with us today.