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The Key to Winning (and Keeping) Top IT Jobs
23 April 2014

Author and technical futurist Leo Wrobel has written a must read article, “Communication Tips for Technology Professionals.” It is well written, clearly communicated and leaves the jargon behind.

Wrobel makes the point that back in your student days, classes in mathematics, science and information technology were probably your focus, preparing you for your career in technology. You were hired and all the study paid off. Then you’re promoted to management and “it’s not all about the technology any more”.

In a management role, effective verbal and written communication is the most important skill to have. As Wrobel states “what does it matter what you know if you can’t illustrate it in writing or the spoken word to your superiors, subordinates, and peers in the workplace?”

In the current environment, technical skills of all disciplines are not hard to find and are even abundant in countries such as India who are now challenging Western countries with their know-how and skills. In order to win the top jobs, it is necessary to have additional skills on the resume and top of the list is exceptional communication skills.

If you have superior communication skills, it will set you apart.

Martin Hale, CEO of IT Masters and 25 year Industry veteran said “Throughout my career I have been amazed at the number of highly competent IT people who are let down by their communications skills. One of the key issues I see with these people is a lack of empathy for where the audience is coming from. In order to be an effective communicator you need to be able to put yourself in the position of the people who you are communicating with.“

Hale continues: “This often includes simplifying the message so that the audience can understand the technical solution that is being proposed and using analogies to explain complex technical concepts. I have seen numerous instances of the best technical solution not being adopted because it was not communicated effectively so you need to invest the time and effort into getting the message right.” 

Verbal communications, one-on-one meetings, group meetings, formal presentations, within the team or company-wide – no matter the environment you must be prepared, do your research, know your subject. This will ensure credibility. The chances are as an IT professional, you were not really called upon to do presentations, and they may be out of your comfort zone. If this is the case, get some coaching; it will be worth the investment. And when you have received coaching, continually reinforce what you have learnt and always practice, then practice some more. The more you know your presentation the better the delivery.

As Wrobel points out that email ensures that you communicate in writing every day,. Therefore in an email it is essential to be professional, follow etiquette and never send an email in anger. Email is traceable and it can be a permanent reminder. Wrobel says, “don’t underestimate even trivial things, like email”. In a corporate environment, email is not trivial; there are too many horror stories which bear testament to that. He is correct when he says,

Every time you send an email or a corporate memo, you’re sending out impressions of who you are, what you do, and how you do what you do. Moreover, you are sending each missive in a traceable written form. Be serious, even in emails.” 

It is also important to ensure your written words do not have spelling errors or sloppy grammar, they are not good for the image.

All too often, in this digital age, we choose to use email as an alternative to face-to-face communication, if the email is not a confirmation of a conversation, then consider actually conversing with a colleague, particularly if they are really close-by. Body language is an important factor in communication and a good clue to a person’s intent and attitude.

Wrobel also advises “if you are indeed serious about your professional imprint, leave the texting and social media home unless it is directly germane to the audience. I don’t mean never send a text message, but reserve such informal communication to close in day-to-day tasks, preferably with peers—not superiors or subordinates. Remember, anything that goes out to a broad audience is actually an advertisement for you. Written communication of any kind can be a first impression that can’t be taken back.”

Verbal and written communication skills are equally important in business, even those meet in the corridor quick chats and brief emails.  When you are at work, be at work, be professional. Each interaction will either enhance or tarnish the impression others will have of you. As Wrobel concludes, “Yes, it’s that important!”