26 Dec 2016

Top 3 Communication Skills Every IT Person Needs

Communication

Eric Wright made a blog post titled “The Top 3 Skills Every IT Person Needs“. It’s an excellent article, focusing on technical skills. Skills you should be learning about to stay relevant. Eric made a number of points that I’ve taken on board.

Eric’s post is the source of inspiration for this one. In the same spirit, I would like to address communication skills, rather than technical.

Written

Writing is complex, with rules which sometimes are hard to grasp. The way we write needs to change based on the context. You should use different language when writing an email, compared to a design document. We communicate to many people that we have not met, using a written medium. This means that our ability to write affects our we are perceived.

Like many skills, the more you write, the better you can become. To a point. Mastery requires active learning. Two popular tools which can help are; Grammarly and Hemingway App. As the name suggests, Grammarly focuses on grammar. Whereas, Hemingway App focuses on sentence structure.

Even with tools, it is important to review your own writing. What makes this difficult, is that many times you will read what you intended to write. Not what you actually wrote.

As you improve your writing skills, you’ll notice changes in your writing process. Including, considerations around the type of language to use. Speed and consistency will be improved as well.

Presentation

Talking in front of a crowd is intimidating. Even seasoned speakers get nervous. It can become enjoyable with time.

Taking the time to get familiar with the presentation has a big impact. As you want to limit the “umms” and “ahhs”. This also allows you to build a flow and feel more relaxed. Appearing relaxed and confident improves the way your presentation is received.

In a similar fashion to writing, you need to understand different presentations. Deep technical and executive summaries are different from each other. Understanding the audience and targeting your message. Also, the delivery of that method.

There are places which will provide formal training. Or perhaps ToastMasters is more suitable.

If you want to learn from experience. Presenting to peers at work is a good way to start. You’re talking to people you know and in a known environment. User group are another avenue, small community focused crowd.

Sales

Before you close the browser tab in disgust of this word. Hear me out. Sales skills aren’t just selling a product or service. For many engineers, it’s more likely to be selling an idea.

You have found a technology that excites you, or perhaps a method that makes things easier. In fact, it’s so good, that you want others to know about it. To do this, you need to sell the idea.

Hopefully, you have now tuned back in.

Speaking as an engineer, we have many great and new ideas. We often find opposition to these ideas. A common one is “We have always done it this way. I don’t see a reason to change”. Being able to work past an objection is a sales skill. If you’ve done scripting, think of exception handling.

We may need to build excitement or appeal to emotion over logic. Sometimes you need to tell a story to achieve the desired outcome. These are all things, that can be learnt through sales.

Linking Back to Technical

You have read Erics’ post and agree that you need to become a developer. Like learning anything new, this is going to take time. You decide that you are willing to commit some personal time. You also feel there is a benefit sitting with in-house developers. This takes up some of your time and the developers.

You may need approval. Here is where communication skills come in. Starting with an email, you explain in a clear and concise manner what you’re trying to do and achieve.

It is likely emails will go back and forth. Using sales skills, you’re able to handle objections. In fact, you have done this so well that your managers want to know more.

It’s now time to present your idea to management. Even though it’s low-key, you still need to make an impact.

Closing

Communication is an often overlooked skill. Effective communication has a big impact on many aspects of your career. Take a bit of time to understand how to improve across various mediums.

Thank You For Reading