The Importance of Effective Communication Skills in Technical Roles
3 June, 2022
A Lack of Balance in Technical and Soft Skills
There's a common perception that software engineers and developers–people from strong technical backgrounds– aren't very effective communicators. Or at least, they're not great at facilitating communication. This issue is something that even experienced managers can struggle with. Their technical skills heavily outweigh their people skills. These two sides must be balanced.
A common pitfall that I've seen is how some talented developers feel overly confident due to their advanced technical knowledge. They view working on their behavioral or communication skills as a discretionary pursuit, but it shouldn't be so.
Software development relies on teamwork in many cases. Even as an individual contributor, it's important to bring something other than coding, designing, or testing to the table. ICs and managers alike need to navigate the channels of communication and effectively elaborate their ideas to the team. They need to be able to facilitate knowledge sharing.
Why Effective Communication Matters and How to Improve
I worked at a call center during my college years. In hindsight, this experience was a great asset to me since I learned to listen more effectively and infer peoples' feelings. I reap the benefits even today as I communicate with customers, project managers, or the senior leadership team.
The first step in building these skills is acknowledging that it's an area for improvement– just as important as the next technical item on your list. You need to be able to effectively communicate your ideas to stakeholders before moving on to execution.
Allocate time in your calendar for strengthening your behavioral skills, just like you do with software development. Identify which attributes need improvement (communication, leadership, even just listening) and see what resources are available. There is an endless list of books or courses for these things.
Know that it's an ongoing learning journey. Strengthening your soft skills should always be on your agenda. Personally, I like to read.
If you're in a leadership role, support your team members. Encourage them to facilitate discussion when there are stakeholders in the room. Enable them to lead the conversation. However, this is a two-way street. They need to show some willingness to take charge. Your role is to encourage, but at the end of the day, it's up to each individual to step up.
Accept, Plan and Change
- For people who want to pursue leadership roles, the ability to manage emotions is just as important as managing the technical aspects of your job.
- Even though you work in a highly technical environment, you still need to communicate your knowledge, sell your ideas, and convince your stakeholders.
- Accept your areas for improvement regarding soft skills and plan how you'll improve. Use every resource you can.
- Observing your teammates, managers, and even tech leaders is a great way to adopt positive habits. When watching videos on technical topics, look at how lecturers structure their ideas; observe their communication techniques.
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