Nerd Guru

Because technical people need good soft skills to get ahead.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Why Soft Skills?

A lot of the articles that appear on this site may not seem like they have anything to do with a successful career in engineering. Power Point tips? Respecting the points of view of others? Time estimation accuracy? These things clearly have little to do with designing a superior timing circuit or binary search algorithm so they must not have anything to do with advancement or rewards in a technical career, right? Wrong.

Appearances can be deceiving. The fact is, just about everybody who takes on a technical career is smart and has a grasp of technical concepts. Otherwise, we’d be doing something else for a living. Most of us have good technical skills, but not all of us get ahead. Why is that?

It’s because the other stuff that a lot of us struggle with matters most when it comes time for those in charge to pass out rewards. If you’ve been around long enough, you may have noticed that really good engineers all have a similar set of skills and good technical knowledge is only part of that. Oddly, it may be the least important.

Universities and trade schools do a great job at giving us the tools to solve the technical problems we face, but that ends up being only part of the puzzle. Early in every engineer’s career he or she discovers that, at best, only half of a typical work day is spent finding solutions to problems. The rest of the day is spent dealing with other things, most of which seem like they should not matter. Unfortunately, the reality is these things absolutely do matter: Meetings. Bosses. Schedules. People with MBAs. Voicemail. Documentation. Email. Celebration lunches for someone’s gallstone removal.

There are a lot of activities in the workplace that seemingly have nothing to do with engineering products and a lot to do with interacting with people who know little about the technology that makes the products work. Here is the bad news: these things matter just as much, if not more, than your engineering skills do when it comes to getting ahead in your career. But the good news is, this site can help you deal with these things in a way that appeals to the nerd in all of us.

It is the mentor or coach you never had for non-technical skills.

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posted by Pete Johnson @ 1:06 PM   0 comments links to this post

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