Communication Skills and the IT Pro

Communication Skills and the IT Pro

We’re all aware of the stereotypical “curmudgeon” IT staff. Quarantined to the basement, these particular employees were feared by other employees, babied by management (lest they leave with crucial programming knowledge!) and never allowed to interact with customers. Whether you believe this to be true today, the idea of letting IT staff toil away out of view from internal and external customers is losing popularity – and fast. A 2008 Tech Collective study in partnership with the Governor’s Workforce Board of Rhode Island, “Report of the Rhode Island Information Technology Skills Gap Task Force” found that: “IT professionals are no longer hidden in a back room clicking away as they stare at their monitors. Today, communication skills, professionalism, teamwork, project management, and personality are what Rhode Island’s IT employers are looking for. And: “Employers are more apt to hire an educated worker who has the soft skills, but has not worked in the IT industry sector than vice versa.” While soft skills have always been a requirement for IT management and business analysts, employers are putting increasing pressure on all levels of IT staff to be able to communicate effectively. Helpdesk staff, programmers, administrators, technicians and developers hold a wealth of technical knowledge – knowledge that can be leveraged with internal employees, and depending on the nature of business, external customers or clients. Tracy Tillapaugh, a technical recruiter for Professionals Incorporated, agrees. When recruiting IT staff for local companies, “I used to see companies just require the technical skills and never really focus on the soft skills, but now IT people need to be able to successfully work with end users of varying technical capabilities. You have to be able to speak in a way that can explain things so that non-technical people can understand.” So what kind of communications skills should an IT worker have? The Tech Republic blog post, “The 7 most important communication skills an IT leader should have” lists audience profile, listening, empathy, diplomacy, avoiding emotional hooks, educating without arrogance and rapport building as key skills. Tracy adds, “They must have the ability to work with teams. A lot of IT groups work independently but then also work as part of a team to get things done. They also need customer service skills: internal and external. From application to desktop support, you have to be patient to work with the end users.” More so, perhaps, than Roy and Maurice from our favorite British comedy, “The IT Crowd.”



We have come to NY Tech Summit for four years now and my team and I get a good variety of technical, business, and strategic sessions to complement our work objectives. I like that there is a balance of end users, consultants, and vendors to present and facilitate the sessions. The interaction is candid and engaging, but not a sales pitch. Being a regional conference helps, it is the right amount of time and location for a couple days to reenergize my team and refocus on our objectives. There seems to be quite a bit of peer discussion with a smaller conference, which I like.

- Randy
Director of IT