The isolated, introverted coder might be the most common tech stereotype in modern culture. It’s not helped by the fact that it’s often true, whether by design or by circumstance. Lots of us grew up teaching ourselves different tech skills at home on our own computers instead of in a classroom or computer lab.
We devoted countless lonely weekends, afternoons, and energy drinks to learning different coding languages, how different tools worked, and how to create our own.
But now that you’re in the workforce, you can’t rely on your tech skills alone. That would be too easy, wouldn’t it? Now your preferred coding languages come as easily to you as English, and most of the challenging parts of work will be the stuff you do in meetings, not what happens at your computer.
When you get to this point in your career, you’ve got to start working on those soft skills your guidance counselor warned you about years ago.
Yes, it might at first seem counterintuitive to take time away from that work to cultivate other skills. No, it might not be as enjoyable as your other work. No, it’s not what you probably thought of when you imagined a career in technology.
But whether your ultimate goal is working on an in-house team, at a development agency, freelancing, or starting your own company, a successful career will involve working with others. There’s no way around it. As you further your career, you might be surprised that your specialized skills begin to play less of a role and more management-related tasks start to take over your day-to-day.
To easily adjust as you progress and your role starts to change, start paying attention now. Working on the below skills will help you better apply your specialized knowledge throughout your career.
When you’re learning to code or at your first jobs, you don’t necessarily hone your strategic, big picture thinking skills. You’re completing tasks and assignments giving to you, and success is a matter of following instructions or building a desired result. Keep your bosses happy, don’t break anything, and you’re probably doing okay.
However, eventually you may become the person giving directions instead of taking them, deciding what to do rather than how to do it. This involves getting more strategic than tactical or technical. It’s a different kind of thinking that takes some getting used to.
To hone your big picture thinking while working on tech, try to remember to zoom out as often as you can. Consider the context in which your products are used, the situations and behaviors involved.
Try to learn about adjacent specialties within your work, too.
For example, product teams and marketing teams work so closely together to launch new products and features. Learning more about the disciplines your marketing team uses and the strategies they’re following will help you do your side of the job better when collaborating, another essential skill we’ll talk more about. Viewing their marketing tools like a HubSpot dashboard to visualize how leads become customers, or going through all marketing campaigns and funnels yourself can help put you in the mind of the people your technology is serving as they first experience it.
In addition to being able to survey and assess the big picture, you need to be able to balance preparing and reacting. Especially if you work with or at a startup, fast-paced environments are common in tech. Software distribution and patching evolving technology are always around to cause complications in set plans, too often happening at 4 pm on a Friday.
Anticipating and reacting to problems — whether or not they’ve caused complications yet — is key to self-sufficiency, leadership, and project management. Employing a strong IT strategy and using dedicated tools could prevent downtime resulting from security patches and similar issues.
For example, using Cloud Management Suite, you can receive alerts when important software and firmware patches are available, giving you the opportunity to schedule and efficiently distribute updates whenever and wherever convenient for you. If your career goals involve taking on more responsibility and management, being able to efficiently solve problems while multitasking becomes all the more important.
This also involves a fair amount of observation and prioritization. In order to proactively notice and solve problems, you need to be as aware of your work environment as possible. And since a great manager can usually spot a ton of potential improvement or problems at any given moment, prioritizing which are most important prevents overwork and overwhelm.
Finally, you need to get good at working with other people. And this doesn’t just mean being able to socialize with your coworkers. You need to work effectively together, and if management is in your dreams, lead effectively.
Communicating well online and off with colleagues will make every project easier, so working on your clarity won’t go unnoticed. In the same vein, able to explain and break down concepts and systems well will also make you a better teacher and mentor for those working below you or your own clients.
And if organization isn’t your forte, you’ll want to become friends with task management tools like Trello real fast. Otherwise you’ll be the one team member running behind and creating bottlenecks, and no one wants to be that person.
Get up to speed
When it comes to working in IT, your tech skills enough to get you the job, but once you have it, they’ve leveled the playing field. What will create momentum in your career is developing skills outside of them that make you a better person and leader to work with.