By Prodigy Labs on Nov 13, 2019 8:30:00 AM
Tech Professionals need to invest in communication skills to make an impact in the workplace and climb the career ladder
Perhaps there was a time when tech professionals could rest comfortably on their vast knowledge of technology to achieve career success. However, in the current, fast-paced business environment, where technology has become the touchstone of the global business landscape, tech professionals need to know as much about communication as they know about the latest cloud computing services and mobile developer tools.
The best tech experts know how to discuss complex tech-based subjects, such as specific requirements for job positions like a software developer, with both fellow tech professionals and non-techies and with equal measures of respect and comfort. Strong communications have become crucial for tech professionals at all levels, yet these vital skills are still not highly emphasized in tech educational or training programs. Basically, tech professionals need to communicate with everyone in the organization, from C-level executives to staff members who may only use technology on a minimal basis.
The modern tech communication problem
The modern tech communication problem comes down to the fact that many tech hiring managers may still view communications for tech professionals as strictly "soft" skills, according to Robert Chen at Training Magazine. While the tide is turning in the face of mass adoption of technology in every sector, there are still many technology professionals who think of strong communication capabilities as nice-to-have skills, rather than must-have skills. They may even look down on such skills as intellectually simple and not a key aspect of their profession.
The importance of interpersonal communication for tech industry professionals
Strong interpersonal communication skills are important for professionals in all sectors, industries and fields today, and that certainly includes tech professionals in software and mobile development. Technology has rapidly and vastly evolved over the past decade to become far more encompassing than it was in the 1990s and 2000s. Basically, just about everyone in an organization now has some involvement with technology, no matter how minimal, so it is vital that a tech professional can communicate concepts and clear instructions to people who are novices on the topic, as well as those who are more well-versed and experienced.
Further, tech professionals need to instill and inspire this same communication philosophy in their technology co-workers and employees, from their mobile developer staff to their help desk team, to ensure smooth inter-departmental communications and peak productivity for everyone in the organization. Employees are not as likely to absorb important technology information if a tech expert is merely rattling off a string of steps. Everyone wants to feel like their tech staff is engaged and cares about their level of understanding of the tasks at hand.
5 Tips to develop communication skills for tech professionals
Just because a tech professional might not have received ideal communication training in their formal education does not mean they cannot learn and develop vital communication skills now.
Here are five tips for developing core communication skills to nurture stronger relationships between tech professionals and the rest of the organization's staff.
1. Understanding your preferred communication style for more effective interpersonal communication
Nearly everyone has a preferred method of communication, whether face-to-face meetings, telephone calls, text messaging or emails. Land on the best method and work to adapt it into your regimen, as long as your team is comfortable with that method. Pay attention to staff members who do not adapt as well to your preferred communication method, so you don't miss opportunities for engagement and distribution of crucial information. Be willing to compromise and adapt to each team member's preferred communication style when you detect that they have their own struggles with a certain medium or form of communication.
2. Communicating technical information to non-technical staff members
Keep in mind that much of your colleagues may not be familiar with tech jargon. While it is fine to rattle off terms to a fellow software developer about specific programs and computer languages, daily users and any other stakeholders may feel alienated by such industry-specific terminology. Using more commonly used language to explain tech terms to non-tech staff is the way to go.
3. Active listening: using active listening to maximize retention of information
Sometimes basic technology questions may feel mundane to you, but they are often very important to the staff member asking. Stay attuned to every conversation, whether with a tech colleague or a C-level executive who asks what you may consider a basic question but is crucial to their vital tasks.
4. Asking effective questions to maximize information gathering efforts and influence others
You may sometimes need more information from your staff members to help them troubleshoot an issue. By asking effective probing questions, you can find out more details and resolve the issue more quickly while leaving employees with a sense of trust in your tech-based authority. This can be done in the form of clarification questions, like “when do you need this item by, and do you want to review my work before publishing it?” or “how do you know we can’t use this tool for this specific project?”
5. Learning proven techniques to influence others
Key techniques you may try to use to influence others include the following:
- Assess each situation to understand your audience and their level of understanding of technology
- Identify any gaps in communication you may face, such as challenges in making eye contact or using excessive jargon in emails, and working to improve on them.
- Consider each encounter with staff from all areas as an opportunity to practice and improve your communication skills.
By trying to adopt and incorporate these tips into your communication style, you can also find better ways to deliver negative news, build trust, and address and resolve conflict quickly and positively.
Advice and best practices
Best practices that stretch beyond the tech communication realm are helpful and include the following:
- Be relatable and available
- Employ repetition when talking to employees about complex topics to help subtly reinforce important information
- Relax and keep a good sense of humour to put colleagues at ease
- Listen actively to help each person know you are fully engaged in the conversation
- Respond to each query in a timely manner to make sure everyone feels acknowledged
- Find, develop and use your own unique voice to remain authentic and reliable
The way you communicate with your team members could be the difference between getting the promotion you’ve been asking for, or the job you’re applying for. Put these skills and best practices into action and start getting closer to achieving your next career milestone.