Technical Skills Come First
In any skilled field, whether it be information systems and technology, medicine, law, airplane maintenance, or any other skilled field, technical, professional, or otherwise, you simply must have technical skills in order to do the job. We certainly wouldn’t want a surgeon with limited ability performing surgeries nor would we want a technically incompetent mechanic repairing our aircraft engines. Similarly, it’s absurd to suggest that a company should hire IT staff first because of their customer service skills with the idea that they can learn the technical skills on the job. Designing, maintaining, and supporting today’s complex networks, servers, applications, and desktop systems properly requires well-trained and experienced individuals. Technical skills come first.
Customer Service Skills Are Critically Important
That does not, however, mean that customer service or collaborative skills are unnecessary. To the contrary, our people skills are what allow us to succeed in our careers. So, even though technical skills come first, technical skills are only the first part of the equation for career success in IT. In many of today’s best-known and most successful organizations, it’s your technical skills which will get you the first interview. It’s your collaborative skills, your people skills, which will get you the job.
I think part of the reason some companies emphasize people skills in the hiring process is because of past bad experiences with technical staff members who lacked people skills. It’s understandable, yet still a mistake. A better tactic is to interview the most technically competent people available and, during subsequent interviews before hiring, work to discover the candidate’s collaborative abilities or their willingness to learn such skills.
In discussing the relative importance of technical and people skills, it’s nonsense to suggest that one is more important than the other. It is accurate to say that you must have outstanding technical skills to do the necessary tasks of your job and superb people skills to work successfully on a long-term basis within an organization to help ensure its success.
An opera is comprised of both words and music. It doesn’t work if either is missing. Similarly, IT people must have both technical and people skills in order to do their jobs successfully. Yes, technical skills come first. And people skills allow us to convince others of our ideas, to collaborate successfully, and to build successful long-term career relationships.
- The Importance of the Business Mindset in IT Careers
- Techniques for Successfully Hiring and Managing Technical Staff
- What to do if Your Company Won’t Provide Training
- How to Start and Build Your IT Career
For More Ideas on How to Improve Communication and Customer Service Skills
As a motivational speaker for your IT conference, I work with your audience to help them master IT customer service skills. Or, bring my IT customer service training seminar onsite to your location for your group, small or large. Click here for the course description and outline.
Pick up a copy of my IT customer service book The Compassionate Geek: How Engineers, IT Pros, and Other Tech Specialists Can Master Human Relations Skills to Deliver Outstanding Customer Service, available through Amazon and other resellers.
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