Soft Skills

Soft Skills

Why Soft Skills and Hardware Go So Well Together

For many tech-inclined people Silicon Valley, a place in Northern California, sounds like a sort of mecca for coders, engineers and other “geeky” types who love to solve problems and think deeply and obsessively about tough, puzzling challenges.

It’s a place where people who think in a certain way can find their groove and live out their true nature in a rewarding environment, but it’s more than just a collection of like-minded people.

Some have suggested that Silicon Valley actually has a far above average rate of people who are “on the spectrum”. In other words, they fall somewhere on the autism spectrum. A mild condition that falls on the autism spectrum is something known as Asperger Syndrome.

Wired magazine even once called it the “Geek Syndrome” since so many science, tech and mathematics types seem to have the condition. One of the key characteristics of Asperger Syndrome is a lack of social skills. This also fits into that geeky stereotype. They can program a robot or learn a new language in no time flat, but just hanging out with people can be a puzzling experience.

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Whether it’s due to an autism spectrum disorder or just a common effect of their environments, technology people tend to score high in what we call “hard” skills. These are measurable technical skills that are instantly recognisable. If you can code in Java or know how to build a circuit board, those are hard skills.

“Soft” skills, on the other hand, are not so easily defined or measured. They include things such as the ability to tell how someone else is feeling or knowing how to defuse a tense situation.

If you suffer from social awkwardness or are on the spectrum, making sense of these social situations can feel like everyone in the room speaks a foreign language except for you.

The same faculties that make people great at solving complex technical issues, could also explain why so many of them can’t navigate a simple conversation.

A Changing World

The thing is, the world is changing and in a modern technology industry you have to rely on more than just hard skills to get the job done. This is especially true now, since so many non-geeks are getting in on that sweet technology action. You are now as likely to find arty types or marketing people wandering around the halls of a Silicon Valley start-up, as you are to meet a tech wizard, beard and all.

The teams of people who are now making the stuff that the world wants to buy and interact with are diverse. Both in terms of skills and thinking patterns. It cannot be business as usual for the many technically-gifted people who have yet to figure out their fellow man.

If these teams of people want to work together effectively, they’ll need those soft skills to make things run smoothly. If the developers in a software company want to hold their own and also adopt leadership roles, that can only be done through the effective application of soft skills.

A Skill Like Any Other

The good news is that, although some people seem to be born with them, for the most part soft skills can be learned and honed by anyone. For people who are born with Asperger Syndrome, for example, they’ve usually begun to get the hang of the basics in their early adult years.

With focused training and practice, it’s possible to become aware of an entirely new social world and a powerful set of tools to take advantage of those social factors.

Someone who can combine sharp social skills with strong technical abilities is certainly an effective and formidable person. It doesn’t take an accident of birth or divine intervention, just a clear mind and sound strategy to solve the problem. When soft-skills and hardware come together, the results are nigh-unstoppable.

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4 replies
  1. Robert Blake
    Robert Blake says:

    Dead bang on target insights Libby.

    I feel exactly the same regarding people who wants/needs to become successful entrepreneurs in areas outside of the tech universe. Especially so as the internet makes doing business globally with people who do not look like us or share our western religious values, we need to take firm grasp of interpersonal soft skills to make better connections and engagements and far less irreparable cultural disconnects.

    Reply
  2. micheal weuste
    micheal weuste says:

    Nice summary of soft skills. Given I am living in Southern California I feel your analysis is dead on. I have been pro=acticing psychotherapy now for over 35 years and I look forward to expanding my repertoire to include such visual arts. My dream involves small groups that create their personal art and journal into self-awareness. I look forward to keeping you posted

    Reply
    • libby
      libby says:

      Hi Michael

      I have a couple of courses that concentrate on using art for this exact purpose. If you would like some more information on this just let me know and I will be happy to help.

      Thanks for contributing to this post, I really appreciate it.

      Have a great day,

      Libby

      Reply

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