In every group or team, I’ve worked with, there are the tech people who stand out. The best of the best. Sometimes they can code together a working prototype within a half-hour; sometimes they can design a circuit board or research and select materials to optimize the final product.
This is not where success happens.
The soft skills, presenting, interpersonal communication, and explaining act as the greatest differentiator for technology-minded employees and also are the greatest drivers of future success. Through my experience, I’ve found that while you might not be the best programmer on the team, if you can convey a message effectively and explain what you’re working on you will see more success.
People don’t always want to see your code. They want it to work. They don’t want to understand what database tool or machine learning algorithms you’ve implemented. They want to understand what value it’s creating.
The power of explaining your finished product effectively means that you’re able to convince others that there is value in your project. You need to show value; you need to first focus on explaining the value you will deliver and then, and only then, on delivering the value you explain.
Value is not derived from the most complex, efficient or integrated back end. It is born by conveying your message effectively and having another person hear, accept and agree with your opinions. The best programmers I have worked with are the select few who can summarize everything they’ve done into a few sentences. They can explain everything in layman’s terms. The simplest of stories and the simplest of words can have the greatest meaning. While programmers might have to work in the highest level of complexity, a consumer of your product doesn’t want and shouldn’t have to know things to that level. They want to use a simple product, for a simple reason and not have to worry about the difficult things. Simplicity sells.
Even when working among highly technical people, you best convey a message effectively by not saying much at all. Developers who can give a demonstration of the work they’ve done and make it personable and enjoyable, maybe even humorous, are those who are succeeding most often.
Simplicity is key.
There is a perception that technical people sometimes aren’t the most savvy in business presentations; however, you can break this stereotype, if you can learn and teach yourself effective presentation skills, you’ll be able to stand out. While you could be equal or worse at coding, you are better at explaining what you did.
That’s all they see. That’s all they need to see.
Developing soft skills is best done through practice and then introspection: do, review, improve. Seek out more speaking opportunities and explaining opportunities.
Every presentation you give will allow you to take one more step to being as effective of a presenter as you want to be. There is always room to improve and lessons to learn. Stepping into the ring as someone who can present will earn you credibility and allow you to showcase the amazing technical skills you’ve been able to learn throughout the years. It is in the communication where you differentiate yourself and become the best technical person.
A colleague will approach someone for help that can effectively explain the solution, not someone who can simply solve the problem.
Your soft skills are ways to stand out from the crowded information technology space. Learn them. Practice them. Succeed with them.