• Pathways_Women Code

    By Dr. Lynne Y. Williams, MSIT and MSCM, Kaplan University
    Full-Time Faculty, School of Business and Information Technology

    The HBO hit comedy Silicon Valley tells the story of a group of coders attempting to launch their own startup company. The running joke is that despite all of their collective genius, they can't get out of their own way because of their lack of business awareness and social skills. Granted, the show exaggerates the "nerd tech" stereotypes for laughs (and there are many), but I've seen this display of art imitating life much too often.

    One undeniable truth I've witnessed in my many years in this industry is that IT people have a passion for the beautifully logical process of creation. They're discovering and constructing new worlds of technological progress, literally right at their fingertips. But the downside is that they can get lost in that process and disregard, or altogether lose, the grounding skills that are ultimately needed to succeed professionally. For women in particular, who already face an uphill battle in this sector, this is an even greater struggle as they double-down on the process to prove they're every bit as good as their male counterparts.

    This tunnel vision approach to an IT job contradicts the culture of coalition that today's organizations are adopting to operate and surge ahead. Being an exceptional developer or coder is table stakes now, so what else can you do to move the needle on your career, or even break out on your own? Believe it or not, a return to soft skills basics is in order to complement your talent and help amplify your worth in the workplace.

    • Communicate well: Do not underestimate the power of the spoken word and presentation skills. Even the most technically savvy person won't be able to work well in a team or convey crucial recommendations to non-technical management if they can't express themselves clearly. How do you expect to get ahead if you can't share your vision?
    • Powerful business writing: In today's social media lexicon of truncated words, acronyms, and emojis, the ability to communicate properly and professionally is a commodity that employers value highly. You cannot underestimate this skill when it comes to reporting, presenting, and especially entrepreneurial endeavors. Even the most counterculture entrepreneur needs to put together a solid proposal to sell potential investors on their business model.
    • Analyze and reason: IT isn't about just keeping a network running. Critical thinking, the ability to apply reasoning to unfamiliar or new concepts, is an essential survival skill to respond to new and unique situations that are always popping up. The days of following protocols step-by-step are over. You can really show your worth by being nimbly analytical to develop viable solutions.
    • Progress through organization: Whether you're a link in the project chain, or especially if you are a project leader, you must be capable of completing tasks in a timely manner and documenting and communicating that information to other project personnel. You may be a digital artist, but you still have to be organized to get things done right and on time.

    IT is an exciting realm with limitless possibilities to make your mark in this world with just a few keystrokes. But to make a mark on your career, it's time to come out from under all that code and reprogram yourself with some basic soft skills. That way, employers can see you as more than just a stereotype.


    Lynne Williams is a faculty member at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.


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