Top 10 Soft Skills for IT Professional Career Advancment

Posted by on in Careers

By Abinhav Kaiser

When psychologist Daniel Goleman came out with his book on emotional intelligence around 15 years back, it flustered a number of accepted theories, like that occupational talent is most important to one’s success. Goleman brought forth a new concept, known as emotional intelligence, and asserted that it could guarantee success and happiness while the intelligence quotient (IQ) could only go so far.

The concept of soft skills, the layman’s term for emotional intelligence, has picked up support in the past decade, especially in the IT industry. It is now believed that hard skills, which are the primary talents that make you a good hire, can only help in the beginning, and soft skills are the key to becoming a top employee and having unparalleled success.

On this note, here are the top10 soft skills that can help you get promoted to the next level of your company’s hierarchy.


We are in the age of synergy – the sum of the element producing a greater result than the individual parts. To bring about this powerful tool, teamwork is critical. In IT, where cutbacks are ruling roost, it is essential that work be completed with the least effort, and the cost savings be passed onto the customer in order to retain them for a longer term.

The person who can build a team, make them work as one unit and create trust between employees has something special in him/her, and this person definitely has what it takes to move up in a company

Conflict resolution

Automation could be the way of the future, but what automation can achieve is repetitive work alone, but not the completion of projects. To complete projects and deliver, you need people. When people are involved, there are bound to be clashes between one another. Sorting out the issues, not only through compromise but coming to a win-win situation, requires a masterful act. The individual who can resolve conflicts will be a highly regarded employee.

Although conflict resolution looks like a part of teamwork, I have separated it out because the weight it carries today is tremendous. PMI’s PMBOK, the leading guide for project managers, talks about conflict management in particular and the various techniques that can be employed.


This is a no brainer. Communication is a key component in the assessment of job applicants and employees. The objective of effective communication is that the information is passed on accurately from the sender to recipient. In the information age, the onus is much more emphasized on the talent to communicate effectively and efficiently to whoever is on the other end.

For those aspiring to be among the leadership, they need to be effective communicators to pass on the vision, mission and goals of the company to subordinates and other stakeholders. Through this channel, teams get aligned to the orientation of the organization and will remove all ambiguity in terms of principles that are to be followed.

Strategic thinking

In ITIL®, a service inception begins with strategy, and this activity is done by the highest pecking order, like higher management and company boards. To get elevated into positions of authority such as this, you need to think outside the box. The thought process cannot be taught, but rather it must be honed through personal development. It is a special skill that entrepreneurs around the world use at their disposal.

For example, I was once part of a tool selection discussion with a vendor. We were procuring a tool for one of our customers, and when the vendor completed presenting the tool and the things it can do, we knew that it could solve all the shortcomings we faced with the current tool. But, it was way beyond our budget. I spoke to the CIO of the company and suggested that we buy the tool, and host it in our environment, and offer it to all our customers through multi-tenancy. This was a strategic move, as we were making an investment which had quality written all over it, and more importantly, it was a service that we could bundle up and sell it to other customers.

Time management

David Allen of Getting Things Done (GTD) fame quotes that one cannot manage time, but rather manage oneself to get things done. It is true that time ticks by, and cannot be controlled no matter what we do. There is a popular statement in service management that goes something like, “You cannot manage what you cannot control.” So, if you are unable to manage yourself, then you’re not the right person to be entrusted with higher responsibilities in an organization.

This soft skill is a key aspect not only in delivering to the organization but to build self confidence by keeping up commitments.


This soft skill is a derivative of the communication skill that I talked about earlier. In the age of emails, business cases and project reports, everything still ends or begins with words put on paper. If writing is not one of the arrows in your quiver, you have a major disability that can put you behind people who can put words together.

People in higher positions are expected to compose and edit a number of documents. If this expectation is to be met, even remotely, aspirants are expected to put words on paper. I am not talking about the creative kind, but the kind that is grammatically corect and passes on the intended message to the recipient.

Creative problem solving

Problems happen. Murphy’s law, anything that can go wrong will go wrong, will catch up with your team at some time or another. It’s not a question of if, but when. When it does occur, how effectively it can be dealt with and how smoothly the situation can be managed is the real test of a leader’s charm. It makes or breaks a would-be leader.

Presentation skills

Meetings these days cannot happen without the aid of slides. People who attend meetings are generally short of time and the secret to preparing a good presentation is to keep it short, terse and complete. The skill I am referring to is preparing crisp presentations that convey the message, and delivering them with confidence. It could be people sitting across the table or somebody over video conference. In either situation, your audience needs to take something away from what you’ve prepared, otherwise it may come off as wasted time.

Presentation skills are also key for showcasing what has been achieved and what is coming up shortly in the perennial operation of projects. This is definitely a must-have soft skill in your repository to have a realistic chance of getting a promotion.


The objective of a business is to make profits. Businesses need customers to survive, vendors for support and employees to run the ship. Negotiations can occur at any of these levels and beyond. A person who can negotiate with both parties ending up in a win-win situation knows all about building and maintaining relationships. Such people make great managers and leaders, and have a great chance of making it to the top.


The pace at which things change today is mesmerizing. I, for example, was implementing IT processes not too long ago, but now am taking care of website development. If I had stuck to my core skill, and resisted the new opportunity that came my way, I would have missed out on a promotion. People these days need to be flexible to take up opportunities and make the most of them. There is plenty of competition in the market. If you are rigid, someone else will grab the limelight.

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Bill has been a member of the technology and publishing industries for more than 25 years and brings extensive expertise to the roles of CEO, CIO, and Executive Editor. Most recently, Bill was COO and Co-Founder of and the parent company PSN Inc. Previously, Bill held the position of CTO of both Wiseads New Media and


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