What soft skills are most needed in IT? Toronto Women in IT winners share (part 2)

7. Communication and the ability to be agile

Entrepreneur of the Year

Sue Britton, CEO and Founder, FinTech Growth Syndicate: Soft skills essential to IT employees (or any business) are communication and the ability to be agile. At FGS, strong communication skills have been an essential part of building teams that have contributed to our ability to facilitate innovation and grow our company. Whether it’s pitching our organisation, rallying the team, or working with a client, practical communication skills are critical for being a leader. The ability to communicate well is the first step to creating meaningful connections with employees and fosters collaboration and produces richer ideas. Practicing active listening, understanding your audience, and using succinct communication daily, also helps to cultivate these skills in your employees.

FGS is a lean team, and we’re continually adapting, adjusting, and pivoting to meet our internal needs and the needs of our clients. Being agile is more important than being perfect. It gives our team agency to be creative and take initiative, which in turn allows FGS to have an accelerated innovation process that benefits our clients. Fostering a flexible work environment, empowering your employees, and leading by example, are all important ingredients to cultivating an agile work culture.

8. Teamwork and Adaptability

Diversity Initiative of the Year

Sawsan Abdul-Majid, President, Advancing New Canadian Women in Technology: Teamwork and adaptability are among the most important soft skills for people working in IT. These are skills we are actively trying to foster as part of the work we do at Advancing New Canadian Women in Technology (ANCWT). Our organisation is focused on helping providing bridge employment for new immigrant and refugee women who have technical skills in engineering, technology, computer science and IT. These women have left their home country and are trying to find jobs in the Canadian job market. Women immigrants and newcomers are an important pool of technical talent for the Canadian job market. If they cannot adapt to the Canadian work environment, despite their technical skills, they will not be successful in progressing with their careers here. Not only do these women need to be able to adapt to working in a new country, they must also adapt to the constantly state of change that is the new normal in IT.

9. Collaboration and analytical thinking

Security Champion of the Year

Mukta Soni, Director, Strategy Information and Cyber-Security, CIBC: Two important soft skills in the cyber strategy world are collaboration and analytical thinking. A good strategy incorporates feedback from lines of business, technology teams, as well as the ever-changing threat landscape, regulatory landscape, and current security posture. You must collaborate with peers, internal and external stakeholders to get all of this information. Other key soft skills include building consensus and cultivating good relationships. Analytical thinking is also a key skill needed to break down complex cyber security issues into smaller components, e.g. information gathering, scoping, confirming scope, architecting solution, etc.

These soft skills can be easily cultivated by keeping an open mind attitude, practicing patience, and by applying your curiosity in a variety of situations. It also helps to be observant, ask questions, and work on analysing the solutions.

Empathy and emotional intelligence

Business Leader of the Year

Sarah Bettencourt, Chief People Officer, PointClickCare Technologies: A soft skill I believe is important to any IT professional, but one that is often overlooked, is empathy. In fact, it’s a soft skill that can help any individual foster growth within their career, regardless of the profession. Establishing strong relationships with team members will lead to trust, and when you have trust among your team you allow for a better working environment. Trust within a team enables more collaboration, engagement, and healthy conflict, which ultimately leads to greater efficiency and effectiveness overall.

What’s often overlooked is the importance of encouraging high emotional intelligence (EQ), which is just as important as IQ, if not more critical, for long-term success. Emotional intelligence is a skill that needs to be continuously sharpened. It’s a skill that requires active listening and discussion, and it’s the oil that keeps relationships running smoothly. If you want to master this soft skill in business, you need to begin by developing strong relationships with team members.

11. Teamwork and communication

Woman of the Year

Michelle Joliat, Former Managing Director and Head of Wealth Digitisation, Robotics and Process Transformation, BMO: Teamwork and communication are among the core soft skills I believe IT leaders need today. Teamwork is vital to ensure everyone in the business and technology not only work together, but are also supportive of each other and truly collaborative. Communication is necessary in order to listen to the needs of the business and translate those needs clearly to the IT development teams. Commitment to collaboration and communication are critical to ensure everyone is working toward one common goal, with full transparency to ensure there are no surprises.

To hone these skills, teams should work to get as close to clients and end users as possible. Engage in active dialogues, ask questions in Human Centred Design sessions, make sure you fully understand client and end user needs. Not only will this help build your communication skills, it will also foster transparency and teamwork.