Whether you work in Software Testing, DevOps, Engineering, IT, or any other technological role, there were probably a few universal requirements for obtaining your hard-earned Computer Science degree.
When trying to keep up with the skills that make you marketable, things like coding, programming, and automating as well as understanding multiple frameworks, methodologies, databases, and libraries may come to mind. While all of these are exponentially important to career growth, many people will skip over the non-technological skills that are equally valuable.
Experienced professionals in software development and testing know that it takes more than the left side of the brain to be an influential contributor. In fact, there are quite a few non-technical skills that are required for being successful in technology.
- Communication - Communication is always number one on our list of non-technical skills for technical people. That’s because it’s so important and oftentimes neglected. When the software development life cycle includes so many different people fulfilling diverse roles, they need to fit together just right to result in a successful product. Additionally, as companies shift left and the lines between testing, development, and operations blur, collaboration is more important than ever.
- Prioritization - Sometimes working in the SDLC will feel like things are coming at you 100 miles a minute. This means that time management and focus can make all the difference between being productive and falling behind. When you’re working part of a fast-paced team, slacking isn’t tolerated, so being able to prioritize task and projects is the only way to keep up with your co-workers.
- Empathy - Since technical positions often imply creating software for a particular end user, a degree of customer empathy is paramount. It takes much more than a knowledge of data, metrics, and analytics to understand the user experience. Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and be intuitive to what other people want is imperative, as opposed to focusing on your own preferences.
- Organization - Not just anyone can be a developer or tester, and it’s just as true that no just anyone can be a good developer or tester. This lies on the fact that the job depends on thorough reporting and documentation skills. You can run comprehensive tests or integrate innovative features, but if you skip logging your work and it’s not easy to share with the team, then it’s going to be all for nothing. Plus, staying organized is essential for building out processes and improving strategies into the future.
- Creativity - Since the foundation of Computer Science is in subjects like math and science, people generally don’t view it as a field that requires much creativity or imagination. On the contrary, thinking outside the box and introducing new ideas is what takes an average application to a widely-used sensation. While you can probably find a job in the field if you lack creativity, it will probably be extremely challenging to progress in the field or been seen as an innovator.
- Insight - You can pull all the data and metrics you want on software, but if you can’t explain why testing matters, your feedback will fall short. In the words of Cassandra Leung, being able to extract actionable insights from a set of data or test results is infinitely more valuable than getting those results in the first place. Going above and beyond your role to act as a consultant and provide meaningful thoughts and ideas helps contribute to taking the product to the next level.
- Curiosity - Generally, people in this software development need to have one thing in common -- a knack for curiosity. That’s what ensures you’re always learning and building upon current knowledge. The interest in continuous learning not only ensures that the job will never be boring, it guarantees that you're always improving. Additionally, while precision and care are essential, the fear making mistakes can’t hinder you from doing your job and exploring new possibilities.
- Openness - Technology is constantly changing, and there’s no defined way to produce software or test applications. In fact, our ideas surrounding software development, testing, and delivery are changing all the time. Organizations are finally beginning to realize that bringing diverse opinions to the table is hugely important in software development and testing. Being able to take in other’s feedback, consider opposing suggestions, and handle criticism in order to look at the big picture is critical when it comes to executing ideas and being proactive.
As STEAM makes its way into the spotlight, we are forced to consider the importance of liberal arts and humanities in software and technology. While these soft skills are in no way the extent of the non-technical requirements to be a great tester, developer, or other SDLC stakeholder, they provide a foundation for a well-rounded contributor.
We challenge you to think about the non-technical skills that you feel make you better at doing your job, and which you feel you should practice more often. Leave the skills that we missed and those that you think are most important in the comments.