If you’ve been in the tech industry for a few years, you know that things can get complicated—especially when you’re taking your first steps into team management. Mastering technical skills is one thing… but when you’re dealing with people, you need to also adopt key “soft skills” such as empathy and communication.
Dice’s new Optimizing Your Tech Career ebook offers some tips for anyone who’s worked for a few years in tech and wants to grow their network, management skills, and ability to recognize opportunities. Here’s a sampling of its advice:
Build your long-term network
In your tech career, it’s never a bad time to give your network a “soft audit.” During your tech career, your list of contacts has likely swelled to include everyone from former bosses to current side-gig clients. Some of these may prove more valuable than others with regard to your long-term career; prioritize those, and make a point of keeping in touch (via email, in-person meetups, calls or whatever other methods work best for you) and offering your help when needed. Also, it’s important to stay open to new contacts.
More advanced “soft skills”
Whether you’re actively pursuing a tech management track or focused on becoming a master of your specialization, you should refine your “soft skills” to reflect your evolving position in the tech industry.
Hiring Well: Learn how to judge whether someone would be truly effective on your team. Do they have a positive attitude? Are they engaged with your mission? Do you see eye to eye on the team’s ultimate goals?
Talent Optimization: Once you make a great hire, focus (as the best leaders do) on how to help that person become as successful as they possibly can. For individuals, this takes effort and a consistent attention on personal and professional development. If you can put in this level of effort for your full team (and drive results), leadership in your organization will take notice.
Impactful Coaching: Great coaching takes a good deal of empathy and active listening. You need to understand what someone’s going through, as well as their current blockers, and come up with effective solutions for moving them forward.
Strategic Delegation: Effective managers know they can’t do everything themselves; they have to delegate responsibility to others on the team. You need to communicate goals and expectations clearly and learn to trust that stakeholders and team members know what they’re doing.
It’s a scary but exciting prospect: At some point, you might want to jump to a slightly different career track within tech. For example, many data scientists have decided to pursue a job working with A.I. and machine learning. But how can you make this leap without losing your career momentum?
The first step is to create a personal learning plan; you’ll need to demonstrate you have the necessary skills. Make a list of your core tech competencies, as well as those demanded by your new specialty or discipline; if many of them overlap, it’ll reduce your learning time. You should make a time and resource commitment to acquire the knowledge you lack.
Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals of your new discipline, you have a higher likelihood of maintaining your current salary and job title if you stay within your organization; however, if you’re jumping to something particularly cutting-edge, such as A.I., there’s enough demand out there to spark interest from other organizations that could meet your compensation requirements. Startups, smaller companies and even freelancing opportunities could all prove equally good ways to start out in something entirely new.
For even more on growing your career, applying for jobs, negotiating salary, and nailing that next big promotion, check out the Optimizing Your Tech Career e-book.