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Top 5 Reasons why software professionals need social skills, too

Jennifer Hoops, September 8, 2011

Software professionals sit in front of computers all day, rarely interacting with peers. Right? Wrong--new research is confirming that social skills are critical to a software professional's career.

The 2010-11 edition of the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook states that overall, computer software engineering and computer programming occupations are expected to grow by 21 percent during the 2008-to-2018 decade. However, offshoring and outsourcing trends are expected to temper that growth slightly, especially for basic programming jobs. Computer software engineers, however, will see excellent job prospects--and these jobs do require strong interpersonal skills.

Here are the top five reasons social skills are critical to a software professional's career:

1. Teamwork and collaboration

Interpersonal skills and the ability to work effectively in teams are key to the success of any software professional. Often, teams are comprised of cross-functional individuals who are expected to bring specific subject matter expertise to the table. Without the ability to keenly interact with peers, a software professional's expertise could be discredited or misinterpreted, raising risks among the team.

Additionally, software professionals are expected to have strong analytical and problem-solving skills. The ability to effectively collaborate with other software professionals in similar roles may enable getting to the right answer, more quickly and efficiently.

2. Communication

Software professionals must be able to simplify and translate technical jargon so that the work they're doing is more easily understood by non-technical stakeholders. Software professionals without social skills may have a more difficult time communicating. Social skills enhance a software pro's ability to communicate internally to peers and managers as well as externally to stakeholders and customers.

3. Customer Satisfaction

In order to develop quality applications that bring customer satisfaction, a software professional must thoroughly understand what the business requirements are, answering the question, "What functions must this program enable for the end user?" In order to get to the bottom of that question, software professionals must engage in dialogue and working sessions with end users. These social interactions are critical to the success of a software professional's work.

4. Job Security

As stated above, the current business environment may necessitate the outsourcing of some rote programming and similar jobs to less expensive geographical areas in order to cut costs. But software professionals with good social skills are much harder to replace and will enjoy better job security.

5. Career Advancement

Software professionals with strong business and social skills will have the best opportunities for career advancement. Without solid social skills, a software professional may be overlooked for managerial positions. With proven track records as team players, however, software professionals can be valuable assets in managerial positions.

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