How To Balance Your Soft Skills and Your Technical Skills for a Successful Career in Tech

How To Balance Your Soft Skills and Your Technical Skills for a Successful Career in Tech

People are not drawn to perfection. People are drawn to shared interests, problems, and each other’s energies. Hiding one’s humanity and projecting an image of perfection makes one lifeless and uninteresting.

- Robert Glove

Good morning She Code Africa Nairobi Community. Today we’ll talk about something rarely discussed in the tech industry: the power of developing your soft skills. Let’s start by understanding why this is important in the first place.

Why Developing Your Soft Skills is Important

Each of us has had at least one encounter with a stranger that we always remember. For me, it was a guy I met on a bus. He was so full of life that he seemed to radiate from within.

And this was when I was having a rather shitty day, and I can’t quite remember why. He was full of charisma and could easily handle a conversation, even with a stranger like me. And that made him memorable to me.

The most memorable people in a crowd aren’t those with the highest education or even the best dressed. The people we tend to remember are those who spark our interest. Those that make us wonder about them and how they lead their lives.

Today, I will show you how to make an impression in each room you’re in. Although your technical skills will get you through the door, your soft skills might be what helps you progress faster in your career.

Whether you’re interviewing for a tech job or attending a tech event where you hope to connect with other techies and potential employers, here’s your guide.

Step 1: Presenting Yourself

There are three categories that fall under ‘presenting yourself’:

  • Dressing the part

  • Communicating with your body language

  • Introducing yourself

Dressing the Part

Let’s be honest; the tech industry is famous for its casual t-shirt and sweatpants attire. But this will only make you blend in with everyone else. If you want to stand out, then you need to dress the part.

Well, I don’t mean that you wear high heels to a tech event (unless you want to); put on an outfit that’s both comfortable and cool. Something that looks like you put effort into it, but you’re still cozy.

If you’re interviewing for a job, I advise you to do the opposite. Wear your best formal clothes to send a message to your potential employer that you take your career seriously.

Communicating With Your Body Language

Picture this, you’re listening to a React Native talk, and the speaker keeps looking everywhere but to the crowd while slouching their back. Will you even take them seriously?

Probably not.

Because their body language communicates that they’re not confident, and you might even doubt their facts.

Your body language plays a huge role in how others perceive you. And this is incredibly important, especially in job interviews, pitching ideas to your boss, or even conversing with a potential employer.

When I’m not confident, I remind myself that confidence is just a state of mind. No one can tell between real and fake confidence, and that the other person is human, too, so I should just breathe and cut myself some slack.

So practice walking with your back straight, making and holding eye contact, and throwing in the occasional smile here and there. PS: Avoid crossing your arms, as this will make you seem unapproachable.

Introducing Yourself

Honestly, this is one of the things I’ve struggled with. Although asking a multi-dimensional human to describe themselves in one sentence is a bit unfair, it’s how society decides where to place you.

So if anyone is going to put you in a box (they definitely will), they might as well put you in a nice respectable one.

Think about what you’d like people to know about you and practice saying these words out loud until they roll off your tongue when you’re asked to introduce yourself. You can also add a fun fact about you to break the ice and humanize you to whoever you’re introducing yourself to.

Step 2: Social Confidence and Charisma

As you practice social confidence and charisma, here are two things you need to know:

  • How to carry a conversation

  • How to subtly toot your horn

Carrying the Conversation

One of the most valuable soft skills in tech is the ability to carry a conversation and charm people. Whether you're attending a networking tech event or simply engaging in casual conversation, knowing how to talk and charm people can significantly enhance your professional reputation.

One thing I’ve learned about Charisma that I’d like to share is that people love talking about themselves. If you’re in an event, trying to master the courage to speak to someone you’d like to network with, here’s what you can do.

Take a moment to study their body language. Do they seem busy, or can they give you full attention once you stop by? Then, mentally make notes of how you’ll start the conversation.

Let’s say you want to talk to the event's speaker; you can start by thanking them and highlighting the part of their talk you liked the most. Then probe them to talk about themselves and be genuinely interested in what they say. Ask thoughtful questions and actively listen to their responses.

In an industry where most people rush to beat their chests, having a listening ear can be a breath of fresh air. And they will remember you.

Subtly Tooting Your Horn

It takes two to tango. As important as it is to practice active listening, you also need to add value to the conversation.

And what better way to do so than to showcase your skills and accomplishments, especially if you want to impress a potential employer?

However, this can quickly go south, especially if they catch on that you have an agenda. The best way to do this is to practice subtly tooting your horn.

This means throwing in your skills and accomplishments naturally in the conversation. This will prevent you from coming across as self-centered while highlighting your value.

Let’s say that the conversation steers to a problem the potential employer faces with a particular framework in his company. You can offer some advice on tackling it or confide that you’ve encountered a similar problem and highlight how you helped your team find the solution. This will help them see you in a different light and note the value you could bring to their company.

Final Thoughts

As we conclude, I want to let you know that perfecting your soft skills with just one social interaction is nearly impossible, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Just as you practice your technical skills, practice your soft skills by attending as many events as possible, and soon you’ll master this.

You can build strong relationships in the tech community by presenting yourself professionally at tech events, charming people through conversation, and learning the art of subtly tooting your horn.

Let me know if you’re already practicing these tips and how they have worked for you. Cheers.