The Human Side of IT
The technology industry is about technology. Technology is the fastest changing industry there is, but the often-overlooked part of this industry is the humans that work with the technology. Humans are not robots, even though some may feel or think that we are. There are many facets to humans. We are the most complex machine there is, yet we have the most difficult time understanding and taking care of ourselves. For this post I’m going to discuss two things about us humans in regards to working in tech. Both of these topics are hot items to discuss now as we are realizing that it takes much more than showing up to work to be successful in today’s world. These two pillars are the soft skills needed for the tech industry and maintain work-life balance.
Why Are Soft Skills Important?
Soft skills are something that’s needed for everyone to be successful in almost any job. These are different from hard skills because they are not typically attained through any formal education, training programs, or certifications. They are the interpersonal skills that are somewhat harder to define and evaluate, unlike a skill needed to deploy a highly complex set of systems.
We need to develop these skills to interact with each other. Some people are better at it than others. Long gone are the days of the IT guy/gal sitting in a dark cubicle that doesn’t interact with the rest of the company. IT professionals in today’s age must interact with business units, customers, partners, and especially each other within a team. It’s important to develop these soft skills so that you can work amongst each other and collaborate effectively. Soft skills are also the type of skills that can be transferable to any career. Keep in mind it takes time to develop them. Some key soft skills are communication and teamwork.
Communication – This includes listening, verbal, and written communication. The tones of or voices and how they are written can be interpreted differently by many people, affecting how we are perceived. Listening is so important because oftentimes we are trying to form a response to someone without actually listening to what the other person has to say. Taking a step back and carefully listening to someone while they speak helps us truly understand what they are saying.
Teamwork – Enough can’t be said about teamwork. There is no “I” in team. You need to be able to work with others around you even if you don’t agree with them. Being able to negotiate with others is important because we can’t always have our way as much as we’d like to. It’s give and take.
Everybody Needs Work-Life Balance
I’m going to start off by saying I am by no means a mental health professional, but what I can attest to is that I am a recovering burnout IT professional. Like soft skills, handling stress and maintaining balance in your life comes in different ways for each person. What is clear is that everybody needs it otherwise you will get burnt out. If you need more details on burnout, the Mayo Clinic has a great article written about Job Burnout.
Maintaining work-life balance is critical in the IT industry, as it is often a very stressful job with extremely long hours and crazy demands. A lot of us work on-call and when there are issues, you can be working 24-36 hours straight with very few breaks. The occasional long hours are usually not an issue. It becomes an issue when they are repeatedly done. We all need sleep, some more than others, but we still need a break. Our brains need to shut off and take some time to recoup to be refreshed.
The relationships, our families and loved ones, are affected by how we work. Working 24/7 does not help your family even though we may have in our minds we are working to provide for our family. We are no good to them if we are not engaged and present with them. Constantly working and not disengaging has long-lasting effects. This is something I am all too familiar with and work on improving every day. The saying, “Work to Live, Don’t Live to Work,” is so true. There is no time machine. You can’t go back in time for missing out on special occasions or memories made. Take the time needed for family and yourself.
Having work-life balance keeps up healthy. We keep ourselves in a good state of mind and it helps with burnout. We need this to be successful people in our personal and professional lives, otherwise we are just like zombies walking around.