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5 Non-technical Skills You Must Possess

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I have worked with many an IT engineer. I can divide them
into three very broad categories:

Super technical

Fairly technical

Not technical at all

and three personality types:

Very poor interpersonal skills

Does what is needed but no more

Great fun to work with

And of course you can mix and match. Getting a super
technical person who is also great fun to work with is
fairly rare to be honest but it does happen.

I have worked with all sorts but the ones who stand out
are the uuber geeks who can read hex like it is a Harry
Potter novel and quote all the RFCs but you wouldn't put
them in front of a customer in a million years.

The others were ones who made work fun and did their job
to the best of their ability. They could be pretty
technical but it was more their attitude which makes them
stand out in my mind.

This brings me onto skills I feel you will need to make
a success of your IT career as far as being good at your
job is concerned.

1. Touch typing - I know this is not a technical skill but
if you look at a network engineer typing away with one
finger on each hand, the customer begins to sweat. Being
able to touch type at a reasonable speed means you can
configure and fix things much faster.

When it comes to your CCIE lab you had better be able to
type fast my friend because 8 hours flys by in a flash.

2. Google - answers to 99% of your problems can be found
on the web in the form of white papers or forum questions
and answers. Even at Cisco TAC, with an absolutely huge
repository of information we often ended up checking
Google for answers to questions.

3. An enquiring mind - great if you can configure frame
relay but if you have an enquiring mind you will want to
understand how it actually works. Where do the lmi's fit in
and what happens between your router and the frame relay

You will want to set stuff up in your own lab, break it
and then fix it over and over.

Don't get caught up in too much off topic stuff if you
have an exam coming up but most every good network
engineer is good at lots of stuff but has a very in
depth knowledge of certain technologies they find
interesting personally.

4. Sense of humor - this is vital. When your backbone
goes down at 17:00 Friday evening you will need to take
quick action but also be able to keep a sense of humor
about it. Be appropriate of course but I've seen grown
men scream and cry when there is a network fault!

5. Be a people person - I know this is hard for many of
us, especially if we are very technical. Unless you want
to stay locked in the basement with all the geeks you need
to work on your verbal, listening and interpersonal skills.

I know of one CCIE who is actually left in a basement, he
can fix anything, anytime but the company would never ever
let him in front of a customer. He can barely speak to his
own colleagues.

When all is said and done, we will look back and remember
the relationships we have had with others rather than the
great configs we wrote.

Paul Browning

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0 of 0 people found the following comment or review helpful:
U said it all, March 19, 2010
By atashcraft - See all my comment or reviews    
Excellent article Paul, I would have to agree with you on all of the above. I would rather in a million years work with someone who I can talk with and joke around with then someone who knows it all.
0 of 0 people found the following comment or review helpful:
Touch Typing, March 18, 2010
By Toby963 - See all my comment or reviews    
Thanks for the useful article keep them coming I really look forward rto reading them.
But may I make a comment in point 1.
What about a network engineer who just uses the one finger to type and has his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth deep in concentration?
Any good ;-)
0 of 0 people found the following comment or review helpful:
Great Read!, March 18, 2010
By kevin31 - See all my comment or reviews    
Excellent article Paul and hope you keep them coming really enjoy them. This is defo true and can be said for most technical people out there. I myself was only thinking about enrolling in a college typing course few weeks ago in an effort to speed up my configuring of the Cisco kit.

Thanks Paul

0 of 0 people found the following comment or review helpful:
Technical People are a bit different, March 17, 2010
By pwilko - See all my comment or reviews    
We are all different, and I work with a few technical people who are very different.
What I thought was good about the CCNA exam (even though I didn't like it) was that it put me under pressure. Dealing with the network falling over with a customer standing over you, or dealing with a job which has gone way over budget, take non technical skills which are just as important to do your job.
Great article, I am glad you take a balance approach to what skills a Network Engineer needs.
0 of 0 people found the following comment or review helpful:
Google has the answers, March 17, 2010
By hoopsdavis - See all my comment or reviews    
I agree, and this is very good shared information. I'd prefer to work with a guy who has a great personality, doesn't (pretend) know all the answers and capable of holding a conversation, before working with a guy who (thinks he) knows it all, bad communicator and a bad personality, this can make the job tough.

Googling a subject and looking at different responses is always a smart way to spend time learning.
0 of 0 people found the following comment or review helpful:
Great information, March 17, 2010
By lseabock - See all my comment or reviews    
I google almost everything!

Also very important is be a good listener and to be able to translate between technical and non technical gargon - not everyone knows what RSTP is...
0 of 0 people found the following comment or review helpful:
agree, March 17, 2010
By s1sh1 - See all my comment or reviews    
Nice article, even though nothing new. It's always people who can talk doesn't know much technical stuff and tech people don't like to talk much :-) In fact the first once more successful in their caries (just personal observation...)

I was told recently that new "global IT strategy" for the company I work for is offshoring ALL low end it jobs. What is considered "lowend" , I asked, the answer was all day to day IT operations, and this is in addition to hundreds offshored positions already. So seems like communication skills the only skills will be in demand very soon :-)

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