1. Federal IT Pros Must Be Effective at Collaboration
Whether it’s teamwork, listening to others or networking, 66 percent of those surveyed view collaboration as the primary nontechnical skill needed to capitalize on opportunities for future growth. Collaboration is also one of the most important skills recruiters seek in new hires.
To fine-tune this skill, try your hand at project management, one of the most critical nontechnical skills needed to manage today’s modern IT environments. Project managers check in regularly with team members, collect feedback, coordinate meetings, help escalate issues, provide feedback and liaise between IT and the business side.
IT teams should consider working with personnel and internal communications teams to implement awareness of IT initiatives across all levels of the organization — particularly goals and potential outcomes for the broader agency.
This is corroborated by SolarWinds’ “Building a Secure Future,” report, which found tech pros are increasingly capitalizing on opportunities to foster greater alignment and collaboration with senior leaders on priorities such as managing and mitigating cybersecurity risks (53 percent cite cyberthreats as the biggest challenge they expect to face in the next year).
2. Innovative or Creative Problem-Solving Is Key
Another “human” skill to perfect is problem-solving. Nearly half of tech pros (48 percent) agree this is a priority in IT.
It’s no surprise. As every federal employee knows, change is constant. Critical thinking skills are crucial to keeping pace with this change. Whether it’s due to budget issues, technology advancements, administration changes or all three, you must be prepared to adapt. This means identifying problems quickly, researching solutions, conducting objective analysis, drawing conclusions and making informed decisions.
Problem-solving comes with experience — often outside the workplace. In fact, respondents agreed this skill is gained through life lessons learned at home or in daily life.
3. Clear Communication Is a Must in Government IT
Communication is the final piece of the human skills puzzle, and it’s closely related to collaboration. When a project is initiated, you need to communicate project goals, strategy, plans, timelines and ongoing maintenance to stakeholders across the organization — regardless of their technical literacy.
In the same vein, you must also justify technology investments and operations decisions to agency leaders. To overcome budget constraints and shifting priorities, your best course of action is to become an educator. Invest time in continuous education and regular communication with leadership and find ways to demonstrate the tight correlation between IT success and mission success.
For instance, it’s not enough to announce the rollout of a new HR automation tool. Focus instead on communicating the criticality of the project, who it will affect, and how it will drive the agency’s mission forward. The ability to communicate how technology projects can save money is also desirable.
Keep Pace with Evolving Federal Technology
As technology evolves, IT roles will continue to evolve. As a federal IT pro, you must evolve too. Tech skills aren’t the only skills you need to be successful.
Soft skills can help you earn a seat at the table to set the agenda, justify IT investments, gain buy-in from your peers and advance your career.
In addition to the tips above, find a mentor — someone on the team who can help you learn — and keep practicing. You don’t need to be an expert, but embracing a “bring IT on” mentality and setting goals to get there will lead to more opportunities, greater responsibility and a leading role in the digital transformation of your agency.