How important are soft skills in IT?

InditiumInditium Posts: 18Member ■□□□□□□□□□
If I had a degree, a lot of certifications, and was capable of doing the technical side of my job, how important would having great verbal communication skills be? I'm interested in working in InfoSec.

I'm not very social and if the job for penetration testers really is mostly just traveling around, talking to clients and getting them to like you while you check their system and even social engineer people, then that may not be the field for me. I don't want to get into business, and I don't want to work in help desk or something where I really just talk to people all day long.

I'm capable enough of guiding people and asking/answering questions, but I'm not good at "small talk", which means I'm not fun or humorous to be around. I don't really understand or like jokes and a lot of people piss me off when they laugh or try to socialize. Could that hurt me a lot?
«1

Comments

  • networker050184networker050184 Posts: 11,962Mod Mod
    Soft skills are definitely important. Probably not as important on the purely tech side of IT as some other career paths, but its human nature for people to want to hire, work with and promote people they like and can socialize with in the work place. I'm not a super sociable person either, but I've learned to play the game. Getting pissed at other people socializing will definitely hurt you career chances though.
    An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made.
  • InditiumInditium Posts: 18Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    Soft skills are definitely important. Probably not as important on the purely tech side of IT as some other career paths, but its human nature for people to want to hire, work with and promote people they like and can socialize with in the work place. I'm not a super sociable person either, but I've learned to play the game. Getting pissed at other people socializing will definitely hurt you career chances though.

    Which career paths are on the tech side of computer science/IT? I've been looking into malware analysis as one that I may enjoy. Or forensics.
  • TLeTourneauTLeTourneau Posts: 614Member ■■■■■■■■□□
    Also, generally speaking, the more you advance the more meetings you have. Soft skills start to play an important part when you are competing for resources with other projects that may be just as valid as the projects you are working on. The ability to "sell" your project and your team can be the difference between getting the resources or not.

    I would recommend something like the local Toastmasters (https://www.toastmasters.org) if you have a group near by. The experience can be very useful.
    Thanks, Tom

    B.S: IT - Network Design & Management
    M.S. - CSIA (Started 3/1/2017)Progress T1: C688, JIT2; T2:TFT2, C700, VLT2; T3: C701, C702; T4: C706, FXT2, LQT2
    Black = Not Started, Blue = In Progress, Red = Complete
  • Legacy UserLegacy User Posts: 0Unregistered / Not Logged In ■□□□□□□□□□
    @inditium Sounds like you must be fun at parties :P But all kidding aside within the work environment people tend to want to work with people they like. If you come off as standoffish noone will want to work with you and it will hurt you career wise.
  • InditiumInditium Posts: 18Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    dmarcisco wrote: »
    @inditium Sounds like you must be fun at parties :P But all kidding aside within the work environment people tend to want to work with people they like. If you come off as standoffish noone will want to work with you and it will hurt you career wise.
    Should I consider changing my major if it really matters that much?
  • cyberguyprcyberguypr Senior Member Posts: 6,785Mod Mod
    I would say the days of the hermit IT worker are pretty much gone. Nowadays IT is so ingrained into the business that sooner or later the most technical person will have to be interfacing with tons of people. Trust me, there's no question that makes more upset than "what are you doing this weekend" or "how was your weekend". None of your business! But like networker said, you gotta play the game. Those of us in more senior roles rely on this every single day and if we were to take your approach I have a strong feeling we wouldn't be where we are.

    Another fact is what dmarcisco mentions. When hiring many put a lot of emphasis on personality, even over technical skills. I can teach anything technical to virtually anyone. I can't teach them how to socialize and interact. If I interview you and you come off as socially inhibited, I will pass immediately, no matter what tech skills you bring to the table. We have basically every security title you can imagine in our team and everyone needs to interact with the business. It is what it is.

    I'm not saying you need to be a social butterfly. All I'm saying is that with that attitude your universe of potential roles and companies to work for will be greatly constricted.
  • networker050184networker050184 Posts: 11,962Mod Mod
    Inditium wrote: »
    Should I consider changing my major if it really matters that much?

    No I don't think so. What people are describing isn't anything specific to IT. It's just 'office politics' in general. Human nature basically. If anything the tech industry probably has more leeway than most on this front.
    An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made.
  • gespensterngespenstern Posts: 1,243Member ■■■■■■■□□□
    Unfortunately, soft skills are very important and often even more important than technical skills. The bigger a corp the more important soft skills are. The less an environment oriented to real problem solving, the more important soft skills are.

    Classic example is the team consisting of hundreds or even thousands of people that was working on healthcare.gov website prior its failed launch. I bet they are smooth talkers all right, but there were barely any people there who were capable of getting job done.

    In smaller MSPs people who can actually do are definitely in more favor than in larger enterprise firms.

    It's kind of okay not to be a smooth talker among infosec people, but it won't hurt certainly. What I've seen the pentesters usually travel in teams of at least two folks, one of them knows how to do stuff and another one knows how to talk. They both present their skills, etc. but the one who talks smoothly usually do the talking to management people, CISO types, etc, while the tech shows convincing stuff to engineers.
  • BradleyHUBradleyHU Posts: 912Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    short answer, it's equally as important...
    Link Me
    Graduate of the REAL HU & #1 HBCU...HAMPTON UNIVERSITY!!! #shoutout to c/o 2004
    WIP: 70-410(TBD) | ITIL v3 Foundation(TBD)
  • knownheroknownhero Posts: 450Member
    I used to work in a NOC where contact with anyone higher than my manager was rare. Then in my next job I wasn't speaking to anyone, same with the job after that.

    Now I'm in my current role as an analyst/developer and I have to speak to everyone. It's really making promotion difficult as I don't really have the skills to control a room and articulate myself in a professional manner. Just a little example of why you need these skills.
    70-410 [x] 70-411 [x] 70-462[x] 70-331[x] 70-332[x]
    MCSE - SharePoint 2013 :thumbup:

    Road map 2017: JavaScript and modern web development

  • the_Grinchthe_Grinch Posts: 4,153Member ■■■■■■■■■■
    I believe soft skills are very important in IT and it goes beyond just bantering on the phone or onsite when fixing something. Also the days of just managers going to meetings and making presentations are over. Recently I provided a one on one half hour tutorial on a new tool we designed and deployed to the Director of my agency. As I had done most of the building of the tool and designed the process for pulling the right data no one else could do it. Also, last week I had to give a presentation to a group of 35 people who were a mix of agency Directors, agency Deputy Directors, Deputy Chiefs, CISO's, VP's of IT, and law enforcement personnel. Mind you I am merely an investigator level person and not a supervisor or manager.

    I'll agree the days of hermit IT people are over. You'll severely limit your career opportunities if you don't know how to speak with people. I implore anyone in school for IT to make sure they are taking writing and public speaking courses. Doesn't matter if you are the only guy in the world who can fix a problem, if you can't explain why it happened, how it was fixed, and how it will be prevented in the future you are dead in the water.
    WIP:
    PHP
    Java
    Intro to Discrete Math
    Programming Languages
    Work stuff
  • LonerVampLonerVamp OSCP, GCFA, GWAPT, CISSP, OSWP, CCNA Cyber Ops, Sec+, Linux+, AWS CCP, CCSK Posts: 330Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    I would +1 some of the early answers to this thread.

    To be honest, the first and foremost thing is being able to do your job. But it's always a bonus to be personable and social as well.

    Let's face it, many people still get into IT due to being less social in person. The further you get up the food chain, however, the more social you'll be expected to be.

    But here's the other view of it: You'll learn how to be more social as you take on an IT job and move up (if that's where you want to go). It just kinda happens, just like meeting and befriending other people. Many others are social in business, and they will just naturally help you as well.

    Penetration Testing does not necessarily have to mean you're social. Many of these jobs can be done remotely, and the client has little actual interaction with the actual tester doing the work. There are certainly still in-person engagements, but I'd say there are more that are just done remote. Besides, 50%+ of the time you'll be writing reports.

    As long as you're not offensive, you'll likely be fine. But do keep in mind that it's easier for a manager to let the quiet one in the corner go, rather than someone they consider more a friend. Try to at least play the game enough to be one of the top few liked people on whatever team you work on, in addition to being a top 3 performer.

    If you are an introvert and slower to integrate socially with your teams, make sure you bring that up in your interview when it seems like it might be a problem. And let them know you're working on it and conscious of the challenge.

    Otherwise, just remember that most everyone are nervous on first meetings and that awkward lunch on site with the client. Just be natural and learn a few go-to ways to start the small talk and move it into talk you more appreciate. If nothing else, talk shop and security and IT. :)

    Security Engineer/Analyst/Geek, Red & Blue Teams
    OSCP, GCFA, GWAPT, CISSP, OSWP, CCNA Cyber Ops, Sec+, Linux+, AWS CCP, CCSK
    2019 goals: GWAPT, Linux+, (possible: SLAE, CCSK, AWS SA-A)
  • revboxrevbox CompTIA: A+, Network+, Security+, Project+, CSA: CCSK 3.0 Little Rock, ARPosts: 90Member ■■■□□□□□□□
    I'm not a charismatic sales type guy by any means. I take medication for anxiety. I hate crowded areas, new environments, etc. Even so, as long as you can carry a conversation and articulate the information you need, you'll be fine. You don't have to impress people or make them like you. You just need to give a vibe that you know what you are talking about. I care about my security guy knowing the applicable laws and standards, not being so cool I want to hang out on the weekend. I'd say if you are somewhere on the autism spectrum, maybe a role that interfaces directly with the client isn't for you. However, every person I've ever encountered in 15 years that fell somewhere on the autistic or Asperger scale was a HELL of a developer. Company put them in a quiet corner and let them code. Just put the charismatic engineer in front of the client to get the specifications down and then relay that to your introverted development team. If you want to be an SDM, Consultant, IT Project Manager, IT Supervisor, etc. then yes your "people skills" are a crucial part of your job. However, if you just want to be a role-player and you do your job well, there will be a place for you.
  • Danielm7Danielm7 Posts: 2,246Member ■■■■■■■□□□
    I've definitely gotten jobs before where the interviewer told me that he passed on others due to them being socially awkward. As the others said, people like to work with people they feel comfortable with, you might be amazing at tech but if people avoid you then it will never work out well.
  • TeKniquesTeKniques OSCE, OSCP, CISSP, CISA, SSCP, MCSE (03), Security+, Network+, A+, Project+ Posts: 1,262Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    Simply put, soft skills are just as important as technical skills for any role in IT these days. If I were you, I would do some inner searching on why people make you mad and why you seem to be angry all the time. Another thing is, it is extremely rare that you would start out in IT in an info sec role as most people start out in a support role. Even if you did start out in info sec, it would most likely be a junior role in a SOC which sorry to say would be interacting with customers, co-workers and your supervisor on a regular basis.
  • InditiumInditium Posts: 18Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    TeKniques wrote: »
    Simply put, soft skills are just as important as technical skills for any role in IT these days. If I were you, I would do some inner searching on why people make you mad and why you seem to be angry all the time. Another thing is, it is extremely rare that you would start out in IT in an info sec role as most people start out in a support role. Even if you did start out in info sec, it would most likely be a junior role in a SOC which sorry to say would be interacting with customers, co-workers and your supervisor on a regular basis.

    It's not that people piss me off. I have social phobia and so I get anxious in social situations and that's what makes me mad when people try to be humorous with me, especially when I'm expected to talk a bunch or make a public speech or something. I can definitely talk well enough to demonstrate my knowledge and such, but it's pretty obvious that when you talk to me that there's something off about me--I'm more isolated, quiet, and I tend to talk briefly/answer shortly. I don't really approach people unless I have a reason to. And I may obviously be anxious and sweat when I'm put on the spot; e.g., when I'd have to make a public speech.
  • PC509PC509 CISSP, CEH, CCNA: Security/CyberOps, Sec+, CHFI, A+, Proj+, Server+, MCITP Win7, Vista, MCP Server 2 Oregon, USPosts: 770Member ■■■■■□□□□□
    Yes, they are important. You're most likely going to be part of a team, which is going to require some interaction. I don't talk a lot, but I am friendly and enjoy talking about what I know. I give solid feedback. But, I'm not going to just strike up a conversation about my plans for the weekend.

    But, I have been getting out of my comfort zone at times, and I really enjoy it. It's more of acting than it is being myself. I like to teach and have no problem being in front of the room talking. As long as I am knowledgeable in the subject, I'm great.

    If you can talk about your work and on-topic stuff, you'll be fine. Most places are cool with that. You don't have to stand at the watercooler talking for 5 hours of the day instead of working like that ******* Carl in finance... (joking!).
  • NavyMooseCCNANavyMooseCCNA CCNA R&S, ITIL, Security+ ZZ9ZZAPosts: 543Member ■■■■□□□□□□
    Inditium wrote: »
    It's not that people piss me off. I have social phobia and so I get anxious in social situations and that's what makes me mad when people try to be humorous with me, especially when I'm expected to talk a bunch or make a public speech or something. I can definitely talk well enough to demonstrate my knowledge and such, but it's pretty obvious that when you talk to me that there's something off about me--I'm more isolated, quiet, and I tend to talk briefly/answer shortly. I don't really approach people unless I have a reason to. And I may obviously be anxious and sweat when I'm put on the spot; e.g., when I'd have to make a public speech.

    I understand where you're coming from. I'm on the Asperger's Spectrum and take anxiety medication. I am definitely socially awkward and miss social cues. I've had to learn how to do small talk and banter and sometimes it isn't easy. Many times, I want to hide and just read under my desk, but I suck it up and get the job done.

    Toastmaster's might be good for some people; it wasn't a good fit for me. I'm fairly knowledgeable in several areas and I'm a certified instructor in them. What helps me is these are interests which I am passionate about and love talking about. This is how I learned how to do public speaking.

    Good luck!!

    'My dear you are ugly, but tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be ugly' Winston Churchil

  • JoJoCal19JoJoCal19 California Kid Posts: 2,780Mod Mod
    In my experience, regardless of how awesome and how well received your experience, certs and education are, jobs can be gained or lost based on personality and soft skills.
    Have: CISSP, CISM, CISA, CRISC, eJPT, GCIA, GSEC, CCSP, CCSK, AWS CSAA, AWS CCP, CEHv8, CHFIv8, ITIL-F, MS Cyber Security - USF, BSBA - UF, MSISA - WGU
    Currently Working On: Python, OSCP Prep
    Next Up:​ OSCP
    Studying:​ Code Academy (Python), Bash Scripting, Virtual Hacking Lab Coursework
  • brewboybrewboy Posts: 66Member ■■□□□□□□□□
    "Trust me, there's no question that makes more upset than "what are you doing this weekend" or "how was your weekend". None of your business!"

    "how was your weekend" get you upset? Jeeze
  • gespensterngespenstern Posts: 1,243Member ■■■■■■■□□□
    TeKniques wrote: »
    If I were you, I would do some inner searching on why people make you mad and why you seem to be angry all the time.

    It's not always that simple. Over the years I, for example, learned to do pretty much anything in this regard, like selling stuff, convincing people, making stupid jokes, objecting and proving my point, public speaking and even had a side gig as an instructor. So it looked like I overcame it until I've found that my blood pressure consistently goes up if I have to go to crowded areas including work, while when I stay at home it stays normal. There are other changes as well that I cannot control and they aren't beneficial.
  • cyberguyprcyberguypr Senior Member Posts: 6,785Mod Mod
    Yes it gets me very upset. I'm not into listening to the same pointless crap over and over.
  • winona_ryderwinona_ryder Posts: 42Member ■□□□□□□□□□
    No one is an island. You'll need to talk to a range of people to understand their requirements in order to do your job. You won't know it all at any stage of your career, and will be constantly learning from others.
    Some of those people will despise email or other written communication just as much as you don't like socialising and being face to face.

    In short, you'll have to compromise.
  • DatabaseHeadDatabaseHead CSM, ITIL x3, Teradata Assc, MS SQL Server, Project +, Server +, A+, N+, MS Project, CAPM, RMP Posts: 2,472Member ■■■■■■■■■□
    I would consider myself very good at communicating with people so for me it's everything. I've bonused out at over 20% back to back years. A big part of that was due to my relationship building skills, no question about it. In fact one of the senior directors even stated it.

    Don't get me wrong you have to have technical skills but...... If you have wonderful people skills and you fail technically the business will find another role for you. If you are terrible in that area and you don't deliver technically the company could toss you aside very easily. (Seen it personally)

    ***Follow up to my last statement

    Several years ago there was a gal on the desk and for the life of her she just didn't get it. For whatever reason she struggled in that area but she was one of the most positive people I have ever met. Eventually they promoted her out of that role to project manager. Last time I checked on LinkedIn she is a senior IT portfolio manager and in my area the median salary ~143,000 a year.

    It makes a difference.
  • OctalDumpOctalDump Posts: 1,722Member
    Socialphobia and anxiety are disabilities, but are both treatable. Treatment is worth getting, not just for work, but to improve your life generally.

    Having said that, it is true that people who are good at more things have more opportunities. The person with good verbal communication and good technical skills is going to have more opportunities than the person who has just one of those. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and most of us find a niche somewhere that fits those fairly comfortably.

    There are jobs available that don't need you to talk much to other people, or where you don't need exceptional skills in that area. Even within pentesting, there are those that will spend more time talking to people and people who will spend less time talking to people. Typically, though, you do work in teams and will have to talk to at least the people you work with. And typically, you also need to communicate a lot in writing - reports, finding, analyses etc.

    There's a thing called the "Deviance competence hypothesis". Basically the idea is if you are perceived as competent, people will tolerate more deviance from social norms. Or to put that another way, you need to have really good technical skills to get away with having poor social skills.

    I do think that you should explore treatment options. If you do have these problems to a significant level, then treatment could make as big a difference to your life as getting a degree.
    2017 Goals - Something Cisco, Something Linux, Agile PM
  • tmtextmtex Posts: 326Member
    As other have said, yes very important.
  • dhay13dhay13 Posts: 580Member ■■■□□□□□□□
    My former IT Manager had a similar situation. He was not comfortable talking to people and many thought he was always up to something because they thought he was very secretive. I'm not so sure it was him being 'sneaky' or that he was so uncomfortable around others. When you walked past him in the hallway he would look down and away so as to not make eye contact with you. He started out in the shop and the owners worked on trust so if they trusted you they would move you into an office position and you could 'figure it out' from there. He was clueless when it came to IT and refused any help or guidance from me. He told me to never let them bring a consultant in because he was afraid of all the things we were doing wrong that he refused advice on. We had 1 DC when I started and I questioned it and he thought you couldn't have more than one on a network but refused to let me install a 2nd one even after I showed him documentation because he didn't want management to know it had been wrong. I ended up building and deploying a 2nd one anyway and told him afterwards but his unwillingness to communicate may end up costing him his job at some point and he would never be able to get another job in IT.

    And it isn't just IT so I don't think changing your major will help. Not sure there are many fields that don't require communicating well with others. Maybe an author or something but even that would require communicating with publishers, etc.
  • NetworkingStudentNetworkingStudent Posts: 1,355Member ■■■■■■■■□□
    I’m a introvert / extrovert, and it honestly depends on the day, that determines which side is more dominant.

    I had trouble on the phone, but I got a lot better over time.

    Here’s how I got better:
    1) Forced myself to go to Network Events—I would introduce myself to total strangers.
    2) I watched Don’s videos almost everyday.
    a. https://www.doncrawley.com/the-compassionate-geek/
    Don is the guru when it comes to IT customer service.
    IT Customer Service

    b. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL58D8B118DED1097A


    Lisa B Marshall Has A great Book Called “Smart Talk” I placed a link below that has her talking about her book on you tube:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCybA9FPBFY

    Her book teaches you how to communicate with others. I highly recommend her book.

    These videos are good to for a INFO sec point of view:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZzY2RMoE_Q

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_ivHDkSF2A

    Almost every job requires some form of human interaction.

    I hope the links help!!
    When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened."

    --Alexander Graham Bell,
    American inventor
  • NetworkingStudentNetworkingStudent Posts: 1,355Member ■■■■■■■■□□
    I found this:
    http://www.tomsitpro.com/articles/confessions-it-pro-communication,1-3429.html#fragment-2

    Q: What is the most valuable skill an IT professional should have?

    "Communication," Angela quickly answers. Both in school and during their career, she says, people in IT should make sure they can practice the expected tasks in communicating — talking to a group, giving a presentation – but also the less obvious ones, like active listening and empathy.

    One of the most challenging things for Angela is communicating when she doesn't know something. Being able to admit you're "not Wikipedia", as she puts it, is tough. "Sometimes the answer is 'This is hard. I don't want to lie to you, I need some time to figure this out'. That's an integral part of IT, being able to give people news that they don't want to hear."
    When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened."

    --Alexander Graham Bell,
    American inventor
  • OctalDumpOctalDump Posts: 1,722Member
    Q: What is the most valuable skill an IT professional should have?

    "Communication," Angela quickly answers.

    The problem with this is that that people who ask this will tend to get answers from people who are better communicators, gregarious people who network and like to talk about their role, and do so intelligibly. Those people are more likely to place emphasis on communication, since their world is more coloured by it. The guy working from home reversing code for 8 hours a day, with a 15 minute phone call twice a week and monthly meeting in the office to discuss findings isn't a likely candidate to be asked this question, and would almost certainly have a different answer.

    The generic advice, for the generic person for the generic IT job, is that "yes, communication matters". But none of us are generic people who work in the generic job, we all work in specific jobs where communication matters to a greater or lesser extent and we all have our own specific strengths and weaknesses. Most of us find our own level, and end up in roles that we are comfortable in, where our specific skills match, more or less, the specific needs of the specific role.

    It's also true that the more things you are good at, and the better you are at them, the more opportunities you will have but you will still end up working one (or there abouts) job at a time which will only require a limited set of skills at certain minimum of competence.

    So don't stress too much to be all things to all people. Figure out what your strengths are, and pursue jobs that fit.

    However, my advice would be to anyone who feels that they might have socialphobia or anxiety or other pathologies is to get a medical opinion and see if treatment is appropriate. These things are genuine disabilities, and usually treatable, too.
    2017 Goals - Something Cisco, Something Linux, Agile PM
Sign In or Register to comment.