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The Important Role of Effective Skills

This is the second in a multi-part series on the key skills needed for success in enterprise computing. This brief series is based on information that I gathered and analyzed from job postings from companies looking to hire programmers, programmer/analysts and developers for jobs in mainframe computing. Last week, I wrote about a collection of needed skills that I labeled as domain-specific skills like COBOL, CICS and SQL. This week, I discuss a group called effectiveness skills.

What Are Effectiveness Skills?

Almost every job posting that I reviewed mentions that the candidate needs strong verbal and written communication skills. What does strong verbal communication mean? It means that you handle yourself well in meetings, report status and discuss important issues with insight resulting from analysis.
What about written communications? There’s an expectation that your written work will be clear and well organized and sufficiently detailed for the audience and intent. Some employers also list the ability to teach and instruct coworkers, facilitate meetings to reach consensus, and coordinate onshore and offshore teams as desired skills. These skills go beyond communication into program organization and management.
Skills like these are developed through practice, and can be learned at a university or through internships before finding full-time employment. After a number of years of full-time employment, these skills are usually polished and more fully developed. For some people, these skills just grow and improve organically whereas others have to really work at it. It’s useful to do a self-evaluation and see if you need work in a specific area and seek the learning opportunities to improve. It’s best not to leave skill development to chance.  

What Else in Addition to Communications?

Effectiveness in IT involves more that communications. The candidate needs IT thinking skills so they can create system designs, analyze system requirements or business requirements, and evaluate design specifications. Some employers are specific requiring the ability to develop block diagrams, logic flow charts and coding structures. It’s either stated or implied that candidates will develop high-level design documents according to company architecture standards. They expect you to follow the company standards. Also mentioned is the need to document procedures used throughout the program so it can run as part of a batch and online system.
Beyond communication and IT thinking, the candidate needs the ability to plan work, pace their output, multitask and lead when required. Programmers are expected to have a role in detailed planning and estimating, along with the ability to identify risks and recommend mitigations. The list of employer expectations also includes self-motivated, initiative, ability to work alone and within a team, and the ability to multitask. Flexibility and adaptability are also called out. During an interview, expect employers to have a checklist that they use to ask questions. After the interview, they may even score you, low to high, on their sense of your flexibility, initiative, etc.

Next Post

Next week I’ll complete the series with a focus on the third category: education, certification and experience.