Supplementing the technical skills

The increased productivity in organisations over the past two decades has been largely fuelled by human innovation, streamlined processes and the effectively using technology to increase consistency.

These creative enhancements have been led by proactive leaders who could envision the possibilities as well as technical specialists who could put ideas into action. Unfortunately, during this time of significant technological advancement, many technical specialists have become valued only for their technical skills instead of their business perspective and overall contribution.

Today, the mere knowledge of algorithms is not enough. To flourish as a successful professional in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) world, you would need to have the right soft skills. These skills help you present yourself better and articulate your technical and analytic knowledge more successfully. Even the best minds in STEM need soft skills to augment their professional skills.

Here are the five must have skills that STEM students cannot afford to ignore, as these will help your improve your existing skills and add on new ones:

Communication skills

To succeed within the professional ecosystem, one needs to be able to effectively communicate what they are saying crisply. Given the changing business landscape, STEM students need to imbibe the customer facing qualities that the service sector so highly values. If you are a consummate professional, it becomes easy for your company to treat you in the same manner as they would a high-value customer facing asset – especially in companies where the STEM functions are not the focus.

Team work

Due to the nature of work, technical professions are not often cast into the spotlight but yet they are a vital cog of the business machine. However, to be able to climb the ranks in an organisation, individuals need to be able to synergise with their team and the organisation as a whole. One can create a higher visibility by taking on challenges that go beyond their job description.

Presentation skills

As STEM professionals often make presentations, they need to know how to distil their ideas into a short presentations that can effectively convey what their message. Keep in mind that technical jargon should be reserved for people well versed with the field that is being presented. An effective communicator should be able to present complex ideas in a concise manner.

Negotiation skills

There are many cases where being an effective negotiator is incredibly helpful in your professional life. Such as, many professionals do not have a clear understanding of their worth in the organisation and if they do are not able to convey the same and receive the remuneration they desire. Negotiation also has an important role to play in being able to reconcile various modalities of thought about the technical advancement of the organisation.

Leadership skills

Due to the often isolated nature of STEM fields, many professionals have a misconstrued understanding of an effective managerial style. This coupled with the lack of leadership training during college results in STEM students growing into managers who either micro-manage or adopt a completely hands off approach.

Investing more time in varied leadership roles can help you gain a better understanding the purviews and duties of being a manger. While transforming the perception and reality of STEM functions may start from the top with a vision and appropriate structure, the ultimate success comes from STEM professionals who are able to change their behaviour and performance to be a valued business partner in every interaction. In this way, it is truly a bottom-up transformation.

This forward thinking approach must be demonstrated daily by focused STEM professionals who are trained, model desired behaviours and consistently build trusting relationships with business leaders. In time, other leaders’ will view STEM fields in a new way which will usher in an expanding and ongoing opportunity for collaborative, strategic success.

(The author is Chairperson and Managing Director, Dale Carnegie Training India)

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