May 31 2012   9:22PM GMT

The talent to fill soft skills gap may be closer than you think

Karen Goulart Karen Goulart Profile: Karen Goulart


Did you know there may be unicorns in your IT organization? Let me explain.

Earlier this week, I wrote a piece about how IT leaders are looking to fill soft skills gaps. It was based on a combination of conversations with CIOs and other IT execs and a recent study issued by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). The soft skills in absentia included things like innovative thinking, analytical skills, teamwork and project management abilities.

The story generated more responses from readers than I anticipated, and interestingly they seemed to share a general theme: filling that soft skills gap shouldn’t be that difficult. As one reader, Tony S., colorfully put it, in response to Modell’s COO Dan Sheehan’s search for good project managers, “You make it sound like Dan Sheehan is looking for the mythical unicorn.” Tony S’s contention? These skill sets are out there, but those who possess them are being weeded out of hiring processes because they tend to be older workers. The wisdom of experience is being eschewed for next-gen talents.

An anonymous reader, who self-identified as a software engineer, made a similar argument. “What’s interesting to me, in my experience, is that it took many years AFTER being a SW engineer to develop the rest of the skills in the article. Now with all the rest of the skills well in hand, I’d be pretty stretch[ed] to write code.”

There was also Tony B., a program manager consultant with 20 years of experience, who suggested the unicorns may be hiding in plain sight. His point: the talent is often there in the IT organization but it’s rarely cultivated. He maintains that the majority of executives, despite their best intentions on filling soft skills gaps, give little more than lip service to such goals because of the corporate environment in which they work. “The constraints are that they are measured in a way — short term cost-saving delivery targets in economically constrained markets — which is in conflict with their positive intentions on soft skills.” IT executives have the ability to unlock potential but lack the support to do so. Just get it done trumps innovation, analytical skills, teamwork, etc. every time.

I’d like to know more about your experiences. Are you part of an IT organization in which you yearn to show off your soft skills, but no one’s asking? Are you an IT leader who wants to champion the potential of your team members but are shackled by short-term pressures?

Or maybe you’re like outsourcing casualty Tony G. (yes, another Tony and my most avid reader) — a 40-year IT vet with a CV full of project management success stories who feels like those four decades of experience may now be working against him. After he read the piece, he asked somewhat jokingly, but with a wisp of hope, “Do you think that Dan Sheehan guy is taking resumes?”

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