The Power of Soft Skills for Canberra ICT Careers

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A Case Study

Last year I wrote a blog that listed a number of important soft skills that, if adopted, would most likely increase an ICT professional’s career opportunities and income within the Canberra, Federal Government ICT work environments.

It is easy to dismiss such lists though. I thought an example case study of how soft skills alone have been able to take an outsider to the ICT industry in Canberra and allow them to create an ICT career that is generated over three hundred thousand dollars per year, with zero ICT skills!

This case study begins almost thirty years ago. While I’ve been a successful ICT recruiter for federal government Clients in Canberra for twenty years now, back then I was at university and working a casual job at a famous photo retail shop. This was just as digital cameras where being introduced and digital photography was still an exciting novelty. The company was a globally dominant name that had been in existence for over one hundred years. They were a mature company that excelled in training their staff, particularly in customer service techniques. Additionally, we had store-based incentive, competition and target programs had the Store Managers worked up into a cult like frenzy of customer focused interactions.

It was a great job for a young person. I became excellent at liaising with customers and making them feel special. I was very lucky to have a boss, my Store Manager, that cared for my happiness and put significant time and effort into making our store a great place to work. My boss had a university Science degree, but she also had three children immediately after graduating and retail work was all she could get when starting her career in her late twenties following Australia’s last recession in the early 1990’s. I knew she could do much, much more.

Quite a few years later I found myself working as an ICT recruiter in Canberra. A global ICT consulting company were asking me to help them find someone with outstanding people skills to work in a junior support client engagement role. I immediately thought of my old boss, she had the best people skills I had ever encountered. The problem was she didn’t know anything about technology! Her technology skills were such that she didn’t even know how to use Word effectively enough to write a modern resume. It cannot be understated how deficient she was in her technology understanding.

The role only required outstanding people skills as my client, a global ICT consulting company, had significant technology expertise throughout their organization. My old retail store boss won the position and started work in her first ever office-based position (let alone fist ICT industry role) in her late thirties. She was initially terrified and totally lost at sea. However, once she found her sea legs, she blew the roof off of my Client’s expectations. From humble beginnings in the role of Relationship Manager, tidying up the loose ends of people more senior than her in the Canberra office, to, quite quickly, reporting directly to the Global Head of Sales and hitting consulting revenue targets of $2.5 million annually.

After a few years she accepted a Senior Account Executive position for a competitor and was quickly promoted to Public Sector Team Leader hitting revenue targets of $5 million a year.

Less than ten years after her transition from retail Store Manager to Junior Relationship Manager in an ICT consulting company, she rose to Consulting Sales Manager (ACT & NSW) for a well-known global ICT systems integrator. I don’t know what her take home pay is, but fair to say it would be well above $250K per year, perhaps even approaching $500K per year.

This is an extreme case study demonstrating the power of soft skills within the Canberra, Federal Government ICT industry. Probably the most extreme I have ever witnessed, but it is an excellent demonstration of the transformative affect strong soft skills can have on a career, even one in an industry that demands such complex skills as the ICT industry does.

For the ICT professional reading this who is thinking, “this isn’t a story about a true ICT career, the person in the case study is not actually a technologist,” I’d respond that this is a case study of a non-technologist using the power of their soft skills to establish a very successful career within the Canberra, federal government ICT industry. I would also suggest that any technologist take careful note of the moral to this case study. Which is, the closer your career moves towards the client, the greater opportunity you have for career growth and increased remuneration.

Soft skills will get you closer to the client. The closer to the client you get the more interesting, challenging and rewarding your career gets.

As a final note, I would suggest that if the subject of my case study had graduated from a Software Engineering Degree rather than a Food Science degree, she would have been one of Australia’s top technology entrepreneurs, by now making many tens of millions of dollars per year.

Exceptional soft skills in combination with deep technology understanding and capability is where golden unicorns are born.