IT’s Most Wanted: 11 Traits of Indispensable IT Professionals

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The skills that make some IT professionals invaluable can be hard to pin down, but tech leaders say high performers on their teams share similar traits that are useful to identify when hiring—and to keep teams running smoothly.

These indispensable technologists are always problem solvers, and they consistently bring enthusiasm to their work while remaining humble and continuing to keep the tools in their toolkit sharp.

Regardless of how they moved up the career ladder, they are always focused on the end result: satisfying the needs of the user, whether it’s a colleague or an external customer.

If you’re looking to join their ranks—or are looking for signs of a hire you can count on—here’s where to start.

Hot

Even inspired managers can achieve this with only a technical professional on call, says Kelly Fleming, CIO of Cirrus Nexus.

“When I’m hiring, I’m often faced with several suitable candidates who have the skills to do the job, but I only hire those who really care about what they’re working on,” says Fleming. “Only IT professionals who are truly engaged and passionate about their work continue to show the initiative needed to stand out.”

Logan Spears, director of technology at Plainsight AI, says the interview process can tell if a candidate will bring energy to the job.

“When people feel like they can take that opportunity or leave it, they’re going to need more direct, involved management to just move the needle,” Spears says. “You need something that draws you to the keyboard, not scares you or forces you to log in. You should be attracted to your passion for work.”

“Without passion, an IT professional is just another cog in the machine,” says Jim Durham, CIO of Solar Panels Network US. “But at the same time, they can become really indispensable.”

It starts with the goal (the user) in mind.

Shadi Rostami, senior executive vice president of development at Amplitude, says it’s critical to have IT professionals on staff who understand the challenges of the person who will end up using the technology, rather than just focusing on designing a sleek product.

“They make hundreds of micro-decisions every day, and each one is more likely to be the right one if they know the outcome they’re trying to achieve,” says Rostami. “Top tech talent who can learn the context of a problem can easily create 10x the impact” of other technologists.

Sean Heritage, director of business operations at Horizon3, especially appreciates tech professionals who are committed to actively serving others.

“It’s not about answering tickets, it’s about solving problems, providing unique value and realizing that no task is too big or too small.”

Especially with developers, the required technology is much easier to learn than the skills to understand customer needs, says Connor Winders, executive vice president of product and development at Administrate.

“Being obsessed with users is going to open up a lot more possibilities in how we do and evaluate our work,” says Winders. “And we should not stop there. Great software doesn’t stop at shipping code, and great engineers understand that it’s often just the beginning.”

Curious

Tech professionals who are eager to learn and have the energy to keep working are highlighted by Chase.com CIO Gil House. And many companies today, he says, will work with up-and-coming tech talent to fill skills gaps.

“You don’t have to have a four-year degree in computer science,” says House. “There has been a marked shift towards using the latest technologies, such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and cloud computing, to create tools that best meet customer demand. Candidates who come with experience and skills in the field are a plus, but we also offer training opportunities for those who don’t.”

Rostami with Amplitude also values ​​technical talent from different walks of life whose passion and diverse experience can be an asset to the business.

“Many of our team members come from the competition, and we intentionally seek them out because it’s not about creating the perfect feature, it’s about outdoing everyone else,” says Rostami.

Mahesh Ramichetty, vice president of special projects at OvalEdge, is looking for inquisitive people who aren’t afraid to ask for help. “You have to feel comfortable saying, ‘I don’t know; please show me”. This is very important because it shows a willingness to make sure the job is done right and an interest in learning something new,” says Ramichetti.

An excellent collaborator

Successful technical professionals know how to combine technical skills with the ability to communicate, collaborate and lead, says Donna Kettler, Wiley’s senior vice president of global software engineering.

“Effective communication and collaboration are critical,” says Kettler. “Technology doesn’t exist in a vacuum—it’s a team effort—and technology touches every single part of the business. You need to know how to manage stakeholders – often several with competing goals. You must also be able to explain your solution, discuss dependencies with other teams, and present complex problems in a non-technical way.”

Jim Flanagan, chief information technology officer at Hanscom Federal Credit Union, says empathy is the skill he needs most from fellow techies because it helps him solve problems better.

“Of course, we want the resume to reflect relevant technical ability, but I’m looking for someone who will be empathetic,” says Flanagan. “IT service people are often not as technical as we are, and being empathetic removes embarrassment or defensiveness, leading to better dialogue and faster resolution. Compassionate technical professionals create a culture of comfort where people feel supported and seek the help they need to achieve great things.”

Featured by Avnet CIO Max Chan, IT professionals communicate effectively with the rest of the business to drive positive change.

“They need the ability to tell a good story,” says Chen. “As a good IT professional, you want to be able to articulate why the technology is important and how it can help the business achieve its goals, and more often than not, you’ll need to explain—or even negotiate—why it’s better than the old way of doing things business. IT professionals need to clearly understand and articulate what business problems they solve or what business value they bring to the table.”

A good listener

In addition to the most-cited communication skills, Eric Gaston, vice president of global executive engagement for global sales at Tanium, prizes technical colleagues who are smart but humble enough to hear others.

“IT professionals need to listen and understand first, then focus only on what needs to be solved and not complicate the situation,” Gaston says. “People who listen first usually find simple ways to solve problems in a way that is easy to understand. The attitude I’ve seen from many very cocky technology engineers that “our customers just don’t understand that this is the best technology in the world” no longer holds true. Customers these days are too tech savvy and they know what business features they like and don’t like and what the end user experience should be.”

Inclusive

Members of an inclusive team are more likely to work well with others in the organization and bridge the divide, says Mike Anderson, chief digital and information officer at Netskope.

“I want someone who appreciates the input of others,” Anderson says. “Just like in sports, the best players make the people around them better. A technical staff member excels by emphasizing and recognizing the contributions of others, being willing to help others achieve their goals, challenging others to think differently, and making sure their actions match their words.”

Responsive

CIO of Cirrus Nexus Fleming says what sets great IT professionals apart is what they do next after the job is done.

“When the work involves development, good IT professionals ensure that their work continues to function well by helping colleagues understand it and find new ways to improve it,” says Fleming. “When the work is about support, it’s important to keep in touch with affected parties even after their issues have been resolved, not only to limit recurrence, but also to learn about issues and help resolve issues that affected parties may have missed. Whether receiving or giving feedback, good IT professionals ensure that feedback has been heard.”

Set up for automation

Fleming says a good technologist will solve a problem — then automate it so it doesn’t have to be solved manually again later.

“Most support or development tasks can be done in one of two ways: in a way that simply solves the problem—or in a way that fixes the cause, preventing similar problems from occurring in the future,” says Fleming. “A good IT professional will never need to do the same job multiple times. They know that the limited extra time spent on automation today will save much more time in the future.”

Adaptive

IT professionals who can understand rapidly changing technology needs amid shifting priorities are valuable assets to Adam Glaser, Appian’s senior vice president of engineering.

“The best tech talent is comfortable innovating in new areas, experimenting with new approaches, and helping teams achieve new levels of impact,” says Glaser. “It’s no longer an IQ test, puzzles or textbook knowledge that helps separate the good from the great. The essence of talent hiring is valuing a candidate’s experience and how it has shaped and prepared them for future challenges and team culture.”

Takes ownership

IT professionals who take an entrepreneurial approach to the projects they work on are invaluable to Nathan Sutter, VP of Development at CoderPad.

“One of the biggest challenges for a tech leader in a growing organization is finding the people you rely on to be multipliers on the team,” says Sutter. “People with a high degree of ownership can be trusted with almost anything you give them, as long as the goals are clear and they are good at growing into higher roles, which is absolutely necessary at the scale of the team and the company.”

Self-awareness

The best techies can admit mistakes and learn from them, says Alexander De Ridder, co-founder and CTO of INK.

“A manager will not be upset with an IT employee who is blocked from solving a problem,” says De Ridder. “However, a manager will be frustrated by an employee who persistently seeks a failed solution and won’t admit they need help. A strong team and an inspiring leader will unlock the employee and work together as a team to find a solution to a particularly difficult problem. An invaluable team player knows when to ask for help and collaborate rather than going it alone.”

Self-awareness and a desire to learn new things is a powerful combination, he said.

“There is no such thing as an ideal IT employee – someone who knows everything. But someone who knows what key information they need to learn to improve and is willing to do so is a solid IT person any company would want on their team,” says De Ridder.

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