5 soft skills for computer science careers

Soft skills can make or break a computer science career. Cultivating these critical soft skills will help tech professionals succeed.
Written by Genevieve Carlton, Contributor

What are soft skills? Also known as people skills, soft skills refer to how you work. While technical skills are vital to computer science careers, soft skills play a significant role in the tech industry.

Software developers need strong teamwork abilities. Computer systems analysts must communicate complex ideas in simple terms. And information security analysts need creative approaches to stopping cybersecurity threats. 

Without soft skills in computer science, professionals cannot make their mark on the industry. Read on to discover which soft skills you should cultivate.

Why are people skills important in computer science?

Computer science professionals bring many technical skills to their roles. Their resumes list multiple programming languages, tools, and technologies. But tech professionals also rely on people skills to complete projects and reach organizational goals. 

Software engineers cannot build new applications without collaborating with colleagues and effectively communicating ideas. Similarly, software developers, systems analysts, network architects, and database administrators need to work effectively with the people in their organization.

People skills determine how well professionals work with others and their approaches to problems. Many top tech companies test applicants on their soft skills during the interview process. 

These people skills determine whether applicants will thrive in and advance their computer science careers.

Five people skills for computer scientists

When evaluating job applicants for computer science jobs, hiring managers look for technical and people skills. These are the most vital soft skills in computer science. 

1. Collaboration

All careers in computer science require collaboration. 

Software developers must act as a team and coordinate with programmers and testers. To build accessible websites, web developers work with designers, copywriters, and clients.

The ability to contribute to a team and collaborate with colleagues on technical and non-technical issues helps tech professionals advance. Many supervisory roles, for example, require a demonstrated record of collaboration.

Computer science professionals can cultivate this skill during group projects, through an internship, and by engaging in team-building activities at work. Partnering with a mentor can also help you strengthen your collaboration skills.

2. Communication

Tech professionals must communicate clearly with their coworkers, including those in non-technical roles. 

For example, information security analysts and computer systems analysts often work closely with non-technical professionals to recommend improvements. Describing complex ideas in simple terms or advocating for a particular strategy requires communication expertise.

 Professionals also rely on communication to reach or modify goals during projects. Teamwork and communication work hand-in-hand. 

Building strong communication skills requires time and effort. Professionals and those earning computer science degrees can improve their listening skills, practice public speaking and presentations, and pay attention to verbal and written communication. 

3. Independence

Independence and collaboration might seem like opposites, but tech careers require both. After collaborating with a team, professionals need self-motivation and independence to complete their tasks. Being able to work independently also makes professionals better team members. 

Software developers might debug new programs independently. Information security analysts might research potential security threats because of their self-motivation. 

Tech professionals benefit from showing initiative and completing tasks independently.

Many early-career professionals struggle with independence. They instead over-rely on their supervisor for guidance. As professionals gain experience and confidence, they better understand when to take the initiative or reach out to mentors or supervisors. 

4. Creativity

From devising new ways to solve problems to creating innovative applications, creativity ranks high among soft skills in computer science. Tech professionals draw on their creative side to develop new tools, create new programming languages, and discover new applications for current technologies.

Creativity might seem challenging to cultivate, but these steps can help. Set aside time for brainstorming sessions or to play around with technology. Connecting with coworkers in different departments or specialties can also spark creativity. Seek out mentors who encourage creative thinking and innovation in the workplace.

5. Curiosity

Tech professionals constantly add to their technical skills and face novel challenges. Curiosity serves professionals well, particularly when paired with research skills. 

Curious professionals seek new information and follow hunches to see where they lead. An openness to learning and a thirst for knowledge helps professionals expand their technical abilities and add to their soft skills. Curiosity also encourages innovation.

Fostering curiosity can be as simple as asking questions. Workplaces that prioritize inquisitiveness and encourage employees to set their own learning goals also strengthen curiosity. 

In conclusion

Careers in tech require more than programming skills or knowledge of industry technologies. Professionals also need people skills to thrive in tech. Fortunately, tech professionals can cultivate soft skills throughout their careers. 

Tech professionals should foster people skills in themselves and through educational programs and learning and development initiatives at work.

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