Why business acumen + soft skills equals success in enterprise tech

soft skills OpenText
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Many of today’s largest and most visible technology companies Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Google have achieved success and rapid growth through alternative corporate cultures. Mark Zuckerberg even coined the phrase “move fast and break things” to describe Facebook’s internal processes. Computer science engineers and information technology specialists flock to technology companies post-graduation to take part in a culture that fosters innovation and creation. While it’s completely logical to see why someone with this type of educational training would pursue a career in technology, what remains to be more widely discussed is the value of soft skills within the technology sector.

Careers in technology offer unique challenges, imaginative thinking and continuous learning opportunities. Applicants possessing degrees from a variety of disciplines are welcomed by companies in the technology sector to fill a number of roles in different departments from industry marketing to account development. However, new graduates, especially from liberal arts disciplines may shy away from job opportunities in the technology sector, largely because they feel underqualified or lack the required skill set gained from completing programs focused on information technology, computer science or engineering. Despite these common sentiments, the underlying reality remains, enterprise and business-to-business (B2B) software and service companies require the interpersonal and social skills commonly found in non-technology departments, such as communications, sales, marketing and human resources. These departments play a vital role in the overall success of technology companies – mainly the ability to hire talented employees, effectively promote a product and serve as the face of the company to the public.

Diversity of backgrounds leads to better solutions

Creating truly accessible and comprehensive software requires skill and perspective. Small startups with more homogenous teams of developers often focus on building and growing a single solution, because they lack the diverse expertise to understand different use cases. Enterprise software companies in particular are in the business of offering customer “solutions,” and look for creative ways to combine products and services to meet the unique needs of their clientele. Having a highly diverse workforce becomes valuable and even advantageous over other competing companies. Enterprise software companies rely on their sales teams, marketing and communications departments and human resources to drive revenue, increase brand awareness and recruit top talent. The most brilliantly coded software may flounder in obscurity without a talented sales and marketing team behind it to share it with the world.

Professional services: where software meets reality

For those considering a career in technology, professional services organizations are where software meets reality. In the B2B technology industry, professional services teams meet with customers to understand their needs and work with software developers to customize and integrate solutions based on those needs. Success in professional services requires dedicated individuals who can understand the area of concern a client has and develop a solution to alleviate these problems.

Professional services departments within the B2B technology industry also involve interacting with multiple departments not solely focused on the coding and customization of technology. It’s about asking the right questions, having a solid understanding of your team’s capabilities and knowledge of your customer’s business requirements and broader IT environment. Industry expertise, business analysis and the ability to lead cross-functional teams are common skills sought when recruiting talent that will create solutions which fully address business problems.

Building an exceptional career foundation

Working for a B2B enterprise technology firm can provide a host of rewarding and exciting experiences. For example, entry-level roles in account development, sales, customer support or marketing can provide the foundation and expertise necessary for further growth. The skills and experiences acquired in these roles are transferable and invaluable for developing a long-term career in the business world. In particular, the use of soft skills, such as collaboration, critical thinking, communication and time management are readily utilized.

Successful B2B technology companies also pride themselves on recruiting and retaining top talent. These types of companies embrace diversity and offer a career-oriented trajectory, giving employees the chance to grow and evolve as their interests and aspirations develop. As an example, a new employee may begin working as an account development representative. In this role, the representative performs discovery calls and develops account profiles, demonstrating how certain technologies and products can address a customer’s challenges. In time, the account development representative can progress his or her career into sales or even marketing. Excellent customer service skills and the ability to communicate effectively are relevant skills acquired by studying non-traditionally focused technology programs.

The value of creativity in a global workforce

Graduates from liberal arts programs spend ample time developing strong analytical and communications skills. These skills are highly valued, as critical and creative thinkers are required to develop solutions to customer’s unique needs. Enterprise technology companies often have global operations and offer professionals a chance to work and interact with other employees and companies across the globe. They offer a chance to be exposed to a range of world views and opinions all within the same organization.

Suffice to say, enterprise B2B technology careers require strong collaboration skills as much as technological ingenuity. The value of soft skills is highly relevant within the technology sector. Enterprise software companies embrace and engage a diverse workforce, to strengthen their capabilities and draw from different perspectives that contribute to business development, ingenuity and customer satisfaction.

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Lynn Elwood
Lynn Elwood, is Vice President of Managed Services at OpenText. Beginning as a coder, Lynn built a career in enterprise software. At OpenText, she has held variety of roles in product development, product management, product marketing, and professional services. Lynn is keen to encourage the next generation to take advantage of the opportunities in enterprise technology.
Lynn Elwood

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