Unicorns Are People, Too: Re-Thinking Soft and Hard Skills

3d65a0bc911de24fde5e58d84b0276af?s=47 Liz
June 26, 2014

Unicorns Are People, Too: Re-Thinking Soft and Hard Skills

As developers, we tend to value hard skills that can be quantified or measured objectively. Job postings search for unicorns, but we are people first and foremost and being human isn't as easy as programming. While the code comes easily, the soft skills that make us human are complicated and difficult to get right. This talk will explore the danger of neglecting so-called "soft" skills, what we stand to lose by overvaluing technical skills, and alternatives to the hard and soft dichotomy.

Presented at Open Source Bridge 2014 in Portland, Oregon

3d65a0bc911de24fde5e58d84b0276af?s=128

Liz

June 26, 2014
Tweet

Transcript

  1. Unicorns ARE PEOPLE TOO. Re-Thinking Soft and Hard Skills Liz

    Abinante • @feministy
  2. SOFT VS. HARD WHAT ARE SOFT AND HARD SKILLS? Cheese

    by Consuelo Elo Graziola, Pillow by Yazmin Alanis, Hard Hat by André Renault, and Mountains by Cris Dobbins from The Noun Project
  3. SOFT VS. HARD HIDDEN MEANINGS Cheese by Consuelo Elo Graziola,

    Pillow by Yazmin Alanis, Hard Hat by André Renault, and Mountains by Cris Dobbins from The Noun Project
  4. SOFT VS. HARD A PROBLEMATIC DICHOTOMY Cheese by Consuelo Elo

    Graziola, Pillow by Yazmin Alanis, Hard Hat by André Renault, and Mountains by Cris Dobbins from The Noun Project
  5. POTENTIAL ALTERNATIVE TERMS WE CAN DO BETTER THAN THIS. Robot

    by William Hollowell and Talking by Ed Gray from The Noun Project
  6. REAL PEOPLE TIPS FOR TEACHERS, INTERVIEWERS, AND MANAGERS

  7. Soft HARD A problematic dichotomy. &

  8. WHAT ARE SOFT SKILLS?

  9. communication friendliness team building influence persuasion conflict resolution

  10. PROJECT, TEAM, AND TASK MANAGEMENT. communication friendliness team building influence

    persuasion conflict resolution
  11. MANY EMPLOYERS ACTIVELY SEEK OUT SOFT SKILLS IN PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYEES,

    MAKING THEM NEAR REQUIREMENTS FOR SUCCESS IN THE WORKFORCE.
  12. BUT IF SOMETHING IS A NEAR REQUIREMENT, WHY ARE WE

    DESCRIBING IT AS “SOFT”?
  13. Soft easy to mold, cut, compress, or fold; not hard

    or firm to the touch. ! having a pleasing quality involving a subtle effect or contrast rather than sharp definition.
  14. mushy dim lenient easy goingcompassionate subdued silky gentle forgiving tolerant

  15. mushy dim lenient easy goingcompassionate subdued silky gentle forgiving tolerant

  16. “SOFT” IMPLIES THAT IT IS LESS IMPORTANT BY USING A

    WORD THAT ALSO MEANS THINGS LIKE “GENTLE”, “DIM”, AND “PLEASING.”
  17. I AM NOT A STUFFED ANIMAL. I AM NOT A

    CHEESE. I AM NOT A FLUFFY PILLOW. ! I AM A PERSON WHO LIKES WORKING WITH OTHER PEOPLE.
  18. WHAT ARE HARD SKILLS?

  19. programming computation physical labor statistical analysis

  20. HARD solid, firm, and resistant to pressure; not easily broken,

    bent, or pierced. ! requiring a great deal of endurance or effort.
  21. resistant solid unyielding arduous grueling strict severe violentaustere reliable rigid

  22. resistant solid unyielding arduous grueling strict severe violentaustere reliable rigid

    NOPE. No by Naomi Atkinson from The Noun Project
  23. THESE SYNONYMS SOUND MORE LIKE A LIST OF PERSONALITY TRAITS

    FROM A DATING SERVICE THAN A LIST OF JOB REQUIREMENTS.
  24. MY SKILLS ARE NOT VIOLENT, THEY ARE NOT STRICT OR

    SEVERE. IT IS NOT GRUELING TO WRITE CODE. ! IT IS MENTALLY CHALLENGING AND REQUIRES TRAINING AND TOOLS.
  25. WRONG. OUR TOOLS ARE Tools by Jeremy J Bristol from

    The Noun Project THEY DON’T MEAN WHAT WE THINK THEY DO. WE ARE FORCED TO INFER MEANING.
  26. BROKEN. OUR TOOLS ARE Broken Light Bulb by Gregory Sujkowski

    from The Noun Project WE CAN INFER ALL WE WANT, BUT
  27. A PERFECT BOX. THAT DON’T FIT INTO WE STRUGGLE WITH

    SKILLS
  28. AND SUBJECTIVE, CONSTRUCTIVE ANALYSIS. THEY REQUIRE TECHNICAL KNOW-HOW CODE REVIEWS

    ARE NEBULOUS. A GOOD CODE REVIEW TAKES SOFT AND HARD SKILLS.
  29. HAPPEN A LOT. PROBLEMS COMMUNICATION

  30. TOOLS. WE NEED TO MAKE NEW

  31. Potential ALTERNATIVES We can do better than this, folks.

  32. WHAT ARE WE ACTUALLY TRYING TO DESCRIBE?

  33. Soft INTERPERSONAL SKILLS PERSONALITY TRAITS TASK- AND MANAGEMENT-RELATED SKILLS CUSTOMER-FACING

    SKILLS
  34. interpersonal human subjective psychological personal rational cognitive social life-learned

  35. HARD CERTIFIED, TESTABLE, OR MEASURABLE KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS RELATED TO

    USING THAT KNOWLEDGE
  36. quantifiable technical professional academic specialized computational robot learned mechanical book-learned

  37. PAIRED ALTERNATIVES

  38. QUANTIFIABLE Interpersonal Calculator by Luboš Volkov from The Noun Project

    Emphasizes that skills are measurable or immeasurable.
  39. TECHNICAL Psychological Brain by Martha Ormiston from The Noun Project

    Gives value to mental effort required for both skill sets.
  40. BOOK-LEARNED Life-Learned Distinguishes between practice and training.

  41. ROBOT Human Values human interactions and individuality.

  42. MECHANICAL Social Signals that tools are required for both types

    of skills.
  43. Real PEOPLE Adjusting expectations and action steps.

  44. T PS Alert by deadtype from The Noun Project

  45. TEACHERS & MENTORS

  46. TEACH ETHICS MODEL SOCIAL SKILLS

  47. REWARD PROGRESS CORRECT MISSTEPS

  48. INTERVIEWERS & HIRING MANAGERS

  49. ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS ABOUT INTERPERSONAL SKILLS AND THEIR

    EXPECTATIONS FOR THE ROLE.
  50. INFORM THEM OF EXPECTATIONS AND WHY YOU VALUE THESE ABILITIES.

  51. ADJUST EXPECTATIONS BOTH WITHIN THE COMPANY AND ON THEIR TEAM.

  52. MANAGERS & TEAM LEADS

  53. THIS IS A LOT OF WORK. BUT IT’S WORTH IT.

    PROMISE!
  54. COLLABORATIVELY CHANGE JOB DESCRIPTIONS WITH DIRECT REPORTS, UPPER MANAGEMENT, AND

    HR. Chameleon by Radu Luchian from The Noun Project
  55. PROVIDE TRAINING Teacher by Jaclyne Ooi from The Noun Project

    PAIR PROGRAMMING, FEEDBACK, AND CODE REVIEW WORKSHOPS.
  56. MAKE OPPORTUNITIES FOR NEW LEADERS ON SMALL PROJECTS AND FOR

    PAIR PROGRAMMING TO REINFORCE NEWLY LEARNED SKILLS.
  57. GIVE FEEDBACK FREQUENTLY WITH REGULARITY & SPONTANEITY

  58. IT’S EASY TO BE A UNICORN. Unicorn by caba kosmotesto

    from The Noun Project
  59. IT’S HARD TO BE A PERSON. Person by Jennifer Cozzette

    from The Noun Project
  60. Bye! I’M LIZ. I’m a person (not a unicorn) and

    I like friends! Liz Abinante • @feministy • eabinante@gmail.com