I’ve been interviewing recently, and I was surprised at how many questions I got around my hard skills - SQL, data analysis, code, etc.
While all of this is important - I realize we do work in software - I find that the biggest successes I’ve had in my career revolve around my soft skills.
What exactly are soft skills and why are they important?
Here are 4 soft skills that can help you be successful. Highlight these in your next interview.
1 - The ability to connect people
Working on enterprise software, I often have issues that require 3 different dev teams to come together to solve a problem. This involves convincing these (often geographically) disparate teams to come together when it isn’t their primary job function to do so. Often, it also isn’t convenient for these disparate teams to be on a call together.
A good product manager knows the importance of building relationships with the appropriate teams, and can succinctly explain why collaborating to solve problems is important for the success of the product.
2 - The ability to diffuse a hostile situation
We’ve all been there - the meeting gone terribly wrong in which all different parties are shouting at each other playing the blame-game for a massive production problem or a missed deadline.
Being awesome at data analysis isn’t going to help you here. Product managers are the glue that hold teams together, so you must be skilled in diffusing hostile situations, and redirecting the conversation towards a finding a solution.
3 - The ability to rally a team
Cohesive teams build awesome products. (If this sounds familiar, I’ve written about this before.)
A product manager is the glue that binds all the different functions of a team. If you can’t rally the team behind your vision, you won’t be effective. Get the team focused on your North Star, and create excitement around what they’re building.
4 - Empathy Empathy Empathy
Empathy is so important, I wrote an entire post on ways to use it as a product manager.
When people on your team are struggling - for any reason (personal issues, an issue with a coworker, unclear feedback from a boss) - their work will suffer. When their work suffers, your product suffers.
People on your team - and really, humans in general - need to feel their problems are understood. You don’t necessarily need to fix their problems - just understand them. I know this sounds a little kumbaya for a work situation, but it’s basic human psychology. Expressing empathy to those on your team will help all of the individuals perform better - and thus build a better product.