Soft Skills Beyond the Tech – A Monitoring with Discipline Series
IT operations are evolving to include business and services that move beyond the technology. With change being the constant, how does an IT professional remain relevant?
In this session, Head Geeks™ Kong Yang and Thomas LaRock, joined by Phoummala Schmitt and Stephen Foskett, will cover the top three soft skills that IT professionals need to not only survive, but also thrive, in their careers.
Howdy, folks. Welcome to Soft Skills Beyond the Tech, A Monitoring with Discipline Series at THWACKcamp. My name is Kong Yang. I'm your host, I'm a SolarWinds Head Geek, and it's my great honor to introduce our distinguished panel today. First, we have Phoummala Schmitt, Exchange Goddess on Twitter, and an infrastructure lead for a leading healthcare company. Next, we have Thomas LaRock, my fellow SolarWinds Head Geek. And finally, we have Stephen Foskett, Organizer and Chief for Tech Field Day, and Gestalt IT. Thank you for joining me today, folks. And today, we're going to cover soft skills. So we're going to answer the question, what are soft skills, why do they matter? Challenges with soft skills, and the top three soft skills that will help supercharge your career. And finally, we'll end with best practice tips that you can take and put into practice so that you can charge up, level up those soft skills. So soft skills, very hard to put measures around it. By very definition, they're soft. How would you guys define soft skills? Let's start with Stephen.
Sure. I'd say that a soft skill, by definition, is anything that isn't directly related to the special knowledge and skills for your job. But specifically, I think when people say soft skills, what they mean are the sort of being an employee and working at a company and being a coworker kind of skills. And in my experience, those things are in many cases, more important than the raw tech skills that you have.
Okay, so in that piece, Phoummala, what do you think? Soft skills, because it's hard to measure. It's hard to put down onto paper. There's no certification for soft skills.
That's what you think. No, soft skills, like Stephen said, it's like people skills! It's how you interact with your coworkers, the business units. It's the skills that doesn't require any technical level of expertise. It's how you are as a person, and I think it's more important than technical skills. Because you can learn technical skills. Soft skills, you have to develop them.
Slightly different than the technical skill. Because you can Google some technical question to answer it, but can you Google how to interact with a coworker, or how to deal with certain situations? That's a lot different.
So Tom, you're nodding. Soft skills, my friend.
So, what I found interesting in these answers so far is how we all agree, we can't really define what soft skills are, but we think we know what hard skills are. So, being the mathematician I am, and put things into sets, I'm like, "Well then, let's just define what hard skills are and just say soft skills are pretty much everything else." And what I try to tell people about those hard skills, and like Phoummala said, you can Google for the answer. You may not have the experience to do it, I mean I can Google how to repair a transmission but that doesn't mean I could actually go do it. But hard skills, I try to explain to people, have a cap, right? Your technical experience can only get you so far, because I can always trade you for another mechanic. Especially if you're kind of a pain to deal with in meetings because you don't have the soft skills, right? So those soft skills become those things that kind of hold you back. Hard skills have a cap, soft skills have no cap.
I love how you guys put that. So, I've heard there's no cap to soft skills, it's about dealing with people. It's how you interact, and social grace is a soft skill in that it's a personality trait that allows you to effectively, harmoniously interact with your team members, right? That's still very soft, because it's subjective. It's subjective to how one defines what soft skills are. Because the question becomes, which ones should I emphasize to power up my career? So, what I've done is, I've done some research. Tom, you love the data-driven piece. I know Stephen, you as well, and Phoummala, as infrastructure lead, I mean, data is what drives decisions, right? So from leading job boards out there, companies like Dice.com, Monster.com, Indeed.com, from consulting firm Robert Half Technologies, there's a common set of soft skills that are sought after by employers. And they kind of hint at what you guys have... Well, they kind of enumerate what you guys have already stated in defining soft skills. It's things like communication skills. Teamwork and collaboration, adaptability, what I call the chameleon effect. How flexible are you to situations? Problem solving, critical analysis, conflict resolution, including receiving feedback, and creative thinking. Now that's just a short list of seven that cuts across all of these studies that they've put together. But what are the top three? And going through the data, looking at feedback from not only the job descriptions that were coming through these job boards, but also what C-level tech, like CIO, CTOs were looking for in the people that they were hiring to lead their organizations. Drum roll, please! Top three that we're going to talk about are communication skills, teamwork and collaboration, and the chameleon effect: adaptability, flexibility. So, let's start with the first one: communication skills. Phoummala, you know.
That's critical. I'm sorry I cut you off.
Oh, no. Go for it.
Some good communication.
Great way to pick up on that cue, by the way.
It is very critical for anyone in IT now. We're not the old coders back in the day, sitting in the basement in the dark. We are the business, where we provide a service as IT, and our customers are the business units. So we need to be able to communicate to them, but also communicate to our coworkers, our peers, our bosses. And communication comes in the form of email, verbal, you know, just how you respond to people's questions. Little things like that can make your work surroundings completely different. And I think a lot of people forget that communication is just the basis for everything. If you don't have good communication skills, what have you got then? Because you’ve got to talk to people. You’ve got to know how to write emails.
And I think a lot of tech people forget, too, that they feel like it's all about the results, and you really can't get results if you can't communicate those things. And one of the most valuable skills that I learned as a Systems Administrator was to start proactively communicating what I'm doing with the end-users. And so, when people would come and complain, "Oh, the system's down all the time, the system's down all the time, what are you doing?" One of the best things I did was just post a graph outside my office, showing that the system is not down all the time, that this was an isolated incident, and boom, suddenly my complaints started dropping. I didn't fix anything, because I didn't know how to fix anything, but at least I changed people's perception of the situation.
So you provided visibility into them, and you engaged them in a means. Tom? You wanted to engage. You had that look.
Well, yeah. No, communication skills, there's no question. They're valuable for anybody, at any point. You went through a list of three things, though, but I would actually tell you the fourth one that I think counts for even more but it kind of has a layer in each one of those. And that's empathy.
Oh, I agree.
So if I'd want to communicate not just with you, but I also want to have some sort of empathy and understand, like, if I'm yelling at him that the system's always down, I want to have some empathy and say, "Does he need some help? Is there something that's out of his control that I can help you with?" And that's part communication skills as well. You know, what is it that I can do to help you with your system always being down or the fact that you can't fix anything? Those types of skills and understanding, because that little bit of empathy really helps with your communication with people. Because instead of sending that email that might come across as short, abrupt, or accusatory, it has a slightly different flavor or tone to it. And that can make all the difference in the world.
And how you speak is important, too. I think that's one of those things that you develop over time in the job, is, you know, how do I say things to people? How do I say things in email? And it's not that, I've seen young people who are early on the job. They kind of make these radical swings between, "Hey dudes!" To "To whom it may concern." And eventually, you kind of figure out how you can work in that lane and communicate in a way that doesn't alienate people. Email and verbal, and other ways.
I think with communication, the tools that we have available to communicate has changed so much, too. I mean, we text so much nowadays, and the way you text may come off not quite the way that you wanted it to.
And that's a great point, because with all the advance in technology coming down the way, you have pick your choice of tools. You got social media tools that allows you to cut through all that space and get to your team members, colleagues, and so forth. But at the same time, there's some limitations there. Some come in 140 characters, and sometimes, emojis don't cover the mere fact. We've talked a lot about the written form of communications. Can you guys speak to the nonverbal cues, which is a big part of that? Also, what rolls up into communications is documentation. Something that I know IT pros shudder at the thought of. But good documentation, and also thinking. That prerequisite to communications. Being able to put into thought, and then, like you said, empathize with your constituents. Because really, you're all on one team, you're trying to go for one common goal. Can you guys speak to how our community, our THWACKcampers, can really focus in on honing those skills?
I think another communication skill is listening. Yes, we could be great at communicating, but if we're not listening to what someone is saying, you may not be getting the whole message that they're trying to get across. Sometimes, I mean I've been in meetings where half the people aren't listening to each other and everyone's just talking back and forth. I'm like, "Can we just all sit and have one person talk and listen to what they're actually saying?" I mean, if a user is constantly complaining the system is down, and we know that the system's not down because we're running it, but they keep complaining, then why are they complaining? What's going on? Let's listen to them. Let's hear their story. They could be having other issues that we don't know about. It could be a client issue. It could be something local on their desktop. We just don't know. But if we're not listening to it, we're not hearing their whole story. And oftentimes, I think IT professionals, we forget just to listen.
That's true, because in IT, you have to be right all the time, or it seems that way. It seems that way.
But we're not.
That's, I think, inherent to our personality type is that we want to know the answer, or at least we want to be able to find the answer, and that's why these soft skills are so difficult. Because sometimes there just isn't an answer, and that's not compatible with our brains, you know? There should be a solution to this problem. What is it?
We're trying to fix something, and if we can't fix it, it's just like, "Oh wait, I can't compute."
I think the term is MP complete.
I was going to say, just a reminder that email is probably the worst form of communication that any two humans could have. No offense to the Exchange Goddess.
I actually agree with that, because you can't read tones in emails. You can misinterpret so much.
And of course, and it's the same with all these other forms of communication. Whether you're using Slack, or Lync, or whatever. Sorry, is it still called Lync?
Skype for business now.
You know, each has its own social norms and expectations, but each falls down in terms of actually communicating what you're trying to say.
That's right. It's always a good reminder that email is horrible, and the fewer emails you send, probably the better. If you have the chance to get up and walk over and talk to somebody, it's far better than just sending even a two-sentence email. Now, you have different relationships with people. Like, I could send an email to Kong, and we have a much different relationship than if I sent an email to my boss, Jenne. So that's just the way it's going to be. There are different personality types, there's different background and history for all of the people involved, and I think a lot of times people forget that. And they just sort of send it, and especially if you are trying to find that answer and the answer isn't there yet, it's like, "You know what? You're a roadblock to me solving this thing right now." And the communications get a little more short, and abrupt, and you're like, "You just need to let me focus on this."
So I'm going to segue, because that's a perfect segue into, you've talked about two different team members. One is our executive, and another one is a peer, you and I. It falls into this teamwork collaboration. This piece where you have to trust other folks. But the MO of IT professionals and engineers in general is trust but verify. So it's very hard to, with that and the mindset of always trying to be right, because being IT right tends to equal might within the organization in there. Talk about how one can learn and upscale teamwork and collaboration, because it's integral. Phoummala, you talked about how change is coming down the pipe in there. How does one build that skill set?
Well I think that, you know, back in kindergarten or preschool. Just everybody, just get along. We're all on the same team, you know. We're all trying to get to that same goal. So, if you work with the team, it's not about I, it's about we. How do we all achieve the end result at the end of the day? And sometimes we forget that. Because we all have this competitive nature to fix everything, or to be right, and we forget that we are a team and we should use each other to help each other. Lift each other up with our skills, technical knowledge. I know from my experience, some of the teams I've worked with, it just sometimes, it just really depends on the person. You got one person kind of behind, and thinking it's about me me me, and not we we we. But if we think about ‘we,’ I think that collaboration is a lot better.
And I think that the key to that, really, is trusting people.
You have to trust your team.
And unfortunately, that's not something that you can just jump into. You know, you can't just show up on Day One and say, "Hey, I'm the new guy. You guys should trust me, I got this." Because you have to earn that. You have to build that. And you have to be willing to give that too, and that's the other thing. I see a lot where, as a manager, I look at people that work for me and I don't immediately trust that if I tell them how and why to do something that they're going to actually do it that way because I've seen it not happen before. And that's not your fault, it's someone else's fault, but still, you have to earn that.
And so, you have to earn it, you have to be willing, though, to let people earn it. Because one of the biggest traps, not just in IT but in any job, is to think that it's not worth my time to tell someone how to do something and why they have to do it this way. Because they'll just screw it up, or it'll take me longer to tell them than to actually just do it myself. I mean, that's really a bear trap for all jobs. You have to let people contribute and let people do things, and you have to help them to get there. But on the flip side, when that happens to you and you're being told how to do something, that's a big opportunity for you, but it's also a big responsibility for you because you had better get it right! Because otherwise, you're going to lose that trust, and it's going to be very difficult to get it back.
I was just going to make that same point. Trust, when you're working in that team environment, you try to find examples to make sure you can trust each other, but more importantly, it takes a long time to earn that trust and it can be lost in a moment. You throw a teammate under a bus in one meeting one day, just by accident, and now all of a sudden, you've broken this trust that took maybe years to get to. So you've really got to, I don't want to say, walk on land mines, but it's almost, treat others the way you want to be treated. Have some respect. Think twice before you speak and say, "Hey, maybe I don't have the facts or the data here," and before I say something, it's almost like sending less email. It's like saying less in the meeting. Just say, "You know what? I'm going to have to look into that and come back." And that's a better way of handling it, because you don't want to lose that trust with your teammate at all.
And that actually leads to a key thought: Don't wing it and lie and guess. If you don't know the answer, and it's really hard for technical people to admit this, but if you don't know the answer, say, "I don't know."
I say it all the time.
And don't just try to fill in the space with an answer, because you are going to get caught out.
That is your reputation. Absolutely agree with that. No, I do not know the answer is a fair answer.
I could find it for you.
Exactly, exactly. So we've talked about teamwork and collaboration within an organization. But this panel here, you guys are very active in the community in there. I mean, I look at Stephen, and you have brought to prominence many bloggers who didn't even start out as bloggers, and you've invited them to your Tech Field Days. Gestalt IT participated in that, and they've developed. They've developed into industry influencers, practice leaders, because they were able to add these soft skills and show these soft skills in there. So, I'd love the panel to talk about how communities can empower teamwork and collaboration.
Well, I guess since you called me out, I'll jump in there to start. I think, absolutely. The thing that I've learned is that, you know, if you give people some measure of trust and respect, they will often pay it back in big ways. And this works, you know, obviously it works for Tech Field Day, but it also works in the office. I mean, if you see somebody who is struggling or who is new, or who is kind of on the outside, it usually pays to invest in that person. And sometimes it doesn't, maybe they'll disappoint you. In fact, people tend to disappoint people, but most of the time you'll find something of value there. And so I think that it's worth our while, again, as technical people, it's hard to make this jump, but it's worth our while to invest in people and without the expectation of, "If I do this you're going to do this for me." Just try to invest in people, try to get to know people, and see what they can do, and you will usually be surprised that they'll pay you back in ways that you never expected.
Seems like you wanted to jump in there, Tom.
I mean, I think, going by my own experiences what I realized at some point was my company only had so many opportunities for me to work on, say, leadership skills or communication skills, and things like that. So you had to look outward into different communities to have the opportunity to stay in the front of the room. Things of that nature. And it was really a good way for you to improve those types of skills, because, again, you're only going to get so many chances within your own company, but you can have lots of other chances when you get together as a group and you want to be at an event on the weekends or something like that. When like-minded people get together, that gives you a chance to not only just work on your communication skills, but demonstrate some leadership. Hey, there's a project, let me take the lead on this. We always talk to people, if you're looking to get skills, go donate time to a nonprofit or some local church. But it's the same thing with the community. There's a community, there's 10 to 12 people, they have a need. Hey, I could code that for you on the weekend. Let me go and do that for you. And I think there's a lot of opportunities when you get into that community area.
Yeah, Phoummala. Segueing off of what Tom said, helping out the community, you've done that by sharing your experiences at VMUGs and keynoting that. Talk to our audience about how you got started there, and how you got started with your podcast, and collaborating with folks within the industry who are in disparate regions.
It all comes down to just sharing knowledge. You know, one of the things that I found is from working in IT, a lot of people don't like to share knowledge. I found that, like, if I don't tell you what I'm doing, it's job security. To me, it's the opposite. Share what you know. Share that knowledge that you have. It's only going to help build you and that person. So I use the community as a way of sharing my experiences, my technical knowledge, and what I'm going through. Because you never know. Somebody may be going through the same thing. Actually, I did a keynote last fall, and part of that keynote was sharing the experiences of how I came to the U.S. as an immigrant, a refugee, from a communist country. And after the keynote, I had, like, three people come up and just told me, "Wow, that's a great story." And one of them told me they had a very similar experience as me, going through the jungles of a communist country, and that was, she said it was very nice to hear someone speak about that. And then, another conference, another woman came up to me and was like, wow, this is really nice to see a woman talking about her experiences that is very similar to mine. I'm building this virtualization environment, I don't know what I'm doing, and it's very frightening but I feel challenged and I want to do it, and you're just inspiring me. And that made me feel really good.
Isn't it cool to think that you could be an inspiration to somebody? Because I bet you didn't set out and say, "Oh hey, I'm a big inspiration to people." I mean, you're just doing your work. But yeah, you can be an inspiration to people. And I think this opens the door to another discussion, too, and that's, you know, in many cases we look for people who are like ourselves. It's important to look beyond people who are like ourselves because there's a whole world of experience and a whole world of different people there. And I think that we all have to avoid the trap of just clinging to the friends that we've already made, the people that we already work with, the people that we already know, and try aggressively to reach out to people we don't know, and people who are different from us--because you'll find that they have really amazing things to teach you.
Oh, I completely agree with that.
Absolutely agree with that. Because I think all of us have prospered in our careers because of embracing the community and letting the community embrace us back. Tom mentioned empathy as the overarching thing, and I love that piece. You know, EQ is not factored in as much as it should be, because it's soft, it's about emotions, and IT pros don't
No, we don't do emotion.
But we have emotions.
Right. But we don't speak of them.
But it's okay to. We're all humans, and we make mistakes. We're not robots.
But we work with robots.
But we're still humans.
And because we're human, we have to evolve. We have to be adaptable and flexible. And that happens to be our third soft skill, as mentioned per the research, that folks are looking for. So we know that technology comes from constantly changing. You got cloud, containers, micro-services, all these buzzworthy terms, IoT, block chains, you name it. If it hasn't been made up, somebody's making it up. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and so forth. How does one keep up? How does one keep up and power up that skill of adaptability? Because all these other constructs, the tech constructs are hard skills because you can get certified, they're defined systems, there are standards being put into place. But, adaptability. This being able to change. Stephen, we'll start with you, because you've changed quite a few careers in your career path.
I think that the thing that's helped me is, again, it's one of those reactions to the IT mindset. The IT mindset is kind of a set it and forget it mindset, like, I'm going to automate this, I'm going to do it right, I'm going to get it right, and then it's just going to be on cruise control, right? The problem is, that doesn't work. I used to micromanage systems. I mean, I'm a storage guy, so I would micromanage the setup of LUNs and all that kind of stuff. Eventually, I had to come to the realization that you cannot micromanage systems because they are changing, and they will change. And so, I had to kind of step back from the keyboard and say, "Okay, I'm going to let automation do its thing. I'm going to let the system adapt." And sure, it's not going to be as good as the finely tuned system that I would've created, but it will be something that will work. And that's hard to do. It's hard to say, "Yeah, you know what, it's not going to be perfect. And I'm not going to know 100% about this environment, and I'm not going to make it my ideal environment, but it's going to work." And it's more important sometimes for things to just work. Because things are going to change, and you have to understand that and you have to recognize that. And I think that the best thing you can do is embrace that, and say, "The systems are going to change, my tasks are going to change, the software, the hardware, everything's going to change." Instead of being scared of that and trying to fight back from that, I'm just going to charge forward and I'm going to say, "I'm going to make this system. I'm going to make it work, I'm going to keep on top of things, and I'm going to constantly read and try to figure out new things and new directions that I can go in." Wow. Drop the mic.
Change is a constant, it really is. And I think we all fear change, whether we admit that we have fears or not. We all fear change. Nobody likes change. It's like, "Oh, it's different." But it's something that we all should just let it go and say, okay, like you said, it's going to change. The business requirements will change. What you built now may not be the same a year from now, because in 12 months, you make at least 15 requests to make modifications, because business requirements change, somebody wants this, somebody wants that.
My precious system. I can't let it change!
But you have to.
Because if you don't, you're not going to grow. Businesses grow because they are changing. They're evolving. So as IT professionals, we must do the same. We must adapt to the change and say, "Okay, what I did last month or a year from now, it probably doesn't work the way it should because our business has changed. So how do we change that system or adapt that system to our business model now?" Instead of thinking back a year or two ago. You have to get over that fear of, "I don't want it to change," and say, "What can we do to make the system better now? How do we evolve the system?" And that comes down to policies, too. Not just your systems, but even the policies and procedures. They may not be relevant to what you need to do. You may need to reevaluate and say, "These policies we had, that's from two years ago. But we're doing this now. It doesn't make sense to still use those same policies."
I was going to add in, I was certainly that guy with the system. Everything had to be the same.
Oh, I'm that person still.
I have hundreds of servers and thousands of databases, and I need them all to try to kind of be the same. And over time, you learn about the adaptability. And for me, it became when I was handed the server. You know the test questions you always get? You have a server in London, and Tokyo, and all that. You're like, whatever. Well, you get the server in Tokyo, and you set up a schedule for stuff and then you realize they're 14 hours different from you. I'm like, "Why is this running at two in the afternoon? That's weird." And then you start to understand, like, "Oh, this is a change." And that's like one little crack, and then it opens up from there and you start to understand the change of the tech that you have to adapt to, but there's also the change for you. How do you adapt to the fact that you're not maybe the same person? You have to adapt to everything going on, and you also have to adapt to the fact you may not be the same. And so, maybe database administration, in my case, maybe won't be the focus forever. And I'm going to need to change into doing something slightly different, in order for my career to really advance. You're evolving. Right, so adapting is not just the tech part, but it's the human part.
And funny you should mention that. That change from a DBA into a data scientist, whatever you want to pin to data in there, because we're going to cover that as well at THWACKcamp. So you may be asking yourself, where do you start with soft skills and what are some practical tips and tricks? Well, guess what? Our panelists are going to tell you about practical tips that you can utilize and resources for you to get started with our soft skills. So let's start at the first one: Communication skills. Stephen, we'll just go right down the line.
Okay. Okay, a couple tips. Number one, proactively communicate what you're doing. As a manager, I wish that everyone would just tell me what you've done, tell me what you're doing. Because I know you're busy, I know that you're doing things. Just, every day send me an email or post on Slack or whatever, you know, "Hey, I got this stuff done." And it's not bragging, it's just communicating. Number two, when you're at a meeting, close the laptop and put down the phone. I can't tell you how many times I've seen people, you know, you get distracted by something. You're not browsing Facebook when you're supposed to be paying attention. You're really paying attention and you're taking notes, you're researching a question that just came up, but having it open causes you not to pay as much attention as you should. And number three, I literally had a sign. When I was a Systems Administrator, I literally had a sign on my monitor that said, "Stop, turn around, and listen." Because when people came into my office, my natural inclination was to say, "Why are they bugging me? I'm right in the middle of something. Leave me alone." But I had to remind myself, it's not just me and it's not just what I'm doing and maybe this is important. So again, stop what you're doing, turn around, even though it's annoying, and listen to what they have to say. Because that's just as important as whatever it is that you were working on.
I mean, everything you said was great. I'd include, if you're sending an email, before you send it, stop and think first. Is this something that you would send...? Let's say you're angry about something, and you're fired up. I always tend to wait before I'm going to send that email. Because you may have changed your thoughts 10 minutes later. You know, just double check what you're sending. Is this going to come off wrong or badly? And don't be afraid to ask someone to double check your email. Does this sound right? Am I going to offend somebody? Because you just never know. What you may put down, it may not offend you or your friends, or your other coworkers, but maybe somebody on that email chain might get offended by one little word or comment. So, since I am the email person, just be very careful when you email things.
That's a great tip, because that's also useful to reply to the proper folks. Instead of doing a reply all and starting a reply all storm. Unsubscribe me from this, please.
Boy, I wish I had paid attention to that more.
Reply all streams are awful.
Even today, can I still learn this?
And that's one of the things where, we all change. So soft skills are the type of skills that it's never hard set. You're constantly evolving, you're constantly changing as a person. So you're always developing those soft skills. So, communicating effectively, whether it's verbal or written, always take a step back and if you're not sure, ask somebody, "If I said this, how would this come off to you?" I bounce ideas off people all the time.
Yeah, wonderful tips, I agree with all of those. And I would also advocate and say you learn by doing. And so, if you want to get better at communicating, you have to try to communicate more. I wouldn't say more email, but I would say you have to work on your writing, and you have to work on your speaking. And so when I transitioned from database administration into sales engineering, I came across a book called The Jelly Effect, and we'll give a link for it in the notes, right? But The Jelly Effect was a way for, basically, you understand, almost all communications are just a whole bunch of jelly, and there's only just a few facts inside there. And it's like, just focus on those facts and details. Like Stephen was saying, just tell me what you worked on. That's all the important information that I need to know. Just give me those three things, and move on from there. So, learn by doing and get some resources out there, and develop your own style.
Just like the snake draft, where we're going to start off with you for your tips and tricks for teamwork and collaboration, Tom.
You know, I usually tell people when it comes to if you have to be a leader, to lead is to serve. And when you think about it that way, if you're going to be on a team, you want to be able to serve all of your other teammates as much as you can. What is it that you need my help with today? And that's how you're going to build trust over time.
How about you, Phoummala?
For teamwork, treat others as you want to be treated. It comes down to respect. Respect one another, respect your team, don't disrespect each other. Because you've broken that team once you disrespect somebody, so would you like to be treated that way? Probably not. So just treat others as you want to be treated. Be kind and respect each other.
And, you know, on this note I'll make a pitch for another book. It's hopelessly old fashioned, I know, but the classic, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”--I resisted it for like a decade of my career because I figured that it was about some crummy sales techniques or something. It's really not. It's really about paying attention to people. I mean, the summary of that book is what we're saying here. Get outside yourself and pay attention to people and be good to people, and they will be good back to you.
Very, very simple but practical tips, right? But sometimes we need a reminder of these things. Now lastly, tips and tricks for adaptability and flexibility. Now this is a huge universe, because each individual is like a customization exercise. You can customize yourself and transform yourself into anything, so let's start with Stephen. What tips and tricks do you have? Because you, my friend, have made it a career to transform the careers of many influencers in our industry.
Well, I'd say that if there's one thing that I've done for people, it's to encourage them to believe in themselves and to believe that they can be more than what they've been. And I didn't intend to do that, but that's really what happens when they come to Tech Field Day. We have a joke, it's a sad joke, but we have a joke that with Tech Field Day you're either going to quit or be fired within six months of coming for the first time. And it happens again and again, and what we see is that people come and they realize a couple of things. Number one, they realize that they're valuable. I mean, it's not that they didn't know that they were valuable, but they realize that they're really valuable. Like all those tips that they've been posting on THWACK or on Stack exchange or whatever, that wasn't just them making notes. That was helping people, really helping people, like Phoummala brought up before. And they have a lot to offer the community. And number two, it makes them realize that there are people like them out there. People that they can talk to, people that they can bounce ideas off of, and it's so cool to see that happen. And so, you know, I can't invite everybody to Tech Field Day, I would love to, but one thing that I can say is, try to find that community. Try to find any community, a community, that can help you step outside your little corner and realize that you're valuable, you have things to offer the world, you are more than what you thought you were, and then don't sell yourself short. You know, when you're going to get a job, when you're asking about responsibilities or about payroll or whatever, we all kind of fall back on what we did. It's like, well, I was an email administrator first. Did you know that?
And I didn't go to get another email administrator job. I said, "Well, I want to get a systems administrator job. I want to have broader responsibilities." And I think it's tempting to kind of sell yourself short and say, "Well, I've done this before so I'll do it again." Well, how much do you want to get paid? Well, I used to get paid this, so I want to get paid that again. You know, move up from that. Always be kind of pushing the boundary.
Great tips. How about you, Phoummala?
Don't fear change. Be fearless. Change is going to happen, don't fear it, let it happen. I'm a woman in IT, and sometimes that can be very fearful. You know, most of the time you work with all men. So it's a slightly different environment than from what you guys work in. So, my advice is just let it go, let go of fear, and don't be afraid to share your experiences. I know I started a podcast a couple years ago with some other women in IT, and we talk about not just being women in IT, but mostly we talk about just technology and how we view technology, and what our thoughts and opinions are with technology. And it's just a different voice out there, to show people that there are other voices other than the Masters of the Universe Contest in every IT meeting. And that's actually really helped other people identify what women in IT is.
And your podcast.
The Current Status.
Yes, and we'll have a link to The Current Status in our helpful resource links. Thomas?
I would say real quick, adaptability. I would remind somebody that, while you may be right, you don't know everything. And that little bit of empathy, asking a question like, "What's your motivation for how we got to this discussion point?" Just understanding that there might be some data you don't have, and to think twice before reacting with your feedback.
Awesome tips and tricks for soft skills. Those are our tips and tricks that you can put into practice, and I highly recommend that you do so. I'd like to thank the panelists, our distinguished panelists, for joining us today here at THWACKcamp: Stephen Foskett, Phoummala Schmitt, Thomas LaRock, and thank you for joining SolarWinds at THWACKcamp—“Soft Skills Beyond the Tech: A Monitoring with Discipline Series.” For THWACKcamp, I'm Kong Yang.