EQ: The New Tech Competency

February 3, 2010

I got started in the technology business over 15 years ago. And way back then it was all too common for IT staff to talk about Stupid L-User (simply pronounce as loser) stories or even play Dump the Chump games.

My response was always the same;  If everyone was as technically literate as we were, we would be out of work.

Period!

And you can quote me on this; IT staffers that still look at people (and their own tech careers) in this way will be joining the dinosaurs. There was zero excuse for that behavior 15 years ago, and less than zero now.  I should probably change that statement: not will be joining the dinosaurs, to have joined the dinosaurs.

First: Et Tu EQ?

Back in 1994, I would not have had a clue what EQ (or EI) was, but as good ‘ole Wikipedia tells us, EQ is;

ability, to identify, assess, and manage the emotions  of one’s self, of others, and of groups

In English, this means understanding the why, rather then just the what. It means being able to understand and communicate with people, not hardware or software code. It means understanding the motivations and reasons for behavior. (I know, that squishy human stuff right?)

As Jim Anderson states, that includes;

* Proactive behavior
* Team management
* Leadership
* Teamwork
* Communication skills

Or as simply as it can be put, as Mike Schaffner writes, we need empathy.

Two big driving forces

First, organizations are flatter, you don’t need three managerial levels of business analysts and IT management structures when the developer working on the project team is down the hall. Yes, Dilbert  aside, we see more and more organizations pushing decisions and actions down to lower levels.  That means as technologists, there is no longer a buffer that is translating geek into the English language. It is up to us to do that.

And second, As technology has evolved, it has become simultaneously more complex,  yet more abstracted. (you don’t need to be an electrician to plug that new plasma screen and Blu-ray player right?) With modern technologies, from old school packaged applications and appliances to Software as a service (SaaS), we have seen the rise of increasing levels of abstraction of the hard core “tech” stuff. This abstraction layer removes the need for geeks in lab coats to custom write code that took hours (or weeks) for one small thing. Now we just plug it in. In the time it takes you to sign up for a salesforce.com account, the white coat lab guys of 15 years ago could not have written the title on the requirements documentation.

To turn an old adage on its head; The old IT was always good at buying drills.

The new IT has to know that you are simply looking for a hole.

The new IT is part data steward, part process manager, and part consultant.

And the new IT is all teamwork, leadership and communication

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Photo Credit Columbia Computer Center

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