Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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January 30, 2017

When soft skills are critical to tech career and company success

NikkiRiemersmaAs someone who has worked in the field of information technology for several years now, Nikki Riemersma knows that the general public holds some stereotypical views of “techies.”

Take, for example, social awkwardness.

“That’s something I hear frequently, that IT professionals are socially awkward,” she said. “I want to work to break that stereotype and ensure that end-users and other employees feel comfortable approaching me and my team with confidence and comfort.”

Riemersma, an IT analyst at H.B. Fuller Company in St. Paul, MN, recently participated in a two-month PrepareU course created by Creating IT Futures.

Funded by CompTIA, the world’s largest IT association, PrepareU provides soft professional skills education for today’s tech worker. The classroom-based course is designed to equip technically skilled workers with tools needed to advance their careers. Creating IT Futures is the largest charity of CompTIA.

In PrepareU for working IT professionals, instructors create realistic expectations for an IT career; describe good workplace habits and skills; increase awareness of differing personalities; and demonstrate stress and anxiety management tools.

“Employers of IT talent — in all industry verticals — consistently point to a job candidate’s professional soft skills as key to hiring and advancing in pay and promotions,” said Eric Larson, senior director of IT Futures Labs within Creating IT Futures.

Riemersma — who provides tier I and II IT support and manages hardware and software purchasing and deployment for her company’s North America region — said PrepareU made her more effective in her position.

“Prior to PrepareU, I was happily working at H.B. Fuller Company, but I was looking for new projects, new opportunities and increased job responsibility,” she said. “I not only wanted to strengthen my skills for professional growth, but I also wanted to strengthen my team.”

During PrepareU, Riemersma learned new skills relating to Emotional Intelligence (EI), which is the capability of individuals to recognize their own and other people’s emotions and to use emotional information to guide behavior. She also learned more about the different styles people use to communicate.

“There was so much I learned at PrepareU,” she said. “We discussed communication styles, stress and conflict management, navigating organizational structure, and working with managers. These skills will be extremely beneficial as I make positive and upward strides in my career.”

Since completing PrepareU, Riemersma has taken on additional projects and roles in her capacity at H.B. Fuller Company, and is transitioning into an extended IT purchasing role with increased focus in project and asset management. She credits PrepareU for helping her advance her career.

“I can truly say I am excited for the direction that my career is going and that I love what I do,” she said. “My five-year goal is to lead a strong team of individuals with a wide range of talents and skills that synergistically work together. I strive to be a leader who colleagues can approach, who ensures each team member feels appreciated, and who promotes growth and opportunity. This has been a vision of mine for a few years now, but PrepareU helped remind me of the importance soft skills play in successfully reaching my plan.”