Toughening IT types for soft skills

What do free falling and jumping through hoops have to do with IT? Ask IT managers – they do it all the time.

Do they want to polish those skills with an expert? It’s unlikely, but an expert in other IT-essential skills – ducking and weaving – Guy Newman, IT trainer with Dimension Data Australia, is hitting the teaching circuit with a message for “IT people who resist soft skills training with a passion.”

A skilled gymnast and former circus performer, Newman is leading soft skills training courses that specifically target IT staff in a bid to create “geeks that speak.”

Driven by a need to fill an industry gap where staff with high-level techie skills often lack ‘soft skills’, Newman admits it is a bit of a high wire act.

“No one wants to be taken out of their comfort zone, which is why they are reluctant to undertake soft skills training; send them to a techie course and they won’t hesitate,” Newman said.

Skills gained as a former member of the Flying Fruit Fly Circus have come in handy, according to Newman, who claims his biggest lesson learnt as a performer was discipline.

“We trained long hours with strict Chinese gymnasts,” he said adding that IT is no longer just a technical discipline as staff now deal with all levels of the organization.

“Once upon a time they were just in the IT shop but now IT people need to develop effective communication and leadership skills if they want to broaden their career opportunities.”

Because IT practitioners tend to be logical, analytical, and shy, Newman said course participants find it difficult at times to work as part of a team.

“They tend to use a lot of jargon and assume others understand them; this is because they live in a world disparate to the one we normally live in,” he added.

The first course ran in May, one of the few soft skills courses that actually target IT and include communications, leadership, team building and time management, which is the most popular. Business basics will be introduced to the Sydney and Melbourne courses in coming months and Dimension Data plans to assess course demand in October.

The courses are A$395 (US$270) per person and customized training is available for in-house teams.