One of the most noticeable characteristics of the tech field is how fluid and dynamic it is. For an executive in the industry, the only way to stay at the top of their game is to anticipate change, as well as the in-demand skills that the industry needs and learn them. Just learning a skill isn’t enough, however. A serious tech executive who wants to provide value for his or her company needs to master those skills.
How does a tech leader figure out what skills are necessary among so much change? To help those executives who are still trying to figure that particular question out, 14 contributors to Forbes Technology Council examine some of the skills and abilities they consider most important to master in 2020.
1. Operating With A User-First Mentality
One soft skill that’s critical for tech execs is operating with a “user-first” mentality. Enterprise software should be built more like consumer software so that engineering teams can stay agile while producing the best possible product for their customers. The best thing a leader can do is create a culture that prioritizes the person using the product over the person buying the product. – Edward Bishop, Tessian
2. Understanding Customers
Every company serves customers who buy its products or services. Regardless of the technology innovations brought to bear, the ultimate goal is to delight and create value for a customer. Every tech exec should be adept at understanding their customers, walking a day in customers’ shoes and understanding how customers feel value. This will help tech execs make better tech and other decisions. – Guy Yalif, Intellimize
3. Flexibility When Facing Hypergrowth
Something I’ve learned while going through growth is as the business grows, we must all grow with it and be OK if our roles become more specialized. Instead of doing product, sales, support and marketing all at once, I’ve become more focused on the wider vision as the CEO. I’ve brought on new team members who are amazing specialists that will help us become extraordinary in each area. – Ryan Chan, UpKeep Maintenance Management
4. Strategic Foresight
The skill every tech executive should master in 2020 is strategic foresight, as it encourages discernment for technology adoption and hiring. Shiny, new innovations demand restraint, especially when they don’t match with the organization’s goals. Having strategic foresight allows an IT leader to connect business value back to a department’s daily projects despite whatever innovation arises. – Jeffrey Ton, InterVision
5. Having Mental Processing Power
One skill every tech executive should master is the ability to consume large amounts of information and process them quickly so they can determine what actions they need to take. This mental processing power is essential to keep up with the constantly changing tech industry. – Wesley Crook, FP Complete
6. Communication And Collaboration
Although a need not unique to tech execs, mastering communication and collaboration skills is crucial. Technical aptitude is a given. It’s the softer skills of knowing how to communicate to various audiences, see around corners and be a good partner organization-wide that truly sets the great tech exec apart from the good one. – Christy Johnson, AchieveIt
7. Negotiation And Mediation
Negotiation skills aren’t just important for outside contracts and formal agreements. Deciding on project roles, deadlines and employee conflicts are still negotiations that tech executives get involved with every day. Being able to communicate solutions to remedy a problem or facilitate compromise between team members can make or break a project. – Stephen Ufford, Trulioo
8. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is so important in today’s workplace, not only in the tech industry, but also in every sector. Having the skill to ask your team the right questions, really listen to them and understand what their concerns are is of unbelievable value. Some people have the gift of having strong emotional intelligence, but it also can be learned, and should be learned, by every executive. – Eric Trabold, Nexkey, Inc.
9. Having Diverse Knowledge
While having a deeper understanding of the technology in your line of business is important, it is also equally important to have a broader knowledge of all the technologies and their evolution in this constantly changing industry. A good exec is one who finds synergies between the current stack in the organization and the latest in the industry. However, security is a common skill to master to protect data. – Sujeeth Kanuganti, Aira Tech Corp
10. Sales Acumen
This just in—a CTO is no longer an internal executive. Learning to have sales acumen will be important in bridging the teams building your product with the folks who are interfacing with your customer base. Having the ability to master both sides of this equation will assist you in product development, sales support and having more productive conversations with the board and/or investors. – Joshua Ferry, CloudInsyte
11. Paying It Forward
Good leaders create other leaders, so tech execs must be able to knowledge-share and take the time to coach the next generation on realistic, obtainable opportunities. This is especially true for the cybersecurity industry, where the projected talent gap is expected to see 3.5 million unfilled jobs by 2021. – Rahul Kashyap, Awake Security Inc.
12. Building Loyalty With Employees
As unemployment today is at an all-time low, one of the main things that execs should master is how to gain more loyalty from employees. In many instances, we as execs are a little removed from the pains and concerns that our employees experience. We should spend more time with them and learn not only about their work aspirations, but also about their personal aspirations. – Eugene Malobrodsky, One Way Ventures
13. Understanding Machine Learning
Machine learning can unlock immense benefits for businesses big and small. Every tech executive should understand the capabilities and advantages of machine learning. This AI subset can elucidate unprecedented insights that could end up saving your company. Whether it’s understanding your customers, improving workflows or reengaging leads, machine learning can help. – Marc Fischer, Dogtown Media LLC
14. Cybersecurity And Lifelong Learning
In cybersecurity, much of the tech we rely on today didn’t exist five years ago. The tech we’ll use five years from today probably hasn’t been invented yet. Attacks are always changing, and software is always being rewritten. Executives need to understand cybersecurity, but this won’t be a one-time event. We’ll need to stay on top of the security challenges the world is facing in order to stay secure. – George Finney, Southern Methodist University