By Mark Baard
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Have you worked with Fibre Channel? Do you have any experience with storage area networks? Those are questions you would expect to hear when applying for a job as a storage professional. But employers and recruiters say they are looking for more than technical skills from IT professionals, and storage professionals are no exception. Storage is becoming increasingly important, which means storage professionals play a more visible role within the company. And that means soft skills are more important than ever.
"The Catch-22 for IT professionals is that, while your technological knowledge is what gets you into the field, it's a completely different skill set-your human abilities-that makes you effective in the long run," says Dan Goleman, an author and clinical psychologist who studies workplace relationships.
Goleman has popularized the term "emotional intelligence" (EI) as a measure of a person's ability to stay motivated in the face of adversity, manage feelings like worry and anger, empathize with other people, and persuade and lead others in a team environment.
Headhunters can often detect in an interview whether a candidate has the EI they need to manage others. "Storage management techs and other IT personnel either have relationship skills or they don't," says Adam Lawrence, a recruiter for RHI Consulting in Boston, Mass. "And we can usually tell right off the bat."
Even the Pentagon-with its reputation for stoicism-is responding to Goleman's message. "Emotional intelligence is critical for IT professionals entering leadership positions," said Lutricia Jackson, program manager for career development and training at the U.S. Department of Defense. "It affects how well you can lead and manage a diverse workforce."
For his most recent book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, Goleman reviewed studies at 200 companies and organizations-including corporate giants like IBM Corp., Lucent Technologies Inc., and Pepsico Inc. He concluded that EI is twice as important as IQ and technical skills combined for determining outstanding performance at all levels, from entry-level jobs to top executive positions.
But the skills that contribute to emotional intelligence are typically undervalued in IT culture. To increase their EI and become successful leaders, Goleman says, storage pros "need to break out of their solipsistic shells" by reading and consulting career coaches. You also can start by taking Goleman's EI quiz at ei.haygroup.com.
Mark Baard is a contributing editor based in Milton, Mass.