Monday, April 15, 2019

What are the non-functional skills that are essential for working smartly ?

In continuation with my last post, I am sharing the key points of my conversation with Ashok Thiruvengadam for the SmartBites series.

[Ashok] Creativity and lateral thinking are seen as very important traits for all, certainly for QA too. What are non-QA skills that are essential a QA person to working smartly? 

[Anuj] Broadly speaking, I would like to think of these skills being divided in these 2 categories:
1. Elementary skills
2. Timeless skills

I believe that these are so important to the overall success and hence deserve this categorization.

When were are born as a human beings, which are the first few skills that we learn ? We announce our arrival to the world by speaking our first word/sentence, so that's verbal communication as a skill. Somewhere down the line, we learn how to hold the pen and scribbling on the paper, so that's drawing/doodling as a skill. We learn to write alphabets in our chosen language, so that's written communication as a skill. And then we start to read alphabets/sentences, so that's reading as a skill.

I call these set of skills (in bold) as Elementary skills because these are the first few skills we learn in our lives. And I believe that these skills have maximum impact in defining our success as a human beings in any field of endeavors.

If we fast forward our lives to now and think about the people/leaders we admire, be is Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Nandan Nilekani or even sports people like Roger Federer, Virat Kohli and likes. One thing that stands out in these people is that they are so effective not just because they have mastered their core functional skills like running a business or playing tennis/cricket, but they are extremely good at many of these elementary skills. As an example, Roger Federer can express himself verbally as well as anybody and hence has become such a huge influence in today's generation.

If anything, I prefer to call Elementary skills a force-multiplier of positive things in one's career and lives.

Second set of skills that I call our here are the Timeless skills. I get this phrase after listening to Ravi Venkatesan, the former CEO of Microsoft India. Timeless skills are the ones that would remain relevant irrespective of all the disruption that we see happening around us. These are truly timeless in nature. There are many of these, but for the purposes of this discussion, i would call out 2 of these:

The first one is situational awareness. Having run various high impact technology specific programs in my organization, I can vouch for the fact that people who are eventually successful in an organization are the ones that are most aware of what's happening in and around themselves. They intently listen to what the CEO and other leaders are telling about our successes and problems as an organization. They are hooked on to all the right channels. They build network with right kind of people. They attend all employee briefings, all-hands type events and ensure that they pick-up enough signals and leverage these to accurately spot the gap areas in the organization and then help to close them.

The second one is learning agility. I didn't say learning ability but learning agility. Sharing this from my previous blog (inspired from Ravi Venkatesan's podcast).

Learning agility is really about- If a person is thrown into a situation that they have never seen or experienced, how quickly can they figure out what it takes to succeed. Learning agility is a muscle, the more you practice, the stronger it becomes.
People who have learning agility
1. tends to be intensely curious about everything,
2. they tend to like to read,
3. they tend to like new challenges,
4. they don’t like predictable things,
4. they like ambiguous situations.

No matter what you know today, in 2 or 3 years it is going to be obsolete. The ability to forget and relearn new things goes a long way.

Each time you take a risk and put yourself out of the comfort zone, learning happens. That's how this muscle called learning agility develops. Repeatedly throw yourself in a completely new situation. This is one of those horizontal skills that you can see that will never be obsolete.

Stay tuned for more updates from my conversation with Ashok Thiruvengadam.

Please do share your comments/feedback.

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