Empowering the Freelance Economy

IT contractors and AI: Do your communication and problem-solving skills need a reboot?

IT contractors new language models and AI will need to boost their communication and problem-solving skills to stay ahead. Photo credit: Yan Krukau via Pexels
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As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to evolve, IT contractors are facing new challenges and expectations. Human expectations. To be successful in this changing landscape, IT contractors will be wise to develop strong communication and problem-solving skills to communicate to clients what is and isn’t possible just yet. But how do you go about it?

Communication

Communication is essential for IT contractors to be able to effectively collaborate with clients, colleagues, and other stakeholders. It’s more than a buzzword you place on your portfolio or CV. IT contractors who can’t clearly and concisely explain technical concepts to non-technical audiences will be dropped from projects or clients. Contractors must also listen actively and build rapport with others rather than thinking they know more than anyone else in the room (and acting like it).

Problem-solving

Problem-solving is another essential skill for IT contractors since that’s what they are there for: to solve existing or future problems or catch glitches before they do become problems. IT contractors must therefore be able to identify and define problems, gather and analyse information, generate and evaluate solutions, and implement solutions in a way non-IT professionals can understand. They also need to be able to think creatively and outside the box to come up with innovative solutions as often clients will be using AI with their own data to achieve bespoke solutions for their clients and stakeholders.

How to Develop Better Communication and Problem-Solving Skills

There are a number of things IT contractors can do to develop better communication and problem-solving skills. Here are a few tips:

  • Take communication and problem-solving courses. There are many courses available online and in person that can help IT contractors improve their communication and problem-solving skills. We list a few below.
  • Practice regularly. The best way to improve your communication and problem-solving skills is to practice regularly. Try to find opportunities to practice your skills in your work or personal life.
  • Get feedback from others. Ask for feedback from your clients, colleagues, and mentors on your communication and problem-solving skills. A simple phrase that may help, “I apologise if my explanation is coming off more complicated than it needs to be. There’s a lot of lingo I might be throwing around here. Here’s an example that might rectify that…” This feedback and ability to put what you are trying to solve into functions clients will understand (i.e. as it pertains to the business or their customers) can help you identify areas where you can improve how you explain otherwise technical topics.
  • Be open to learning new things. The field of IT is constantly changing, so it’s important for IT contractors to be open to learning new things. This includes learning about new technologies, new ways of communicating, and new problem-solving techniques.

How to set yourself apart from other IT contractors

Communication and problem-solving skills are essential for IT contractors to be successful in today’s competitive market. Being approachable, a good listener, a good explainer of technical matters and patience are traits that can position IT contractors as valuable assets to businesses and clients.

For example, if you were to work for just one portfolio company of one private equity-backed business, your approach and skills could get you noticed by the company’s board seat investor who could call upon you for other portfolio companies in their funds.

Businesses are looking for IT contractors who can not only solve technical problems but who can also communicate effectively with stakeholders and collaborate with others. This is essential when companies merge and there are different IT systems and human expectations colliding.

IT-focused courses available in the autumn of 2023

Creativity, Problem Solving and Design Thinking | Cambridge Advance Online

Communication for IT Professionals by The Open University. This course will teach you how to communicate effectively with technical and non-technical audiences. It will cover topics such as public speaking, writing clear and concise technical documentation, and giving effective presentations. The course starts at £599. However, prices can vary as other similar courses may also be available.

Problem-Solving for IT Professionals by the University of Edinburgh. This course will teach you how to identify and solve problems in IT systems and environments. It will cover topics such as root cause analysis, troubleshooting, and risk management. The course starts at £745.

IT Communication and Problem-Solving Skills by FutureLearn. This course is designed for IT professionals who want to improve their communication and problem-solving skills. It will cover topics such as verbal and written communication, teamwork, and conflict resolution. The course costs £299.

IT Communication and Presentation Skills by the London School of Business and Finance. This course will teach you how to communicate effectively with technical and non-technical audiences. It will cover topics such as public speaking, presentation design, and storytelling. The course starts at £995.

IT Problem-Solving and Decision-Making by the University of Manchester. This course will teach you how to identify and solve problems in IT systems and environments. It will cover topics such as critical thinking, decision-making, and risk management. The course starts at £795.

These are just a few of the many IT-focused courses for communication and problem-solving skills that are available in the UK. When choosing a course, it is important to consider your specific budget, needs and goals especially if you are working at the same time.

Here are a few books that might tackle the topic

The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas. This book is a classic guide to software development that emphasises the importance of communication and problem-solving.

Communicating Effectively in the IT World by Ian Douglas. This book provides practical advice on how to communicate effectively with technical and non-technical audiences in the IT industry.

The Art and Craft of Problem Solving by Paul Zeitz. This book is a comprehensive guide to the problem-solving process, with exercises and examples to help you improve your skills.

Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella Meadows. This book introduces the systems thinking approach to problem-solving, which can be helpful in complex IT environments. It’s a classic that could still hold value in today’s ever-changing world.

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