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Hard skills vs. soft skills – which do I really need as a consultant?

Programming skills, database knowledge, de-escalation skills, time management, machine learning, etc. – there are many skills that an IT consultant needs. We cannot, however, be experts on all topics. Do I really have to be able to code to become a management consultant? And must I be good at negotiating in order to optimize IT architectures? Our IT colleague Marvin Treus, who has been working in IT consulting since 2018 and can look back on many successful projects, will give you the answers to these questions.

Soft skills are always important

You will never be able to completely do without soft skills, even as a developer or an IT application architect. Over the course of your consulting life, you will, for example, interact with technical managers, project managers, users, or providers – and this is where competencies such as communication skills quickly pay off. The further you move away from the technical field, the more important your soft skills will become. They play a more important role in setting up an IT strategy than in development-related activities, for example. 
If you feel that you lack certain soft skills, first try your hand at situations where your hard skills, such as your technical expertise, give you an advantage. Then gradually learn other required skills and gain confidence. 
The good thing is: every new situation you face will automatically improve your soft skills. So don’t avoid such situations; instead try to make them work for you. 
Also, reflect on past experiences and call into mind the occasions when you’ve had success with your soft skills. This will give you a good basis for improving and expanding your soft skills and you will automatically acquire additional competencies. 

Hard skills are your solid foundation

Do you want to work as a management consultant later on and deal with strategic topics? In that case, in addition to your soft skills, you should also have technical knowledge in order to avoid “empty talk”. Many projects may and often do require you to go into detail. However, as topics are sometimes very specific, it is usually not possible to develop in-depth knowledge in every field. Therefore, it is a good idea for you to develop a basic knowledge in different areas (“breadth instead of depth”). For certain topics, it is also useful to seek the support of an expert in the relevant field. When building up your knowledge, do not focus too early on certain technologies or topics, but first get a picture of the overall situation in order to acquire a broad range of expertise. Then go into detail in those areas where you see your strengths and interests, and build up expert knowledge.

The right mix makes the difference – how we unite both skill sets at zeb

In summary, as an (IT) consultant, it is important to acquire a set of soft skills as well as hard skills. Once you have started out, zeb supports you in acquiring new skills or improving existing ones through a variety of programs. Each consultant undergoes two training weeks, Start 1 and Start 2, at the beginning of their career. These two weeks are devoted to getting to know colleagues and the company, and above all to learning or refreshing soft skills. 
In addition, we assign a personal mentor to all new recruits at the start of their employment. Together with them, you discuss the direction in which you would like to develop personally and professionally and which steps, such as training or further education, are necessary to achieve this. You will also conduct regular feedback meetings with your mentor to ascertain whether you are still satisfied with your activities or whether something needs to change.
For your individual development, zeb offers a wide range of training and further education opportunities that are continuously adapted and extended to meet the consultants’ needs. There are also numerous e-learning opportunities, such as Linkedin learning licenses. zeb has its own business school, which allows you to attend many scientifically based modules on a wide range of topics. 
Thanks to this broad offer, zeb creates an excellent structure for its employees to develop and enhance their soft and hard skills. As long as you are willing to learn and are able to reflect, you will be well prepared for all situations and projects with the skills that you already have. 😊

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contact author

Marvin Treus

marvin.treus@zeb.de

+49 251 97128377