Important Soft Skills for the Entry-Level Data Professional

Managing your career means more than just learning the newest technology or keeping your existing technical skills sharp. It also includes the management of your soft skills. Soft skills are those skills that we sometimes take for granted, like the ability to communicate with other humans, or the ability to effectively solve business problems. When you are applying for a new job, or even looking for a promotion, these skills are also evaluated. You may be a great technical resource, but you usually have to have some of these soft skills so they non–technical people can effectively work with you to solve business problems.

In an interesting article by Tim Ford, he helps us understand what makes up the soft skills that businesses are looking for in their database professionals.

Last Friday on Twitter, I posed that question while mulling this over waiting to be picked up after getting stranded in my home airport due to weather conditions while trying to get to the Microsoft MVP Summit and PASS Summit in Seattle. 

Here are a few of the responses:

“Good communication”


“Basic problem solving skills”

“Motivation and ingenuity, but those are hard to measure in an interview.”

“Consciousness” (though in retrospect this was clarified as an auto-correct issue for misspelling “Consciencessness”.

“I would say enthusiastic even more than smart. You don’t actually have to be SMART to be a DBA.”

“Passion, enthusiasm, integrity, and ability to get along with others. You can teach skill.”

“Ability to pull focus back enough to predict what actions taken will affect others & future of project / application.”

“Being a team player. That includes putting your ego aside and trusting your teammates.”

I’d like to single out a response from Adam Machanic (blog|twitter), who stated:

“I look for smart + enthusiastic. It’s a rare person who is EXCITED by database work. That’s a great DBA in the making.”

Database work is not exciting when you look at it from the outside. If you find someone (one of us freaks of nature) who really enjoy working with data that is also smart and enthusiastic (but again not just about technology), then I’m sold. 


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