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How developing my communication skills made me a better solution architect.

Three lessons my years in TietoEVRY have taught me about bridging the gap between “soft” and “hard” skills.

Françoise Bouchet Strøm / May 10, 2021
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If I am to summarize what the past two decades have taught me about my profession, I would say something like this:

It’s time to bridge the gap between “soft” and “hard” skills. Or better yet, stop thinking there is a gap at all.

 

I started at TietoEVRY as a developer in 2001. When writing this blog, I asked myself “what makes a project fly, and what makes a project crash?”. I quickly realized that the common mistake we often make is under valuating the human side of our business, the communication skills. It’s this skillset that often turns out to be the “make it or break it factor” in a large digital project.

Why you should sharpen your ears and listen more closely

When I say “communications skills” I try to look beyond the usual idea of being “well spoken”. I’m not just focusing on rhetoric, although you need to be able to pitch an idea and deliver your message in your everyday work.

There are however other skills in the communications tool box that are just as important. Listening for example. 20 years in TietoEVRY have taught me that a solution architect never works alone. Especially in a global company like ours, with more than 20 000 employees.

Internally, we’re dependent on good collaboration. This means you constantly have to listen, interpret and analyze your colleagues needs and wishes on a daily basis. In a project meeting, you interact with product owners, developers, sales people and designers. You all rely on each other’s competence, but to trigger a good collaboration you need to understand each others needs. A solution architect creates a common ground from which new ideas can emerge. It’s in this sweet spot that the digital magic happens.

Dig deep into what the customer actually wants

Listening however is not just a skill you need internally. It is crucial when meeting the customer. I’ve lost track of how many customer meetings I’ve been in since I started in 2001. But I see some similarities that keep repeating themselves.

In a meeting, the customer may request new features added to the solutions we deliver. They’re often very clear on exactly what they want. Then I as an active listener have to dig deeper into the customer’s idea and ask myself “What is their actual need?” or “How can we solve it differently, faster, more cost efficiently?”. What I’m saying is, that by listening closely and analyzing the need you enable yourself to be more proactive and create greater value.

Bridge the gap between soft and hard skills? No, truth is that there wasn’t a gap to begin with

Although I don’t do a lot of coding anymore in my role as a solution architect, I value the experience I have from working technically. I think it makes you better equipped to understand the everyday struggles your team is dealing with.

If you take a step back, you realize it’s not about “one or the other”. We shouldn’t be so quick to think that a person is either very “technical” or more of a “people’s person”. It is a myth.

In the real world, your technical skills, your listening skills, analysis, rhetoric and common sense all has to blend together, for you to create first class digital services. But you have to like that type of dynamic environment. Speaking from my point of view, I’ve learnt new things about tech, the people I work with and myself every day for the last 20 years. And by the look of it, I will enjoy it for at least another 20!

Interested in developing yourself today, while creating the digital banking experience of tomorrow? Check out our current vacancies here

More from our employees: A year ago, she had just graduated. Now, Amalie helps 28 Norwegian banks on their path to sustainable finance

Françoise Bouchet Strøm
Lead Solution Architect

Françoise has worked with Online Banking for more than 20 years.

She is lead architect in TietoEVRY’s Digital Banking Services team where she is involved in business and product development of internet banking solutions for the Nordic market. Françoise is one of our most senior solution architects and her passion is to create first class digital services.

Author

Françoise Bouchet Strøm

Lead Solution Architect

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