About the Author:

Kellye Whitney
Kellye Whitney, is an award-winning writer and editor. The former editor for Chief Learning Officer magazine is now the founder and Chief Creative Officer for Kellye Media, a Chicago-based media coaching, content and consulting company.

Is Learning to Work on a Team an Engineer’s Most Valuable Skill?

Is Learning to Work on a Team an Engineer’s Most Valuable Skill?

We’d say so. Engineering teams have to be good at more than just coding. Technical skills are actually not a primary gauge for a team’s success in a business context. Instead, the ability to work with others, to do your individual part to cultivate and sustain a productive and positive work culture, and to promote and exhibit a continuous desire to learn are just a few factors that can impact success more than being purely tech savvy.

Think about it. You could have the most technically brilliant software engineer or the most skilled coder on the planet on your team. If they don’t know how to work with others, to communicate effectively, and they have no desire to learn those things, is that team likely to be 100 percent functional? Nope. It’s just the opposite.

The classroom is an excellent place to hone collaboration, communication and technical skills, providing that classroom is run a certain way. For instance, technical staff will need to actively solve problems where they have to interact with their peers. For adult learners, small seminar-like environments that emphasize both theoretical and practical project work often pick up where traditional higher education learning falls short because of the immediate applicability of the learning, and the opportunity for peers to share their experiences, what worked for them on the job and what critical factors or perspectives may be missing in a given scenario.

For new hires or recent graduates who may not have much on-the-job experience, it’s helpful to be immediately grounded in real world problem solving so they can more easily transfer what they learn in the classroom to situations they encounter in the workplace. Knowledge transfer – when fueled by support from one’s peers and an instructor who has practical expertise as well as keen facilitation skills – is essentially what effective teaming is all about.

According to an April 2018 NPR article, “peer support turns out to be part of the secret sauce for adult success…students simply won’t let each other fail. This is a component of adult college-going that mass online completion colleges have trouble replicating.”

Think of it another way. For machine learning, AI and some of the other emerging technologies, it can be helpful to engage with peers while learning technical skills simply because the technologies aren’t established. Machine learning and other technologies are still actively evolving. Their applications are not set in stone, so collaborative sessions where learners can bounce ideas off one another can create the stimulus needed to develop innovative ideas to current problems.

Again, that only happens if the classroom operates in a way that nurtures that kind of result. For instance, a technical training classroom should include a diverse group of learners, ideally from the same team. With guidance, their different perspectives will take purely technical content around software development or any other topic, and move it into business problem solving territory. Once they leave the classroom, those conversations, that camaraderie and that spirit of cooperation are likely to continue back in the office.

Further, each person will learn more about what their peers do and how their individual work overlaps and builds to achieve business objectives. The best technical classes are not just about learning one program language, for example. They’re about effective teaming, software architecture as a whole, not one particular domain or project, building software right, following best practices, and testing and future-proofing the work.

That’s what a DevelopIntelligence classroom is like. Our various training offerings and DeveloperAcademies are results-driven learning environments. After two decades of testing, experience and client success, we’ve perfected the ability to create a technical learning and development experience that enables IT and R&D organizations to learn quickly and effectively. Part of that is due to our policy of deliberately and thoughtfully customizing curriculum so that it’s tailored to each client’s talent, skills, business needs, and existing internal systems.

Based on client data, our DeveloperAcademy model delivers 130% more technical learning engagement than similarly run training programs. Better learning creates more productive staff, better retention rates, and a competitive edge in the ultra-competitive tech talent market.

So, a well-run technical training classroom is an incubator for a lot more than just technical skills. So much can go on: mentoring, brainstorming and ideation, relationship building, an opportunity to practice interpersonal and communication skills. All of these things lead to one critically important skill: the ability to work effectively on a team. It truly is one of an engineer’s most valuable skills. If you doubt it, carve out some time to listen to engineers who’ve managed to escape from dysfunctional teams.

According to Intersog, a Chicago-based custom software engineering and IT staffing company, “A diversified team with a culture of collaborative behaviors is needed to deliver great software.”Teamwork is a skill one can learn, and it’s a skill that every developer and engineer needs to succeed. The depth of knowledge and support system a team can provide coupled with the skills and their application in a real-world context are the foundation upon which effective and technically superior teams are built. All of that can happen in the best technical training classrooms.