Technical Acumen

Technical Acumen is one of Matter’s top soft skills linked to performance and career success. Matter helps professionals tease out blindspots and areas for growth in skills like technical acumen through regular peer-to-peer feedback.

What Is Technical Acumen

Definition of Technical Acumen: Grasps the technical details required to lead a project.

Technical acumen is an integral part of what makes a coder a good leader. People with technical acumen are developers, entrepreneurs, and leaders who make lifelong learning a priority. They’re never satisfied with the status quo and have a strong desire to collaborate and make knowledge sharing a priority.

Great Developers You May Know

Grace Hopper: Described by David Letterman as the “Queen of Software”, Rear Admiral Dr. Grace Murray Hopper pioneered the development of accessible computer programming languages written in English. Established wisdom was that computers didn’t understand English and it was a hard-fought battle to get her ideas accepted. Through her perseverance, she developed COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language), an English-like computer programming language that is the standard in business and finance systems. She is memorialized every year at Grace Hopper Conference, connecting women in computing and technology.

Hannah Wolfe: After learning her first programming language at an early age, Wolfe was interested in democratizing the way people communicate and learn. She wanted to find a way to make publishing and writing accessible to everyone. She cofounded Ghost, an open-source publishing platform that now boasts thousands of blogs. Wolfe describe that Ghost’s vision isn’t, “to make a million dollars, we’re not here to implement an exit strategy. We’re here to build something and give it to the world.”

Susie Wee: Prior to joining Cisco as an engineering executive, Wee started out as a researcher for Hewlett-Packard. At Cisco, she runs an online community for developers and network engineers with 80,000 active members, providing support as well as maintaining a high-standard of acumen. In an interview, Wee emphasized, “As Cisco shifts to a software and services company, we realize that developers give Cisco the ability to scale and help create value that our customers consume.”

Why Technical Acumen Is Important

  • Innovation: Technical acumen is about being user and product-obsessed. These leaders innovate more because they share and iterate based on their learnings. They may contribute to open-source projects, start side projects, and share learnings with their peers.
  • Lifelong Learning: Developers with technical acumen are always curious and learning to grow their skill sets. They adapt to the economy because of this trait. Continuing education, personal development, and self-sustainability are all sought after by lifelong learners.
  • Scaling: With technical acumen, a leader is able to scale their work to suit their project, growing a business to meet the needs of the community and customer base.

What Technical Acumen Isn’t About

  • Control: Those with technical acumen are always sharing their knowledge. They don’t view their skills and knowledge as a protected commodity with which they can exert authority, power, or control.
  • Brilliant Jerks: Arrogance has no place in technical acumen. They understand that software engineering is part development and part people.
  • Stagnation: Leaders with technical acumen never stop learning or rest on their laurels. They seek continuing education, sucking the marrow out of life, and never resting when there are more skills to be gained.

Abilities That Lead To The Mastery of Technical Acumen

Continuing education: There are a countless number of resources available to help you build your technical skills including podcasts, technical books and online tutorials. Many of these resources are free too. The great thing about these resources is that you can choose based on your current skill level.

Contributing to open source projects: The open source community provides a great opportunity for aspiring programmers to distinguish themselves. By contributing to an open source project, developers can improve their skills and get support from like-minded people.

Learning a new programming language: Good programmers know how to wrap their heads around a complex problem and produce efficient code to solve it. Each programming language has its own strengths and weaknesses. The more languages you learn, the bigger the knowledge base you will have, and the more likely you will be able to solve problems faster and more efficiently.

Pair programming: Pair programming enables engineers to leverage shared knowledge of the codebase and have better discipline, communication, and performance. Pair programming can be an excellent way for programmers to learn rapidly from more senior developers. Pair programming provides you with a full immersion through actively participating in the process.

Sharing learnings Learning something new is important, but sharing that knowledge makes what you’ve learned actionable and meaningful. Make it a habit to always share new things that you learn. This will help you retain knowledge and hear people’s ideas on the same topic.

Starting a side project: Some of the most popular products and companies we know, including Twitter, Gmail and Trello, started as a side project. There are numerous benefits to starting a side project including the opportunity to learn new skills, boost mental health by providing an escape from work, and can boost work performance by increasing creativity and productivity.

Explore Roles That Benefit From Technical Acumen

Who can benefit from practicing technical acumen? Matter is helping professionals at all levels get actionable feedback to improve their technical acumen.

  • CEOs who are looking to become better leaders and cultivate company culture
  • Designers who want to grow their professional and soft skills
  • Freelancers who work without a traditional team and want feedback
  • Project Managers looking to improve their cross-functional collaboration skills
  • Software Engineers who aspire to become a tech lead or manager

Explore Complementary Skills to Technical Acumen

Technical Acumen shouldn’t be practiced in a vacuum. Improve your technical acumen by exploring and developing these complementary skills.

  • Analytical Thinking: Applies logical thinking to solve complex problems
  • Code Quality: Writes long-term useful and long-term maintainable code
  • Strategic Thinking: Develops effective plans that are aligned with an organization’s mission
  • Technical Leadership: Ensures strong technical decisions are made while leading a project
  • Vision: Possesses innovative ideas about how things can be vastly improved in the future

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