As most industry professionals understand, IT capabilities and insight are not the only vital piece of the equation. MSPs need a more comprehensive set of competencies to excel in today’s rapidly shifting business environment, including the essential ‘soft skills’ for implementing and managing and continually strengthening the cyber defenses of different organizations.

Those are not areas of strength for every tech professional. You know the story; that brilliant employee who can engineer virtually any IT solution or track down and resolve the most challenging network issue yet cannot carry on a conversation without a deep dive into the “speeds and feeds.” Personal interactions between these types of individuals and clients and co-workers can be cringeworthy.

That is where the adage “book smart versus street smart” comes in to play. MSPs need people with deep expertise in technology who can also interact effectively and harmoniously with others, which is commonly referred to as “soft skills.” Every employee does not need to exbibit each of those traits. In fact, companies often aim to build teams with a good mix of skills and complementary personalities and encourage active collaboration, as well as cross-training, to strengthen their collective capabilities.

Cybersecurity involves much more than the tools and technical prowess. Like a chess match, the best players are problem solvers who think several steps ahead when making the next move, possess abstract reasoning, and exhibit calmness under pressure. MSPs need these types of strategic thinkers if they wish to excel in cybersecurity.

What skills should you be looking for in new candidates or existing employees?

  1. Flexibility

No place in an IT business is it more critical to have open-minded people willing to step up to any challenge or opportunity. Can your team adapt to changing standards and new threats? How willing are they to work late hours, weekends, or holidays in the event of an emergency or to complete an important project? Freethinkers who are eager to try new ideas and bend their schedules to do everything possible to protect the companies they support (including your own) are an invaluable resource.

  1. Emotional intelligence

Relatively few people are born with the complete ‘Zen’ package for cybersecurity. However, most of us can develop or advance our inert skills through training and experience, and MSPs can support those efforts with workshops and educational courses. These are the intangibles that allow professionals to understand their own limitations and interact effectively with others. That list of intangibles includes:

  • Consciousness (self-awareness)
  • Empathy
  • Self-control
  • Social skills
  • Self-motivation
  1. Communications

How good are your employees at connecting with others? The ability to simplify the communications of complex concepts is crucial for those charged with implementing, managing, and upgrading cybersecurity services. Good listening skills allow techs to diagnose issues quickly and better understand clients’ ongoing security concerns. Being receptive to feedback makes it easier to gather information needed to neutralize threats and protect businesses from cyberattacks.

  1. Self-evaluation

Those who continually assess and challenge the level of their own expertise, knowledge, and methodologies are more likely to succeed in cybersecurity. Employees who are content with the status quo in their cybersecurity skills tend to slack off on training and process improvement. Self-evaluators strive for progress.

  1. Collaboration abilities

Security is all about teamwork. It takes everyone working together to protect your clients, from the IT pros manning your SOC to end-users following good cyber hygiene. This skill is not just about getting along with others; it incorporates other “soft skills” such as good work ethics, empathy, sociability, and, when needed, leadership capabilities.

  1. Analytical mindset/ researcher

The best cybersecurity experts enjoy doing their homework (at least they do it well). They have a curiosity and a drive to search for answers to the toughest challenges and are more prone to work extra hours to solve potential issues. Persistence and problem-solving are critical skills for the protection of your firm as well as its clients’ businesses.

  1. Creativity

One of the most important traits for a cybersecurity pro is an active imagination. Can your people push the limits of innovation? If you hire and encourage creative minds in your cybersecurity practice, the investment is sure to provide a strong ROI.

Leverage All of Your Team’s Talents

A healthy mix of professionals with unique skills and positive traits is the foundation of a great cybersecurity practice. MSPs need to not only find these good people but provide them the training and support to excel.

Does your cybersecurity team have the right blend of “soft skills” to propel your security practice to greater heights?  Are you properly motivating and incentivizing everyone to encourage their best efforts at protecting both you and your clients’ businesses?

Stop focusing on just the tech. Put more effort into identifying the people with the intangibles needed to build and operate a healthy cybersecurity practice.

Brian Sherman, Content Director, IoTSSA