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      COVID-19 Pandemic Shines Spotlight on How Essential Soft Skills are to the Future of Tech


      In the day-to-day life of a workplace, success often hinges on how well a team works together. All the technical skill in the world won’t help an IT team or company reach its goals if it’s plagued by poor communication, poor leadership and lack of flexibility, among other things. These soft skills have proven even more important in the age of COVID-19, with a rise in remote work and the corresponding shift in the ways we work with each other.

      Even before COVID-19 disrupted work as we know it, soft skills were so important that one study found 67 percent of human resources professionals declined to offer a job to an otherwise qualified technology candidate because of a lack of soft skills.

      Prior to the pandemic, we asked 500 senior IT professionals and infrastructure managers to rank the soft skills they thought would be most important for future IT professionals to possess. The attributes were ranked 1-6, with 6 being the least important. Below are the average ranks.

      Most Important Soft Skills for Future IT Professionals

      Soft Skills in Tech

      Since these results were collected, the world has obviously changed. And yet, our “new normal” only underscores the results.

      Flexibility Is the No. 1 Soft Skill for IT Pros

      Based on the rapid changes we’ve seen in tech and the world at large, it should come as no surprise that “flexibility” was ranked most important. Working with a team that’s willing to step up to the plate and roll with the punches will lead to better outcomes than working with players who are rigid and unwilling to bend as priorities shift.

      “Hiring managers need to identify flexibility as a key behavior and skill set during the hiring process,” said Jackie Coats, INAP’s Senior Vice President of Human Resources. “To evaluate it, have the candidate explain a time when they had to deal with an unforeseen situation, and what they did to accomplish their goal regardless of the surprise.”

      Business priorities are often adjusted and the demand on IT teams will move with them. Or a team member might leave unexpectedly, and the rest of the team will need to fill in.

      “Another question to determine flexibility would be to ask how the employee has helped outside of their role when the team was short-staffed or under a tight deadline,” Coats added.

      As we’ve seen remote work become the norm for many businesses, flexibility is an important trait for both employees and for supervisors to possess.

      “Being flexible during these times is a critical tool we as leaders must leverage,” said Matt Cuneio, INAP’s Vice President, Global Support. “Nothing is more important to the health of a team than confidence that we’re all in this together. We’re going to be flexible with each other, ensuring we all win.”

      A Need for Innovation Necessitates Creativity

      Change often feels unexpected, as we’ve seen with the pandemic, but it’s always inevitable. In another pre-pandemic survey, we wanted to get an idea of what exactly will be driving change in IT roles now and in the future, so we asked our participants to choose the top driver. The need for innovation took the top spot, selected by 27 percent of participants. (Robust security and infrastructure scalability came in a close second and third.)

      All of this change and need for innovation emphasizes the importance of creativity — the second ranked soft skill for IT pros. IT teams are also asked to problem solve on a daily basis and come up with new solutions to help the business achieve its goals or to find solutions to unique problems, like how to adjust networking strategies for a decentralized workforce.

      Undervalued Empathy?

      Empathy is the ability to identify with another person by sharing in their perspective and feelings. This soft skill is commonly valued in the helping professions, like counseling and social work, but can bring great value to teams in all professions by helping develop camaraderie and trust. Yet empathy ranked lowest on our list.

      Cuneio shared his thoughts on the impact of empathy for IT, both within a team setting and with customers. “I had a friend tell me once, ‘Listen to understand.’  A listening ear is a powerful and necessary tool in today’s world,” he said.

      Fostering empathy between individuals helps people feel heard and understood, which in teams can benefit collaboration and brainstorming sessions where colleagues feel empowered to share ideas.

      “Every interaction you have is an opportunity to impact someone’s life,” Cuneio added. “It always amazes me the response I get by asking the simple question ‘How are things?’ The key component to this question is to listen and inquire to the response.”

      It’s also been shown that companies that have a more empathetic culture outperform less empathetic companies by 20 percent. The bottom line: Individual empathy shouldn’t be overlooked.

      Laura Vietmeyer


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      INAP Executive Spotlight: Roberto Montesi, Vice President of Sales & Operations, International


      In the INAP Executive Spotlight series, we interview senior leaders across the organization, hearing candid reflections about their careers, what they love about their work and big lessons learned along the way.

      Next in the series is Roberto Montesi, Vice President of Sales & Operations, International for INAP. He also oversees international facilities, as well as web and VPS hosting provider, Funio, an INAP company.

      In our conversation, Montesi discussed what he loves about his role at INAP, his passion for life-long learning and why Montreal is a strong market for INAP’s business. Read on to learn about these topics and more.

      The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

      Tell us about your education and career path. Did you take any detours to get where you are today?

      Technology and IT have been a part of my life since a very young age. I would jump at the opportunity to go help someone having desktop computer problems, so it makes sense that my first part time job was in technical support at a call center. As my career progressed, I took on leadership roles quickly, as my enthusiasm for the job would get noticed. These leadership roles have allowed me to spread my passion for this work and have my employees perform amazing customer service.

      After a few years managing technical teams, I decided to continue my career in management, but focused on touching multiple departments, including retention, sales, dispatch center, finance and collections. At the same time, I decided to also invest in revenue properties and start a restaurant with a couple of business partners. But those stories would lead us way off track. After a few years of managing and building call centers, I decided to go back into technology at iWeb Technologies, Inc. The smaller sized company allowed me to get to know everyone quickly, and I was excited to go back to managing a team of highly technical CSR.

      After a few years of building up the team and center of expertise, my passion for our products grew—specifically, colocation. I look at it as similar to owning property and leasing an apartment, except we lease space and power. At that time, during a re-organization, the sales team and collections team were reporting to me temporarily while we hired a new director. Once he was in place, he proposed that I move on to the sales organization as a senior account manager, focusing on our top customers. From there, after the INAP acquisition, I am now leading the International teams.

      Where are you seeing the most momentum and opportunities within the international business unit this year?

      We have seen some great breakthroughs in Montreal with VFX, and our new London Region for Cloud and Colocation has helped to build traction on pipeline growth. The gaming sector is also still very attractive to us, as is Ad Tech.

      What’s a typical day like for you?

      Since I oversee sales and operations for our international markets, I would say no two days are the same. In operations, we find ourselves reacting to plans that need to be either moved up faster or delayed to prioritize something else. On the sales side, my days start by looking at the forecast and pipeline to see where the team might need my support. My one-on-ones planned with my team members are crucial to help me organize my future schedule around their needs.

      What do you enjoy most about your role at INAP? What do you think is the best part about being in the data center and cloud industry?

      I have been a part of the company for 11 years, and what keeps me on board and engaged are the customers. Seeing how we support customers as they grow and meet their objectives is what makes me love my job. Also, the amount of technical learning I get on data centers, solutions, network and future technology. Why wouldn’t you want to be working for us?

      With the roles you’ve held at INAP and iWeb, what have been the most exciting changes over the years? What’s been a constant – something you’re glad has stayed the same?

      Having worked for three very different CEOs, it’s great to see Pete looking outside the box on strategy. He wants to grow the company and brings many ideas to the table while surrounding himself with a great executive team of people he trusts. I think we are well positioned to hit our targets and keep growing the company. On the operations side, we execute well. I’m happy to see leaders staying on with us over five or more years, still working hard to ensure we deliver to our customers. Without a great operations team, it would be hard to be the provider so many customers trust.

      Out of the qualities you possess, which do you think has had the greatest influence on your success?

      Again, my hunger to learn more and never back down from a challenge. To have the trust of so many in the company and being allowed to lead such an important part of the business, it’s an amazing feeling. But I do have to say I love winning a new customer. That feeling of beating your competitors never gets old.

      You’re based in Montreal, a city that loves to tout its bona fides as major Canadian tech hub. Why do you think it’s an ideal market for our industry?

      Montreal/Canada has a great relationship with the U.S. It’s an easy extension for any American to come up to Montreal and have access to so much great talent in our industry. I can say that data centers are growing fast here because of the very low cost on power and land taxes, but also the colder temperatures that permit us to run free cooling up to 10 months a year. We also have fiber rich density coming up from Ashburn and Europe. This makes us a great location for customers looking for Edge locations.

      What are some of the big lessons you’ve learned in your career?

      Surround yourself with great leaders who understand ownership. We are all interdependent to make this a successful journey while we are here. Don’t try to do it alone. It doesn’t scale. And lastly listen to your managers and other executives, they are my mentors even if they don’t know it.

      Laura Vietmeyer


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      INAP Executive Spotlight: TJ Waldorf, CMO—Head of Inside Sales and Customer Success


      In the INAP Executive Spotlight series, we interview senior leaders across the organization, hearing candid reflections about their careers, the mentors who shaped them and big lessons learned along the way.TJ Waldorf

      Next in the series is TJ Waldorf, CMO and Head of Inside Sales and Customer Success. Prior to this role, he served as Vice President of Global Marketing at INAP and Vice President of Inside Sales and Marketing at SingleHop, which was acquired by INAP in 2018.

      In our conversation, Waldorf discussed what excites him about the INAP brand, how he got to where he is today after initially pursuing an early career in graphic design and the importance of mentorship. Read on to learn about these topics and more.

      The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

      Tell us how you got into sales and marketing. What inspired you to pursue these areas of business?

      It’s funny when I think on this, because I distinctly remember telling myself that I’d never be a salesperson. Back when I was a teen, I viewed sales as the proverbial snake oil salesman tricking people into buying things they didn’t need. I originally aspired to be a graphic designer and earned a degree in design and visual communications. I always loved drawing and creating. I got that from my mom. But as I progressed into my early 20s and my first real job, I realized sales (and marketing) are about service. We are serving the needs of people and businesses. That was something I could really get behind.

      What excites you most about the INAP brand as it stands today?

      In November, we’ll celebrate the one-year anniversary of our refreshed brand identity and direction: Performance for Your Purpose. At the most basic level, we’re in the data center and cloud services space, yet what we’re doing is providing the foundation for our customers to deliver their services to their customers and deliver on their purpose and mission.

      If we’re not operating optimally, there’s a very distinct domino effect. Have you ever tried accessing a website or an application and found it was unavailable or moving very slowly? We all have. In some cases, that’s because the underlying infrastructure is not working properly, or there are issues at the application level. At INAP, we promise high performance, reliable service and an exceptional customer experience. When we deliver on these promises, our customers get to deliver on their promises. That’s what gets me fired up and excited about the INAP brand. The impact we have on the services that power aspects of our everyday lives is incredibly exciting.

      You recently became CMO and have Inside Sales and Customer Success under your wing, along with Marketing. What are some changes or challenges you’re seeing in these areas of the business?

      I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to oversee these three teams and to view them through a singular lens of how we approach the end-to-end customer life cycle and experience. The addition of the Customer Success org makes logical sense given some of the similarities in the work they do relative to inside sales, and the significant marketing impact they have on overall customer experience. After all, the best marketing comes from word of mouth, so if we (marketing) can enable the customer success org to accelerate the chatter, we’re in a great spot.

      As far as challenges go—and this is not unique to INAP—we work in a very competitive space and must constantly prove our value to our customers. They have choices in the market, so it’s our job, collectively, to reinforce why they chose us to begin with and why it’s in their best interest to stay with us for the long term. It’s certainly not an easy job, but I think we have an opportunity keep improving on the great work these teams have done so far.

      Out of the qualities you possess, which do you think has had the greatest influence on your success? 

      Without a doubt, the first is my drive for lifelong learning. I’ve never operated in any role where I thought I knew everything there is to know, and I enjoy the process of learning and growing my knowledge about a topic. I’m never afraid to ask the potentially dumb question, because nine times out of ten, lots of others in the room have the same question.

      The other quality is finding great people to surround myself with, be it people I report to, people who report to me or mentors I’ve had over the years. There’s a saying that goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, to together.” I think about my career in that way. I have a great team here at INAP and see the momentum we’re building together.

      Who are the people that have mentored you or been role models? 

      How much time do we have? I cannot stress the importance of having a mentor or multiple mentors. You can learn things so much faster than without them. This has been critical for me, and I don’t think I’d be where I am today without these very important people in my life.

      My parents are truly are the foundation of who I am today. I’m trying to pass the values they shared down to my son. I’ve also had many great mentors throughout my career and find myself bringing new ones into the mix when new challenges or opportunities pop up. I have mentors that run the gamut from CEOs to CMOs, VCs to what usually gets referred to as ‘reverse mentors’—folks younger than me that can keep me plugged into what’s important for the next generation. I even find myself learning from my nine-year-old. Maybe he’s a mini-mentor.

      What advice would you give to someone pursuing sales or marketing in tech, specifically? 

      Remember that your job is to be in service of your customers and their objectives. This is something I learned from my dad. You’re helping them make educated decisions on how the services, tools or platforms you provide will best help them achieve their goals. For sales and marketing, especially in tech, it’s far too easy to get bogged down in features and functionality and forget why a solution was built to begin with. Stay focused on the problem you’re helping the customer solve and you’ll be miles ahead of your peers.

      What are some of the big lessons you’ve learned in your career?

      Being exceptional at hiring and retaining great people probably tops my list. When I first started as a manager, I thought I had to have all the answers and tell people exactly what to do. But I learned that hiring great people and enabling them to do what they do best makes work, and life, 10x more productive and easier. This lesson came the hard way through lots of trial and error. This points back to the old adage of work smarter not harder.

      What are your thoughts on work-life balance? Have your ideas changed over time?

      I once heard Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, refer to this as “work-life-harmony.” That stuck with me. It’s about harmonizing the work and life to achieve your personal objectives in both areas. I do think, however, that there is a time and place to completely unplug. I ebb and flow in this area. My wife and I are both working parents and we try to make sure we’re helping one another find that harmony. Work is such a large part of our life but it’s good to keep its purpose in perspective.

      Laura Vietmeyer


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