Glenn Engstrand

I confess that I'm a knowledge worker. I work with clients from all over the world.

You may be asking yourself how that is possible. Isn't it better to be working with someone local, where you are both in the same room, when doing anything as complex and elaborate as software development?

It is true that communication between knowledge workers is key towards advancing any complex project and that non-verbal communication is an important part of the mix; however, the most important part is the level of talent, expertise, creativity, and intelligence of the team members. If you can't reach the level needed to get the job done with local talent, then you have to consider going remote.

That explains why distributed version control systems such as git, svn, and tfs are so popular. Many software development teams are geographically distributed.

That is why today's knowledge workers must hone new skills to compensate for the fact that they are not in the same room as everyone else.

In the old days, workplace literacy didn't go too far beyond reading and writing English and the ability to add up a series of numbers. With the PC explosion, office productivity skills such as word processing, presentations, and spreadsheets were added to the list. Then came the Internet and email and the ability to fill out web forms became part of workplace literacy.  Now, with the advent of the social web and the virtual enterprise, a new set of skills become part of the baseline workplace literacy list. Add these skills to your repertoire or risk becoming obsolete.

  1. Password management a knowledge worker has to move between so many social web sites these days that password management is a must. It will not be possible to use the same password for every site and it will also not be possible to memorize all those user names and passwords. Some kind of password management strategy must be in place.
  2. Chat, blog, and discussion forum etiquette email etiquette is no longer enough. The ability to conduct yourself appropriately in virtual communities is de rigueur.
  3. Communication modality and distribution channel selection is the choice of proper medium for any particular communication. You have something to say. Should you write an email, comment on a blog post, tweet, IM, telephone call?
  4. Writing style in the old days just meant telling the complete story through why, what, where, who, which, when, and how. In addition to that, you must fit the writing style to the medium. Emailing, blogging, and micro-blogging require completely different writing styles.
  5. Taxonomy skills are not just for librarians anymore. The ability to tag content and to extract meaningful keyword search queries is very important to knowledge work.
  6. Profile management in the old days, meant not having any drunken pictures of you on facebook that someone could Google. Now, it means managing your own personal and professional online brand and all that entails.
  7. Relationship building was always necessary for salesman. Now, these type of skills are needed by all knowledge workers. The ability to find commonality, to relate with people, and to build trust given only a limited amount of cues is critical.
  8. Sensitivity skills must compensate for the lack of visual cues. We use body language a lot for determining the emotional content of a message such as humor, irony, or cynicism. Can you read between the lines?
  9. Telepresence is how you come across on a web cam. Also, consider logging some time in Second Life to learn the basics of avatar management in a 3D virtual worlds environment.