I’ve been asked to give the keynote address for ITAG’s Girls Exploring Tomorrow’s Technology event. It’s made me think about what I want to tell these these kids – what skills I wish they would all acquire.

I’ve come up with these five skills that, I believe, virtually guarantee success in life.

1. Writing

This doesn’t mean you need to write beautiful, eloquent prose; in fact, if misused, that’s often a negative. Good writing means that you can communicate your point clearly and concisely. You need to be able to structure your thoughts and understand what information is and isn’t essential. And, of course, you need to be able to write with correct grammar and spelling.

2. Communication Skills

By communication, I am including not only public speaking, but also one-on-one or small group interactions. Like written communication skills, you need to be able to structure your thoughts and understand what’s important. You also need the confidence to not get nervous in front of large crowds. Many people struggle with the last one, but fortunately, practice will largely solve this.

3. Confidence

Confident people do better in life. You don’t need to think you’re better than everyone else; you just need to believe that you are good enough to achieve what you want. Confidence will help you push for your goals and to ask for what you want in life.

4. Quantitative Skills

Being able to sort through information and make data-driven decisions will help you make better decisions. It will also set you apart from the crowd, as far too many people are intimidated by numbers.

5. Programming

This isn’t essential, but it is a skill that, if you have it, will help you tremendously. The U.S. has a severe shortage of qualified programmers. If you’re smart and can code, you’re basically guaranteed a great job out of college. ┬áBut if you don’t want to dedicate your life to coding (and even most Computer Science graduates don’t), knowing how to write code will still be a very valuable skill. Businesses are increasingly built on technology. If you can understand computers at a deep level, you will open yourself up to fantastic jobs at tech companies — and many, many jobs elsewhere.

What do you think? What skills do you consider to be the most valuable?

Gayle Laakmann McDowell

Gayle Laakmann McDowell is the founder / CEO of CareerCup, and the author of Cracking the Coding Interview, Cracking the PM Interview, and The Google Resume. Gayle has worked as a software engineer for Microsoft, Apple and Google. She holds a bachelor's and master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Computer Science, and an MBA from the Wharton School. She currently resides in Palo Alto, CA.

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