Dr. Cameron Seay, IBM Champion and adjunct professor at East Carolina University: I often bristled when someone referred to "soft skills" as a set of make-or-break career competencies. Over time, I've found these skills enable IT professionals to navigate their careers with greater finesse. It's the subtlety and nuance of how to word emails, how to seek a mentor (or even understand that you need one), how to deal with a difficult manager and the myriad of other things that make up what it takes to climb the corporate ladder. I’ve managed many individuals who had exceptional technical skills, but their deficiencies in “soft skills” (which we will more precisely define shortly) caused their careers to stagnate. I have identified three major career tracks in the mainframe space: technical, managerial, and sales.