I've been at Flock all week. This morning I was on a panel with other mentors/organizers for Fedora's outreach programs (Outreachy/Google Summer of Code). One of the questions for the panel was about career advice for getting a job in open source. Everyone had thoughtful responses. There was a lot of discussion about making sure you had good communication skills. There was also a quote about how there are enough smart people on the planet we need more friendly people. This felt really weird to me and I didn't say anything more on stage because I didn't really have my thoughts organized. I think it boils down to that phrase is a good goal but there's more to unpack there.
"Wow Laura, are you saying we should all be mean to each other?" No. If that's your first thought you probably should think about being friendlier. It's the fact that this seems to be a dichotomy. You either get to be smart or you get to be friendly, not both at the same time. This goes double (at least) for under represented groups in tech. I get depressed every time I read about another women in tech who is told she isn't "technical enough" (whatever that means) because she has good public speaking skills. I'm very tired of being told I'm intimidating for reasons that seem to boil down to I'm pretty good at my job. "Is this e-mail too aggressive because I didn't use emoji or am I not going to be taken seriously if I do use emoji" is always a fun thought process when attempting to write e-mail. Telling people to be "friendly" is lousy advice if you are from a group whose is penalized for not being friendly vs. a group who is rewarded when they are friendly.
The overall point about communication skills is generally good advice. I'd also couple it with advice for under represented groups to not sell yourself short in other areas too, you can have all the skills! I really liked the suggestion from the panel about blog posts. Writing gives you the chance to demonstrate your skills by showing how well you can communicate your ideas. What also needs to be emphasized is that communication skills are skills. You can learn communication skills. You can learn technical skills. You can learn non-technical skills. You can learn skills that don't fit into either of those boxes. Have a lot of skills and be friendly. Demand both from your coworkers, managers, and managees.