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The difference between hard skills and soft skills: Examples from 14 Asana team members

Julia Martins contributor headshotJulia Martins
January 31st, 2024
8 min read
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What if we told you that you have a ton of skills in the workplace that you might not even realize are strengths? Hard to believe, right? 

That’s exactly what hard and soft skills are. These skills—which are so critical in the workplace—are things you haven’t even realized you’ve learned. You might think you just have a strong work ethic, but that’s actually a soft skill you’ve built over time. Or you might take for granted that you can use a customized tool at work with ease—but that’s a hard skill you’ve spent time and energy developing. 

Together, hard skills and soft skills represent the talents you bring to the table. These skill sets are what make you an effective team member—and they’re definitely things that you should be including on your resume. 

Whether you’re just learning about hard and soft skills or you want to figure out which skill to develop next, this article is for you. Get a list of hard and soft skills, then dive into examples of how 14 Asana team members use hard and soft skills in the workplace.

What are hard skills?

Hard skills are skills you can be specifically trained for. These are more traditional skills—in fact, when you think of workplace skills, you’re likely thinking of hard skills. These skills are often quantifiable traits you’ve actively worked to learn and improve. Hard skills can sometimes be job-specific depending on the role or level you’re in.

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Examples of hard skills

The hard skills you develop will depend on your role, tenure, and job. You can typically find them as required skills listed in a role’s job description. There are an unlimited number of hard skills, but here are a few examples of hard skills in different departments:

Hard skills in marketing and design:

  • Creative brief development

  • Writing and editing

  • Graphic design

  • Marketing campaign management

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)

Hard skills in engineering:

  • Cloud computing

  • Machine learning

  • Programming languages (Javascript, Java, C++, HTML, Python)

  • Server maintenance

Hard skills in strategy:

  • Business analytics

  • Data analysis

  • Data visualization

  • Data science

  • Risk analysis

Hard skills in product development: 

  • Go to market (GTM) strategy

  • Market research

  • User research

  • UX design

Hard skills in finance:

  • Bookkeeping

  • Expense reporting

  • Forecasting

  • Ledger management

Hard skills in IT:

  • Information management

  • Network security

  • Service level agreements (SLAs)

General hard skills:

  • Proficiency in more than one language

  • Project management

  • Role-specific tools, like Google Analytics or Salesforce

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are interpersonal skills that describe how you work and interact with others. You might not even think of soft skills as skills you’ve developed, because these are often things we pick up on the job or learn through day-to-day interactions with others, like being a team player or a good communicator. Soft skills are also sometimes compared to personality traits, rather than skills—but thinking this way misses the big picture. In fact, these skills are the foundation of how you collaborate and succeed in a work environment. 

Examples of soft skills

  • Accountability

  • Adaptability

  • Attention to detail

  • Collaboration

  • Communication skills

  • Conflict resolution

  • Creativity

  • Critical thinking

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Empathy

  • Flexibility

  • Innovation

  • Leadership

  • Organization

  • Patience

  • People skills

  • Problem-solving

  • Responsibility

  • Self-awareness

  • Strategic thinking

  • Teamwork

  • Time management

  • Work ethic

The difference between hard skills and soft skills

Both hard skills and soft skills are important in the workplace. Hard skills represent things you’ve learned to do or use—like tools, technologies, or proficiencies. Soft skills are interpersonal traits you have developed over time—like effective communication, dependability, or generosity. Together, hard and soft skills are the tools in your workplace toolkit that help you accomplish your goals.

Read: Empathy maps: How to understand your customer

How to use hard and soft skills to be a more effective teammate

Hard skills and soft skills make up the knowledge you bring to the team. These skills are a critical part of how you work—both on your own work and with other people. 

But sometimes, it can be hard to understand how these skills translate from a resume or cover letter into a real work environment. So we interviewed 14 Asana team members to learn how they use various skills in the workplace. Here’s what they had to say:

Soft skill: Strategic thinking skills

Benson Perry, Product Manager at Asana: “As a product manager, I often have to prioritize between a bunch of features that all solve different problems for our users. I leverage my strategic thinking skills to help make these decisions in thoughtful and clear ways. Then, I include notes and context before I communicate the decision to the rest of my team so that we're all on the same page. Being able to revisit the context in these decisions really helps when we're looking back or when someone new joins the team.”

Hard skill: Data science

Annie Lee, Engineering Manager at Asana: “As an engineer, there's always more to build than what we have time for so we need to be strategic about how we spend our time. Using data to guide our decision-making helps ensure we're always focused on the highest-impact work. Whether we use North Star metrics to help guide our higher level roadmap prioritization or look at aggregate data trends to understand how customers are using our features, data is a core part of everything we do.”

Soft skill: Organization

Michael A. Armstrong, Social Impact Program Manager at Asana: “Organization, for me, is all about the small victories in the pursuit of broader milestones. When I’m organized, I’m able to unlock opportunities and do more impactful work in the future, while grounding and centering me to the progress I need to feel I'm making each day.

Being organized helps me identify the 4-5 critical tasks I need to accomplish each day to deliver on my promises and ensure my work moves forward. Having targeted, daily micro-goals helps me continue moving forward intentionally and strategically. My goals help me stay organized and focused on my daily work—which is especially helpful against the onslaught and constant pull of emails, ad-hoc tasks, and requests that I know will come my way. While those tasks could be important, staying organized helps me define and understand my daily goals so I don’t lose any forward momentum.”

Hard skill: Creative brief development

Michael Chen, Product Marketing Manager at Asana: “The creative team is one of the product marketing team's closest partners and the content we produce is instrumental to a successful product launch. The creative brief is often a first step in sharing our launch needs with the creative team’s writers and designers. 

It's important for me to complete briefs in a way that is specific in defining the strategic vision, messaging, and intended audience—the core competencies we focus on in the product marketing team. But at the same time, my creative brief also needs to allow for input on how the work should ultimately be brought to life since that’s the creative team’s superpower. A good creative brief is the start of a new partnership—and a strong, collaborative start often leads to the best output.”

Read: The complete guide to writing creative briefs

Soft skill: Collaboration

Scott Lonardo, Product and Marketing Counsel at Asana: “To me, communication is the key to collaboration. That includes being direct and open with your input as well as being an active listener when others are presenting their viewpoints. Keeping an open mind and not being tied to a certain position allows everyone on the team to consider all input objectively and arrive at the most practical and efficient solution.”

Read: 10 easy steps to boost team collaboration
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In this ebook, learn how to equip employees to make better decisions—so your business can pivot, adapt, and tackle challenges more effectively than your competition.

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Hard skill: UX design

Leah Rader, UXR Manager at Asana: “As a UX researcher, it's a core part of my job to understand our customers' experience and weave that into product decisions and business impact conversations. The UX skill I use the most is understanding my audience. When I can correctly identify co-workers' needs, priorities, and motivations, I can ensure I’m communicating and presenting research in a way that works best for them.”

Soft skill: Empathy

Liliana Blanco, Inclusion and Belonging Program Manager at Asana: “As someone who thinks deeply about belonging and inclusion at Asana, empathy is an indispensable part of my work. Building awareness of the nuanced experiences and interpretations of others' lived experiences is how we build cultural competence. This work starts with empathy. 

When it comes to working across cultures, it is essential not to be guided by the golden rule (treat others how you want to be treated) but by the platinum rule (treats others how they want to be treated). Empathy is how we can break ourselves out of our entrained ways of thinking and adapt and integrate other worldviews. By empowering Asanas to lean into empathy, we will enable a more robust culture of belonging at Asana.”

Read: Asana’s approach to Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity

Soft skill: Leadership skills

Richard Yee, Engineering Manager at Asana: “For me, leadership is really about opportunities. Opportunities for the people I work with, the organization we work at, the customers we serve, and the communities we live in. It's recognizing and taking action on these great opportunities that present themselves in sometimes very subtle ways.

As a leader, I can bring brilliant people together to accomplish the amazing in a variety of everyday situations, like:

  • Celebrating our happiness while rewarding those who made it happen. 

  • Supporting each other when surprises come up or when we find ourselves in a place we don't want to be. 

  • Inspiring ourselves to grow while retrospecting on our successes and our failures. 

  • Collaborating on a mission, vision, and strategy we are excited about achieving. 

  • Creating a safe space to experiment, take calculated risks, and share thoughts transparently. 

  • Bringing order to chaos and prioritizing what's most important and letting go of the rest.”

Hard skill: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Calvin Lam, SEO Manager: “SEO is really a culmination of a variety of skills. On a typical day, I could be digging into numbers and data like keyword rankings, site traffic, and competitive site gaps to understand what we need to prioritize in our backlog. You can also find me connecting with our partners like writers, designers, or engineers to communicate our search optimization strategy and align on goals. Executing an SEO program requires jumping between various work styles and I love that I get to hone my skills every day.”

Soft skill: Time management skills

Maggie Kuo, Digital Marketing Project Manager at Asana: “As a digital marketing project manager, I use my time management skills to get strategic landing pages out the door for Asana’s big launch moments, on time and on budget. 

There are five main ingredients to successful time management:

  1. Working with stakeholders to align on the scope of a project.

  2. Figuring out what needs to be done by when and whether any tasks can be done in parallel.

  3. Getting the cross-functional team’s buy-in on the project plan.

  4. Delegating tasks to the right teams.

  5. Regularly communicating with project stakeholders to keep things on track.

Asana makes it easy for me to accomplish all five in one place!”

Read: 18 time management tips, strategies, and quick wins to get your best work done

Hard skill: Proficiency in more than one language

María, Localization Project Manager at Asana: “I am part of the localization team, and daily communication with language experts from all over the world is key to the success of our projects. There are certain language nuances that can only be grasped when you are familiar with more than one language. 

My proficiency in more than one language has helped me overcome language barriers, because I’m able to hold meetings in both Spanish and English. Being bilingual has also given me a better understanding of the importance of cross-cultural communication as I can relate with the international members of our teams and also with clients who don't speak English as their first language.”

Soft skill: Accountability

Sam Ayoko, System Engineer at Asana: “I work on a variety of projects and tasks outside of the Help Desk. In order to remain accountable, I personally attempt to leave an update on every task that is due on that day. I want my collaborators to understand where I’m allocating my time, so I’ll also mark things as complete when I can, or defer work I can’t get to right now. Asana makes it easy to visualize my workday so I can map out how to allocate my time and remain accountable.”

Developing your project management skills

One of the most important skill areas you can develop are your project management skills. These are a mixture of hard, soft, and technical skills—which represent your proficiency in specific tools or softwares. Here are a few of the skills you can develop in project management:

Hard project management skills:

Soft project management skills:

Technical project management skills:

Read: 25 essential project management skills you need to succeed

Building your skill set

Like all good things, developing your skill set takes time. Some of these skills come with work experience—others may be things you’re already proficient in. You may even have skills that you didn’t even think of as specialized skills until now. 

It can be intimidating to look at a skills list, but remember to take it one at a time. When in doubt, pick a new skill to learn and focus on developing that skill set for a while. If you’re ready to get started, learn how to build your status reporting, remote collaboration, or constructive criticism skills today.

Decision-making tools for agile businesses

In this ebook, learn how to equip employees to make better decisions—so your business can pivot, adapt, and tackle challenges more effectively than your competition.

Make good choices, fast: How decision-making processes can help businesses stay agile ebook banner image

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