Often I've found an inversely proportional link with technical skills in relation to social skills. The more technical a person is, the less they seem to be able to comfortably participate in group activities or interact with others.
In my first IT job there was a technical wizard who everybody went to when they couldn't fix a software or network issue. He's always be able to fix it or even write code to do so. I once saw him read a huge book on programming in Pearl in a day, he then proceeded to write a script to auto-update the entire network operating code whenever it needed to be done. 10 years later he's still at the same desk doing the same thing.
In my next job working for Cisco there was another technical guru. He seemed to be more Cisco router than man in fact. For some reason he sought promotion to team leader and it was a disaster. Instead of speaking to his team (including me) who all sat next to him he would e-mail us. If you tried to get a conversation going with him it would dry up in seconds. The team meetings were a disaster. He worked all day and then went back home each night where he lived alone.
When we were all made redundant he tried to get his own networking support company running but without the people skills he struggled to get meetings.
My theory is that the technical experts have a certain part of their brain active that lets them see the world in a different way to the rest of us. The only issue is that this ability seems to make the social parts of their brain dormant. If a person is happy with this situation then fair enough. But, the most successful IT guys I've met are able to do the job but also get along well with others. Progression within a company or even consulting requires meetings, speaking to customers, doing presentations and working with a team where each person has a different personality.
Most often I've found that people hire people they like. Can you ever imagine a scenario where a company or client hires somebody they don't particularly like? I also found that I could get meetings with company owners and if the work was outside my abilities I could easily find a technical person to come in and do the job on my behalf.
There is a point to all of this and it's this. If you want to get ahead either via promotion or by starting your own company then you need to work on your people skills as much as your technical skills. Go on a public speaking course and read books like How to Win Friends and Influence People which is excellent and really helped me in the beginning. Get some project management experience and skills under your belt. If you do this I guarantee you will be in very high demand and have far more fun in your career.
I grew my own IT consulting and training company because I was able to interact with other people and explain the technical stuff in easy-to-understand terms. I could speak to the company director and the head of the IT team just as easily.
What do you think? What has your experience been?