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Important Soft Skills for Software Developers
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What Are Soft Skills?
As I normally do, I’m going to begin by establishing a scope for this article. Let’s begin with a definition of soft skills. Soft skills are essentially all the other skills that are not part of your technical repertoire; it’s everything surrounding the job of writing code. These skills are generally categorized into several general categories, each with a multitude of sub-categories. They can be as granular as your written communication skills and as broad as your work ethic. As you traverse the remainder of this article, I’ll be going through, what I believe to be, the three most important soft skills for software developers as well as a smart tactic on how to quickly improve each of these soft skills.
Communication is king. I bet you’ve heard that one before! While there is a lot of validity in that statement, I believe it’s highly relative. Let me give you an example. Let’s say that you’re being interviewed by a senior engineer at a company that says that communication is very important to them. That may be true, but your level of communication is based upon how the person sitting across from the table perceives you. If that senior engineer does not have the best verbal communication skills, anything better than their own may be perceived as exemplary. In other words, there’s no truly objective rubric on which we grade soft skills. With that being said, I think that the line between “good” communication and “bad” communication is distinct and it’s easy to distinguish the difference between the two.
But why is communication so important? To give a high-level answer it’s intended to improve the efficiency and culture of the workplace. On the professional/business side, efficient communication leads to higher productivity. With regards to the workplace culture, no one wants to work somewhere that harbors a constant fear of unintentionally saying something offensive or hearing demeaning verbiage. If a business is a car, then communication is the oil that allows things to run smoothly. Let’s revisit that statement about communication being king. For some business, this may absolutely be true, but from my experience, it’s the lesser of the three on the list.
The runner-up soft skill for software developers is work ethic. This is a pretty broad category so let’s touch on a few important sub-categories. In my opinion, this can be the most contentious soft skill amongst co-workers due to its subjective definition. Some may believe they have good work ethic when they are continually punctual and motivated, yet their boss may be more results oriented. If I am to define work ethic, the 4 most important pillars would be: strategic planning, attention to detail, reliability, and most importantly grit.
Work ethic, specifically the 4 pillars I mentioned above, are important soft skills to have as a developer because it allows you to be adaptable and reliable regardless of the circumstances. Showing consistency across the board will give you the opportunity to take on more responsibilities. With more responsibilities, it’s only a matter of time before you level up and progress through your list of goals!
Finally, we reach the most important soft skill for software developers on the list: humility. First, I believe it’s appropriate that we define humility, since it’s a word that is often misinterpreted and not used as often as it should be in today’s world. Humility is the discipline in preventing pride or arrogance from compromising judgement or action. This seems like a contradictory skill to have in today’s world where it seems that everyone getting ahead always acts like they’re the hottest thing since sliced bread. Sure, for reasons I don’t have time to delve into, that may generally be true, but in the grand scheme of things I believe that a humble mindset will always net you more gains than the opposing mindset.
So how does humility help in landing a new position? I would argue that humility is the driving force behind all of the other skills that you speak about. Assuming that a person’s accomplishments have been verified, there’s a very noticeable difference between someone who boasts about these accolades and one who modestly mentions them. But how? For one, you’ll notice that the individual that takes the road of boasting will often fail to mention any hurdles, mistakes, or lessons along the way. The individual with the more modest approach will more often choose the route of transparency and explain the process from a more objective standpoint. There are many parallels between honesty and humility so if the latter is difficult to wrap your mind around, then think of the former as you answer questions.
A humble mindset will always net you more gains than a prideful one. What does this mean? Simply put, modesty is a commodity that is resilient to inflation or depreciation. Regardless of the trends of the world and what the flavor of communication is for the day, most people will recognize and appreciate humility. When I think about all the truly humble people in my life, whether they be friends, family, or mentors, they all share one thing in common: confidence. I think that we can all agree there’s something very loud about silent confidence. It speaks louder than any voice. At the end of the day, the value of humility will never diminish and will always be accepted.
Improving the Big Three
Alright, you still with me? Excellent! I know we’ve gone through quite a bit already but before I wrap things up, I’d like to share my thoughts on improving these three big soft skills. First of all, no one is perfect so there are always improvements to be made, whether we realize it or not. But more specifically, a great way to improve your communication is to ask for feedback! This is much easier with written communication than verbal, but if you’re set on improving this skill, be creative and you’ll figure out a way to make it work. The best way to improve your overall work ethic is to seek clarity from your higher ups. This means that you understand what they look for when it comes to work ethic and you improve where you see that it’s needed most. Finally, there’s no other way to become humbler other than just doing it! Being cognizant when answering questions about yourself and avoid embellishing your accomplishments is a great start!
And here we are…the end! Well, almost. I really hope you liked this week’s blog article and found it informative. I find topics like this very fun and interesting to write about because it challenges me to think back on my own experiences while looking through a different lens. If you enjoyed the read, we’d really appreciate you give us a like or drop a comment below. There are also a bunch of other soft skills I didn’t mention in this article. I think this resource has a pretty extensive list. Thanks, folks, and until next week!