When reading the description of a job advertisement, you must have seen the part about interpersonal skills and essential skills. These are also known as soft skills, and they are essential for new employees to fit in with the team. Soft skills are great to possess even if you already have outstanding job-specific skills.
Throughout my career, I've encountered many great software developers, but I must admit that many lacked some of the soft skills required for this profession. These skills come naturally for some, while for others, they can develop over time. And that, my friends, is good news! Let's talk about some of the most important soft skills you can acquire.
I am always working on multiple projects and trying to keep my time management in check so that my workday doesn't spiral out of control. That is why I communicate with my team members the importance of telling your ideas and questions with as few words as possible, a.k.a. brevity. Every one of us had that moment when we came across a giant article, a wall of text, and we thought to ourselves - "where's the TL;DR version?". People value their time and have limited patience, so keep that in mind, convey only valuable information, and keep it short and simple. 😉
You may think this one is easy if you love what you do, but it can actually be quite difficult, especially when you’re overwhelmed with tasks and working on several projects at once. Attempting to solve a complex problem requires you to apply creativity, knowledge, and logic, all of which require your focus and undivided attention. I recommend grouping similar tasks, Working with to-do list, and dealing with tasks one by one. By doing so, you can reduce context switching and focus on just one task at a time. If there are some distractions in your work environment, try to eliminate or at least minimize them. This can be as easy as closing an office door, turning off notifications on your phone, or just asking your co-workers to keep it down. Starting my day early is one of my favorite things to do. Consequently, I can use my most productive time to deal with tasks on top of my to-do list without being interrupted for an extended period of time.
Managing your tasks efficiently and timely affects your entire team. Recently, our users expressed the need to have an urgent task addressed by the end of the week. Each member of my team gave their best, and we finished in time! As the saying goes, "a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.". It would be impossible to finish by the deadline if even one person failed to fully focus.
By the way, we waited over three weeks until they gave us feedback! 😒
Curious developers learn and discover new things. And they are probably more likely to stay up to date with emerging technologies. It's no longer enough to invest the time to learn something and do it the same way for the rest of your life. Especially if you want to stay relevant in the industry where libraries, applications, languages, tools, etc. are built every day. Hence, the need for upscale knowledge is very prominent. Not to mention that if you take the time to learn something, it will pay off in the long run. Your salary may increase, your life will be easier, or you will simply feel satisfied using your time efficiently. But to learn something, you must accept that there are things that you don't know. And that's where the fun begins! Never stop asking questions and finding the answers.
If the company is committed to innovation, you will be valued for your curiosity and desire to learn. And truth be told, any business that does not innovate will eventually plateau. My advice is to get a job in an innovative company that makes you feel inspired, fulfilled, and challenged.
The lack of discipline will not only affect your work, but it can also have a negative effect on the entire team. On the other hand, if you set an example by meeting your deadlines, showing up on time, following best programming practices and conventions this can raise the level of productivity in other developers. Like any other habit, discipline is challenging initially, but the more you exercise it, the easier it gets.
When learning to be disciplined, it is very important to start with small incremental steps towards developing a habit. Like with any other new skill, it will take time. Start with small tasks, something that is easily achievable, and then gradually work your way up. If you try to make big changes overnight you will set yourself to fail.
This is the most valuable skill you can have, but it is also the most challenging since it isn't always easy to understand each other.
As a software developer, you will communicate with product owners or managers, business analysts, and other software developers. You may have to explain technical concepts to a non-technical audience. In this case, you need to convey information in an easy and fun approach. Try not to confuse them with excess details or by using technology acronyms. Instead, focus on what is relevant to your audience. In most cases it's the impact of the solution and not the solution itself.
On the other hand, if you're having a pair-programming session or doing a code review with another software developer, this is where you'll have the chance to elaborate on your points by giving specific comments.In both cases, you need to be clear and respectful. Especially when it comes to disagreeing with someone's opinion. Even then, there is a risk that your response will get misinterpreted and the other side might get confused, offended, or worse. If someone has an idea that you don't like, ask them to explain their position, be open to discussing things even if you don’t always fully agree. The key to good communication is really listening to the other person and expressing your opinions clearly.
Being patient is a major factor in success, especially in software development. We can quickly become discouraged by the amount of work or information we need to learn. At times, you'll feel like you can't make any progress but with each new thing you learn and build, you'll gain more experience and confidence. By being patient, you will acquire a strategic way of thinking and thus you will be able to consider each decision thoroughly and recognize its potential implications.
The skills mentioned above can all benefit you as a software developer, but the truth is, if you learn them, they will also improve other aspects of your life, such as exercise, volunteering, health, or school.
I find it is a true pleasure to work with coworkers who possess these skills. It makes a workday much more enjoyable and contributes to the increased productivity of the entire team. Although it's not essential to be proficient in all of the soft skills above, improving at least some of them will surely make it worth your while in the long run.
My last thoughts on this subject are a quote of Prof. Richard Feynman:
"Knowledge isn't free, you have to pay attention."
When I was 15, I sold my first piece of software. I started making simple websites about 20 years ago. Since 2011, I have been a professional software developer; I have worked in different fields such as FinTech, E-Commerce, Acoustics, and Workflow Automation.