7 Soft Skills Every Software Developer Should Have
7 min readNov 29, 2021.
A time when developers were a small, socially awkward group of guys sitting in dark little offices is long gone. Now almost every company needs an internal IT consultant, and with the pandemic and many brick and mortar businesses moving their operations online, they need it bad. Not to mention all those big and small IT companies that cannot stop competing in the never-ending race for talent. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to land a good job. Or if you are a beginner, any job at all. Today, there are approximately 27 million developers around the world. And it is estimated that the number of devs across the globe will reach 45 million in 2030. Those are some big numbers.
Therefore, in addition to all the frameworks, and programming languages you may know, you should definitely work on your communication skills, if you want to get the upper hand over the competition. The ability to function well in a team and some teaching aptitude is also nice to have, especially since there will always be someone less experienced than you. Or someone who recently joined the project and needs your help learning more about the project requirements and how things work in your team.
7 Soft Skills for Every Software Developer
Here comes the tricky part. Your tech skills are admirable, however, soft ones may need more fine-tuning. But where to start and what to work on? And of course, it has to be a crash course since there are already too many things to learn technology-wise. So let’s start easy.
Steve Jobs said that great things in business are never done by one person, but a team of people. And he knows a thing or two about product development. Of course, this doesn’t have to be the golden rule, but it’s still a good one to follow.
And being a team player in this industry goes without saying. You need your coworker’s code for the app to work, and the code has to mesh well with the team's standard if you want your merge request to be accepted. The same goes for relationships. You have to be able to work productively with others for the tasks to be done on time. Also, you’ll spend one-third of your day working with your team, so try to make the best out of it.
Communication skills can be useful in many situations. Online chats, phone calls, email correspondence, social media interactions (including LinkedIn), internal and external meetings …Therefore, once you learn them, your life is going to be much easier. Just remember all those hours lost trying to explain what you need from someone, or why you implemented something the way you did. All that because you and your speaker weren’t on the same page. Miscommunication happens often and to everyone, but minimizing it would make your day more about coding and less about endless meetings and correspondence. Imagine if everyone was brief and clear about what they want or need. No more pointless discussions. Just you and your clean code. And some bugs now and then.
Agile teams are usually cross-functional and self-organized. That means you have to be, too. There are already too many things that can go wrong, bad estimations, unpredicted server problems, production bugs… So, there is no room for poorly organized tasks and executions. Your team’s progress depends on you, and yours on them. Same as you don’t like to be stuck waiting for the PO’s or client’s confirmation on something, your teammates won’t enjoy waiting for you to finish something that is due yesterday.
Software development is all about fixing complex problems. So, all good developers are good at critical thinking. You solve problems for a living. You spot the problem, identify the cause, fix it, and move on. It’s the same here, the only different thing is the type and the scope of the impediment. Also, bear in mind that there are many ways to solve a problem. And there is always more than one right answer. But you have to be persistent and look for it until you find it.
Ability to adapt
Most software development processes are usually lean and agile. And for them to stay that way, you have to ensure optimal efficiency and productivity in each cycle. So, both you and your processes have to be able to adapt and become better in the next sprint. Adaptation is one of the three Scrum pillars, so it will be very difficult to be a functional part of any organization that is using it without understanding the basic principles of adaptation.
Empathy is the ability to understand how other people feel and act accordingly. If you manage to do so, many conflicts and misunderstandings will simply go away. Try to understand how your coworkers think and where they are coming from. Maybe they have a good reason for a certain action or a totally different way of thinking. If you look at things from their perspective, maybe it will all have perfect sense. Maybe it won’t, but at least you’ll know you did your best to reach some type of agreement and ensure a functional and productive workflow.
Well, if you are a programmer, patience is not something you lack. Looking for reasons why some code doesn’t work or trying to figure out why something crashes is something you do on a daily basis. Now all you have to do is transfer that skill from code to people. Listen carefully, wait for others to finish, explain multiple times if needed. Nobody likes to be confused. So help the other side to understand what you need and why you need it so that everything is clear when the communication ends. If that doesn’t happen, communication participants may become annoyed, puzzled, or even frustrated and things will be left undone.
How to improve soft skills
We improve interpersonal skills every day. The more we interact with others, the more we learn. And even unpleasant encounters and meetings that went bad can be an opportunity to learn something new and be more prepared the next time around. Even when you feel like your coworker is not listening to you and the discussion is going in the wrong direction, avoid raising your tone or starting a fight, that is just time lost and no one will feel better after that. Instead, try counting to three. Sometimes you will have to count to 100 and it still won’t be enough, but it’s important to stay patient and avoid unnecessary confrontations. You can also watch other people in your workplace. How do they handle interpersonal communication or difficult situations? Find someone who does it well and mimic his or her approach. Or just ask them for advice, they won’t say no. But you have to be open to suggestions, avoid conflicts, and practice until you get better.
Nowadays it’s common for interviewers to ask you if you are comfortable talking to clients or external managers and presenting your work, or explaining the logic behind the features created. Not to mention that in the outsourcing industry, you’ll probably get to work with other teams that could easily be located a hundred thousand kilometers from you. Or closer, but composed of many different personalities, some very difficult to work with. Therefore, if you don’t want to make your already demanding job even tougher, working on your soft skills should be on the to-do list.