5 Soft Skills You Need to
Be a Great Software Engineer
Contrary to popular belief, software engineering is not only about coding and product development. Sure, as a budding developer, you must focus on technical skills, learn new programming languages, get certificates, and expand your portfolio. But, if you wish to advance in your career, you need more than technical knowledge. And that extra something is soft skills.
Software engineering also entails working with a team. To create a product that will meet the users' technical needs, developers must work with team members to make a well-rounded product. You must communicate, get your point across, and make them heard, especially if you are a team leader. Thus, soft skills are now indispensable in every software engineer's toolbox.
Moreover, the job of a software engineer is at the top of many states as one of the most common, according to SignalHire research. And this sector is now closely integrating with the business sector, which means that developers need to have a wider set of skills to make a name in this industry due to high competition.
Hence, in this article, we look at the soft skills you must develop to be a software engineer. Keep on reading.
Which Soft Skills Are Essential For Software Engineers?
Some people are naturally gifted and are not only great conversationalists and communicators but are also great at understanding how to deal with every kind of person individually. However, there is often a misconception that software engineers are not the greatest regarding soft skills. The media depiction of such developers has always been that they are usually introverts, and while they are great with computers, they are not the best at communication with human beings.
But that couldn't be further from the truth. Moreso, in today's corporate culture where employee relations and communication are encouraged more. Furthermore, if software engineers lack basic soft skills, they'll fail to understand the needs and concerns of the user base. Thus, let us look at the soft skills you can work on if you want to be a software engineer.
The first and foremost soft skill you must develop is communication. Regardless of what kind of profession you are in, communication skills are always crucial. However, communication is all the more important in the software development industry because the ultimate goal of the job is often to address the concerns and issues faced by users. Thus, the people working on the project must have their goals and solutions aligned to work the most efficiently.
While software engineering often requires working alone, it can also be a group effort, especially if it's a complicated project or if you are working for a big, reputable client. At such times, all colleagues must be on the same page regarding project requirements, deadlines, and expectations. Even if some problem does occur, the employees must know how to communicate with others and figure out the core of the problem and, consequently, a solution.
Most importantly, communication is a two-way street. You can only be a good communicator if you listen well. Once you listen clearly, you will be surer of what your colleagues are trying to say. And, naturally, you will be able to speak better when you listen better. Remember to be confident and speak with conviction.
While we agree that software engineering is a profession where one is required to deal with computers primarily, developers must also have some empathy to be more efficient at their job. What is empathy at work, you may ask? It is the ability to understand what someone else might be feeling. To empathize is to put yourself in someone else's shoes and see through their perspective.
Software development can sometimes be a demanding job where employees might be required to work for endless hours. At such times, you must be empathetic towards your colleagues, cut them slack, and motivate them to keep going. Empathizing allows employees to understand each other's concerns, which results in the project's smooth operation. Beyond that, it is also important to be empathetic when welcoming new ideas. Mockery, ridicule, or negative feedback must be avoided, and constructive criticism must be given.
You have to know how your colleagues will react to your responses, and you have to craft your words accordingly. That respect will be returned when you respect them and understand their perspective. But, empathy is not only needed when practicing a positive relationship between colleagues. Software developers also have to deal with customers, meaning they must understand their perspective to do their job in the best way possible.
"Oh, software engineering is such an easy and relaxing job!" said no one. This line of work requires employees to work endless hours and dedicate their full concentration. Furthermore, it involves not just one process but, often, numerous processes. From the kickoff to the execution and ultimately to the testing and deployment phases, every project turns out to be long and…you guessed it, frustrating.
And even after dedicating so many hours, there's no guarantee that the end result will be to your satisfaction. There will be bugs or other errors, which you will have to address. Therefore, it is important to be patient, calm, and neutral. You can lose your cool easily when something like this happens, but remember that it leads to nothing good, and you will make more rash decisions, ultimately impacting the project.
Lastly, you must also be patient with your colleagues. Everyone works at their own pace, and you must wait to expect everyone to understand your ideas and goals. Some team members must ask you things more than once, and non-developers might ask you to perform things without understanding their difficulty. Thus, you must not lose your temper and let yourself get frustrated easily.
The nature of the job itself requires developers to be problem-solvers. They must constantly come up with solutions for optimization issues, messy code, bugs, and more. But that is the technical side of things. You must also be good at problem-solving, among your soft skills. This means that you have to be creative and come up with out-of-the-box solutions for problems that might have challenging or obvious solutions.
Besides creativity, being open-minded is another thing you must keep in mind when problem-solving. One of the biggest problems that restrict developers and makes them poor performers is their ego. You must realize that mistakes are inevitable, and even if a problem has been caused because of your mistake, you can still fix it. And, more importantly, you can fix it with the help of others.
At the same time, you must also encourage your colleagues to be creative as well. It would help if you welcomed their ideas without shutting them out immediately. Remember that problems do not have just one solution, and sometimes, one answer can be more helpful than the other. That is why you must give everyone equal priority with their solutions if you wish to fix a problem sooner.
5. Time Management
As a software engineer, you might often feel like time is running out. And deadlines are a big part of the job. You have to not only keep up with those deadlines but also make sure that the quality of your work isn't being hindered. In such times, losing track and feeling like abandoning everything is easy. However, simple time management skills can help you greatly in achieving your objectives.
Plus, software developers are answerable to numerous people. Developers are also accountable to the customers, from business managers to project managers. Thus, you have to be time-conscious. Give estimates as well as stick to your word as much as possible. At the same time, do not overestimate yourself and push yourself beyond what is needed.
To help you with your time management skills, there are several techniques that you can use. Firstly, there is the Pomodoro technique. There is also something called the kanban technique. Choose a technique that is convenient for you and prioritize your tasks accordingly. Lastly, time management is all the more crucial when you are multitasking. Managing too many tasks all at once makes it easy to lose track of time and get overwhelmed. Therefore, break down your tasks and complete them according to how soon they are needed or have to be delivered.
Whenever we think about software developers, we immediately think about the movie "The Social Network." The film showed such developers working in solitude, without needing to communicate with anyone. But, in reality, the scenario is completely different. Technical skills are obviously needed if you wish to become an excellent engineer. But you must take advantage of soft skills, too.
Some say that soft skills in the software development industry are just as essential as technical knowledge. That is because you can be great at coding, but you must be a decent communicator to make yourself heard and understand others. This will keep on leading to problems in your projects. So, work on the above-mentioned soft skills along with your coding skills and be the best software developer you can be!
About the Author
Dewey Grant has 10 years of experience in HR and recruiting, helps new employees to adapt in the team, resolves conflict situations, and monitors the professional development of specialists. He is a husband and father of two daughters and likes to spend every free minute with his family.