The 8 Soft Skills Every Software Developer Needs to Succeed
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are non-technical skills that help you perform a job and succeed in the workplace. Soft skills can also be called interpersonal skills but we require some soft skills even if we work alone. So instead of hard skills like Python, SQL, or data structures, web developer soft skills can include things like communication, teamwork, work ethic, critical thinking, and organisation skills.
If you're like most software developers, then you probably have a few soft skills that you do well and others that you're not so good at. The good news is that you can improve your soft skills by working on them and practising them. Soft skills involve personality traits and attitudes and are often formed experientially or over time. If some of these skills don't come naturally to you don't worry, with practice these skils ca be acquired. You may be wondering, do developers need soft skills? The answer is a resounding yes! Soft skills are crucial for most jobs but especially in software development. Let's take a look at some reasons why:
Do developers need soft skills?
We have interviewed top technology leaders at some of the most successful companies in the world such as Workday and Google to find out one thing - how important are soft skills for developers. The answer we got was unanimous - soft skills are just as important, if not more important than hard technical skills. What was even more interesting about the results of this research were that not only were soft skills considered extremely important, but they were also rarely explicitly highlighted in competency frameworks or job postings. Which means that soft skills for software developers is basically like fightclub. The first rule of fightclub is: you do not talk about fightclub. Let's break this down, soft skills are necessary for software developers to get promoted and reach their career goals but there is no obvious way of determining which skills your senior leaders are looking for because they are not explicitly prescribed in the competency frameworks or career ladders. We identified the core soft skills that these technology leaders were looking for and we created targeted learning paths to improve these skills in a consistent and continuous and gradual way. We have specific learning paths to help you to get to EACH stage in your career path but for now, let's look at the overarching skills needed at every level.
What are the 8 soft skills every software developer needs?
2. Emotional Intelligence
6. Management (People, Time & Project)
7. Stress management
Communication for software developers
Communication is vital soft skill for every developer regardless of their role in the company, whether they are working with other developers or interfacing with clients. The ability to communicate complex technical concepts to a non-technical audience is a skill that is often overlooked but is extremely important, especially for developers who are moving into management positions. Communication is just as important for junior software developers too. If you are a junior software developer who is new to a company you must learn now to communicate effectively. This means you must be able to: 1. Ask questions 2. Listen 3. Ask for help 4. Give regular updates to stakeholders
Communication Skills - Asking Questions
Why is asking questions important as a developer? The best teams in the world focus more on WHY than on WHAT. When you start to ask WHY, it leads the conversation to better understanding. This builds trust and collaboration. Asking questions allows you to better understand the task infront of you and most of the time, by asking questions you get a more holistic view of the task you're being asked to do which helps you to deliver a better solution and find purpose and meaning in your work. By understanding the bigger picture of the work you're doing, it helps to increase job satisfaction and allows you to be more creative in your approach.
Communication Skills - Listening
Listening is just as important as asking questions. If you want to be an effective communicator, you must learn to listen with the intent to understand, not just to respond. When you listen, you not only gain the knowledge of what the other person is saying, but you also learn about their experiences, motivations, and feelings. There is a great book on the power of listening called Time to Think by Nancy Kline. In it, she argues that when we pay attention to other people, they open up and share their best selves with us. When you truly listen, you not only understand what the other person is saying, but also feel a deeper connection with them.
Communication Skills - Asking for Help
Lastly, as a junior developer, it is important to ask for help. When you ask for help, you show that you are willing to learn and that you are committed to your career growth. If you don't ask questions when you don't understand something you are delaying the entire team. If you pick up a ticket that you are not sure how to tackle you are not helping anyone. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. By asking for help, you are not only solving the problem yourself, but also building a relationship with your team and the rest of the developers in your community. The most important thing to remember is that communication is a two-way street. You must be willing to both give and receive communication in order to be an effective communicator. You can ask for help in charasmatic way, by complimenting the person you are choosing to ask for help, sharing your problem on the backlog, or you can simply ask a question. For example, "Hey, can I ask you for help with something, I really liked how you explained this last week and I have never done something like this before?" Here you are using a a classic sales technique which puts the person on a pedestal in order to make them feel good and then you follow up with your ask. No matter which way you choose to ask for help, remember that it is important to be authentic and genuine. People can tell when you are being sincere and when you are not, so make sure that your ask comes from a place of true need. Also remember, you are asking for help so if you disagree with the answer given, be respectful and thank the person for their time and don't make it obvious that you are going to go in a different direction or the person may not be inclined to help you again.
Communication Skills - Stakeholder Management and Regular Progress Updates
Giving regular updates to stakeholders is important because it allows them to see the progress you are making and it gives them a sense of ownership in your work. It also allows them to provide feedback early on in the process so that you can make changes if necessary. Lastly, it shows that you are taking the time to properly learn about your job and the company you work for. If you feel like you are doing a poor job of informing your stakeholders, it is important to take the time to learn how to do it effectively. There are many resources available on Akroo Academy to help you with this, including books, articles, and online courses. The most important thing is to be proactive and seek out guidance when you need it. Remember that your To-Do list is your manager's To-Do list too and they can't have that satisfying ticking off feeling if you don't keep them in the loop!
When you are working on a task, ask yourself these six questions:
1. What is the goal of this task? 2. What are the specific steps that need to be taken to complete this task? 3. What resources are required to complete this task? 4. When is this task due? 5. Who is responsible for this task? 6. Who do I need help from to complete this task?
If you can answer all of these questions, then you are on your way to completing the task successfully. However, if you can't answer any of them, it is important to find out who can help you and to start planning how you will get that help. Establishing a good relationship with your team members is key to success as a developer. If you start offering help to your team members it can go a long way in improving the chance that they will help you when you need it.
Why is Emotional Intelligence an important soft skill for developers?
Emotional Intelligence is a key skill for any developer and it is especially important in the early stages of your career. When you are working on a task, it is important to be able to understand and manage your emotions so that you can stay focused and motivated. There are many resources available on Akroo Academy to help you with this, including books, articles, and online courses. Firstly, what is Emotional Intelligence? Emotional Intelligence is the ability to be aware of your own emotions, the emotions of others, and how your emotions can impact your work. Think of a person as a computer with two hard drives: the emotional brain and the logical brain. The emotional brain is responsible for processing emotions, while the logical brain is responsible for processing thoughts. When you are working on a task, it is important to keep both of these hard drives active so that you can manage your emotions and stay focused on the task at hand. While IQ is important, it is emotional intelligence that will help you to succeed in your career as a developer. IQ doesn't change much over time, but emotional intelligence can be improved with practice.
If you are ever feeling overwhelmed or stressed, it is important to take a step back and assess the situation. It is important to recognise the signs of burnout or stress so that you can take action to prevent it. To do this you must understand yourself and how you react to stress. If you can't do anything to reduce the workload or stress factors then you must take steps to manage your emotions and stress so that you can continue to work effectively. Think of your mental health like a bucket of water. If you fill the bucket up with too much water then it will overflow and spill over. You need to find ways of draining the bucket so you have room for more water. This may include things like exercise, meditation, journalling, going to therapy or talking to a friend.
Beyond learning about your own emotions and how to regulate them, Emotional Intelligence can also help you understand the end user of the product you are building. If you can understand how they think and feel you can design a product that more effectively meets their needs.
Problem Solving Skills for Developers
Problem Solving is another important soft skill for developers. When you are working on a task it is important to be able to brainstorm and come up with ideas on how to solve it. This goes back to asking for help and working with stakeholders as often problems have been faced before by your team. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Just as you would take to google to find a solution with a code problem you should leverage the skills and experience of your team, manager and stakeholders when solving a problem. Effective problem solving is a logical process system that you can follow . Knowing when to try to figure something out yourself and when to ask for help is one of the most important skills a developer can learn. Sure you may enjoy trying to figure things out but you are also responsible for getting results in a timely fashion. You should always consider the big picture, and the commercial implications of your decisions. For example, if you are enjoying figuring out a problem but know that your manager could help you get to the solution quicker, then you should ask for help. The users and customers should always come first so if you can solve a bug or problem that is impacting their experience with your product faster then you should always do that.
How can you develop these soft skills as a developer?
Through Akroo's learning path you can develop the necessary soft skills for a success career in technology. Akroo have developed a specific set of learning paths to accelerate your soft skill development andreach your career goals. Each learning path contains books, podcasts, video content, articles and most importantly live courses. Soft skills are developed through experiential learning so we have rounded up expert coaches in the field of career and soft skills to help you reach your full potential. Most one off soft skills training courses costs £1,500, we offer unlimited live training and resources for a whole year for a fraction of that cost. If you are interested in learning more about Akroo and how we can help you reach your career goals get in touch and a team member will be happy to chat with you.