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Full List of Software Developer Soft Skills

Serhiy Lavrynenko
Serhiy Lavrynenko
20 November, 6, 2020 11 min read
20 November, 6, 2020 11 min read

We all know the “famous” image of the programmer: introvert, in grandma's sweater, stretched pants, and glasses. Of course, at the time of the birth of the profession (and the emergence of this stereotype), nobody would even think about any sort of soft skills, because if you knew how to write code, you were already cool. However, modern software development and the IT sphere itself have changed significantly.

Nowadays, the responsibilities of a good developer include not only the implementation of technical tasks but also the skills of team management, communication with clients, and others. In other words, there are more requirements for specialists. That is why today I want to talk about soft skills that are essential for a modern software developer.

What Are Soft and Hard Skills?

There are two categories of skills that characterize a specialist:

Hard Skills

Hard skills are technical skills directly related to professional qualifications. For IT specialists, these are programming languages, data transfer protocols, principles of building networks, security standards, virtualization systems, risk management, knowledge of analysis systems, knowledge of a foreign language, etc.

These skills are acquired through training, workshops, certifications, and so on.

Soft Skills

Software developer soft skills are interpersonal, personal, or “flexible”, “soft” skills. Unlike hard skills, they are more difficult to measure and count. They are non-specialized and do not necessarily refer to a specific role or position, but to your entire experience. They form different degrees of success in the workplace. Examples of software engineer soft skills are the following: adaptability, decision-making, leadership, critical thinking, self-confidence, creativity, organization, problem-solving, teamwork, and many others.

Why Are Soft Skills for Software Developers Important?

Unfortunately, nowadays it is quite visible that many IT specialists lack flexible skills, and the most important of them is always connected communication: the ability to listen, give feedback, negotiate, collaborate, share knowledge/information.

These skills are important not only for technical sales positions, as it might seem, but also for developers, engineers, and architects, as it helps to most effectively solve technical problems. 

What is more, programmer soft skills can also affect the following aspects:

Team Success

Teamwork helps build positive relationships with colleagues, which in turn leads to effective collaboration and new ideas. Innovation is at the heart of engineering breakthroughs and is usually the result of shared efforts.

A new specialist will be a more valuable team member if he/she has advanced soft skills. They may not know all the technologies but will learn them in the process. This will give this employee a hundred points ahead of a professional who is difficult to work with in a team.

Development of Professional Opportunities and Career

A programmer who is proactive about related tasks, potential project problems, discusses this with his peers/supervisor, proposes solutions are much more likely to get a promotion towards the project lead’s role.

Reputation

Soft skills for engineers play a huge role in building a professional reputation. People know you, recommend you, they turn to you for advice, consultation. Work comes to you on its own. On the contrary, when your soft skills are at a low level, it is very difficult to find a job — the process is slow and not very successful, you have to look for referees, you have absolutely no or very few contacts.

The Choice is in Your Favor

The employer always notes the personal and interpersonal qualities of the candidate. Almost all companies with a strong corporate culture: both startups and large companies have a clear understanding of what intrapersonal skills they want their employees to have since this is a very important parameter on which the success of the company and its business depends.

You must agree that if an employer needs to choose between two candidates with the same professional skills (hard skills), then the choice will be made in favor of the one who also has good soft skills. It is more profitable to take a person who can take responsibility, loves to show initiative, to lead the process, to be able to communicate with the team, and listen to the interlocutor.

Relocation

When you change the country, everything changes — you have a new home, a new way of life, a foreign team, new rules. Soft skills are especially critical here. As a result, the ability to join a new team and build relationships with colleagues, the ability not to lose heart, organize your work process, lead an active social life and develop a presence in professional communities.

Important Programmer Soft Skills and How to Develop Them

software developers soft skills

Let’s go through all important software developer soft skills and see where in a real project each skill can be useful and how you can improve it.

Understanding the Customer’s Needs

Why it is important

First of all, this soft skill increases the level of trust between the developer and the customer. If a developer really understands why he is doing what he is doing, he will be able to choose the right approach and solution, and will promptly inform that the task can be performed differently (or is not necessary at all).

Secondly, it allows for avoiding rework. If the developed product ultimately does not solve the customer's problem or is not interesting to users, it will have to be redone (the client will spend more money and doubt the company’s expertise).

In today's IT world, the developer needs to understand the customer's business. If we are developing a solution for a company that produces candy products, then our whole team should have at least a minimum level of understanding in this particular topic. This is the only way to make a really good product. 

How to improve this skill

Always think about the problem, and then about the task. My favorite approach that I am ruled by is the one expressed by Albert Einstein — “If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.”

Perhaps the solution you are developing does not solve any problem, or it solves the wrong one. Each task you are starting a new task, follow the Five Whys method and ask questions to yourself.

Communication Skills

Why it is important

Teamwork makes it easier to deal with difficulties. If you do not communicate with other people, sooner or later you will be left alone with difficult, and maybe even impossible tasks. Believe me, no matter how professional you feel, there is always a problem that you are not able to solve alone.

Communication skills are needed to exchange experience and knowledge. It will be cool if you share knowledge considering something you are good at with others. This also works the other way around — if your team has someone with unique skills, they can share it with you. This is an endless cycle in which everyone wins: the team, the project, and, of course, you.

How to improve

Be open to communication, go out to people. Help others and don't be afraid to ask for help — it encourages communication.

Well, quite trivial advice — simply communicate! This is the only way to improve software developer communication skills, no courses and books will help you here more.

Proactivity

Why it is important

This is the quality of those who want to change something, and not go with the flow. Forget the phrase: “This is not my area of ​​responsibility.” If you see that something is missing to get the final result, figure it out yourself. Cheer and fight for the ultimate goal.

Proactiveness means doing more than is expected of you. Suggest a solution as you see it, explain why this business problem requires such a solution.

Being proactive at work increases the likelihood that you will do exactly what you like. By doing a little more than expected of you, you will earn more credibility. Your words that it is worth using one solution rather than the other will be perceived as more weighty. And over time, in all the teams you work with, you will be able to build relationships and processes so that you enjoy the work.

How to improve

Try not staying aside, but instead, suggest your ideas and offer solutions. There are things that are not directly related to your responsibilities, but sometimes situations arise when your help is needed. In Agile, people help each other, take on related functions. This approach helps the team complete tasks faster and more efficiently and helps you grow. 

You can wait until you are given a task, or you can set the rhythm yourself, strive for autonomy, initiate tasks, and thus do what you are interested in.

Emotional Intelligence

Why it is important

The first side of emotional intelligence is understanding other people's feelings and emotions. There are a lot of people around us, they are all different: calm, aggressive, gloomy, funny, quiet. It will be much easier to communicate if you understand their feelings and motivation, and know how to interact with them. You need to understand what they are, what they want, and fear.

The second side of emotional intelligence is the ability to manage your emotions. We often act spontaneously under the influence of emotions, such as anger or impatience. When we understand and control our emotions, we can make more informed and balanced decisions.

How to improve

Sometimes during an argument, you may feel that the interlocutor is annoyed and ignores all your arguments. Analyze your behavior and communication. How did the interlocutor try to end the conversation, what non-verbal was it accompanied? It will be easier for you to interact with others if you understand what is happening on an emotional level. If colleagues, in your opinion, are behaving incorrectly, think about their reasons for this? In 80-90% of cases, immersed in a problem, you will understand the source of unpleasant behavior.

In general, don't allow yourself to be toxic. There is no need to get personal, discussing approaches to solving problems within the team. Instead of flaunting your experience, better explain why your approach is more effective. Why should someone use it?

Creativity and Flexibility

Why it is important

This soft skill is about the ability to quickly adapt to new conditions and find non-standard solutions to the situation.

While working on an IT product, you often need to quickly respond to significant adjustments that are made within a short period of time. Also, a developer needs to have lateral thinking in order to generate suggestions for product improvement.

How to improve

Find new approaches to old problems. Ask yourself: “How can you do it differently here?”

Take on tasks that are unfamiliar to you. The more difficult obstacle you challenge, the faster you learn.

Negotiation Skills

Why it is important

Negotiation skills are needed to convince the interlocutors of the correctness of your point of view.

Contrary to stereotypes, it's not just managers who need negotiation skills. We face negotiations every day. In fact, we all somehow “sell” something, for example, our own ideas within the framework of solving a specific business problem, our preferences for the architecture of the project, etc. It's just that someone inclines others to their side intuitively, and someone consciously, thinking over a strategy of behavior. Strive to do it consciously.

How to improve

Always prepare for negotiations. Set a goal for yourself — what do you want to achieve at the end of the conversation?

Practice negotiation in your everyday life. Great workout - a marketplace where you can bargain yourself a discount even if you don't need it. But in my opinion, the best story is conversations with call center operators who call you with offers of new services. If you have time, talk to them. Feel the ground, feel how quickly their scripts break if you go beyond the script.

Time Management

Why it is important

Unfortunately, contrary to common misconception, we cannot control time. We have him exactly 24 hours every day. Time management is not about time, but about tasks and priorities. How to manage things to stay productive during busy times and balance work and life.

How to improve

Break down large tasks into small ones, up to such as “go there,” “write this,” etc. The human brain is afraid of big tasks because it does not understand where to start, and we start to procrastinate. We postpone the task over and over again until the deadline comes. So what you should do is to plan what to do when breaking a big task into smaller ones.

Final Words

Soft skills for developers are quite a significant factor in your candidate assessment. Of course, their absence does not mean that the IT specialist will not cope with his work. You can easily be a rock star in the profession without them. However, soft skills by themselves help to grow faster in the profession. A specialist with such skills is more likely to be appreciated by colleagues and customers. So if you want to develop, you shouldn't be limited only by technical knowledge.