Soft Skills: as part of Software Developers’

by | Jul 23, 2020

Written by Joanna Schembri Warren

I am not a software developer myself. I work in the IT sector though and most of my colleagues are software developers. I have tons of respect for my colleagues: they are behind the software that gets your pension and other social benefits paid, your income tax collected and your tax refunds paid, your medical tests to the doctor, and the customs of the products you import collected.

What I observe is that increasingly more and more is expected out of them, even the youngest ones fresh out of tertiary schooling. Software developers are responsible for writing good code, but that doesn’t make anyone great. A software developer who’s technically brilliant and possesses the right soft skills – whichever they may be – is what most employers seek.

Alike hard or technical skills taught by educational institutions, soft skills are also encouraged to be practiced – the question is can they be learnt? Over the last decade I attended various short courses about management and soft skills including emotional intelligence, decision making, problem solving, presentation skills, negotiation skills, communication, and the list goes on. Most courses gave me some valuable take-aways. The real challenge actually has been to become aware of those areas in which I require potential improvement and put the knowledge and advice given into action to grow the required skills.

Attending a course about any one particular soft skill gives some knowledge and understanding but is not likely to automatically instil that skill in you. You have to get your hands dirty – make it your personal endeavour to work on yourself and your own soft skills. The most practical suggestion is to acquire these skills through habit. Stop being afraid, be conscious of what you need to improve about yourself and accept the temporary discomfort of trying to put into practice new soft skills.

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The good news is that everyone has soft skills: some may be evident; others may need to be uncovered with some work. Everyone is unique and must figure out those soft skills to strive for. While the plethora of soft skills may vary amongst employers and between one role and another, the tips below on practical soft skills are timeless, in my humble opinion, especially for those who are still at the beginning of their career:

Shut up and listen. Let other team members have their say too, you are not the only one with smart ideas. Let your customers explain their issues or requirements comprehensively first, it will make your job easier.  Allow your manager to guide you from experience; it will help you make less mistakes.

Don’t assume, Ask.  No one knows it all. The more you ask, the more informed and better decisions you can make. Asking questions shows you’re curious and open to learn more.

Speak with confidence, but first be competent. Competence and confidence go together, both take time to develop with years of experience. Confidence without competence will not likely take you far. For starters, researching to know your stuff and checking properly your work will help you feel more confident about the quality of your results, and in turn will enable you to speak with more conviction. Besides your verbal skills, remember that your writing skills are important too.

Own your mistakes and learn from them. Be honest and transparent about your mistakes. Be accountable, do try hard to fix your own mistakes. If you can’t do it on your own, ask for help. If you’re criticised for your mistakes, it’s ok if you take it at heart at first (at least it shows that you care). After that initial feeling passes though, try to accept the criticism and understand how to avoid the same mistake next time. To make mistakes is inevitable so be patient with yourself.

Do not fear responsibility. Be brave. It is so easy to stop at “I don’t know enough, I’m still new” or “I just can’t do that”. Your job is more than cutting code. It is also about trying to solve problems on your own first and think of different or better ways to do things. Think more, experiment more and try to attack the problem first before giving up too easily. You will learn more doing the tougher tasks, than the easy ones.

Be part of the team and play like a team member. Try to understand your colleagues even how they feel, it will help you when you need to test or debug someone else’s code and give constructive feedback. Choose your words especially when you criticise others’ work. Take credit when you deserve it, but make sure to compliment others when they deserve it as well. Be open to others’ points of view and work together to produce even better ideas. Do your part and deliver as agreed with the team, if you don’t the team will suffer.

Be productive. Learn to focus so that you deliver what you commit to your employer or team. Know what you need to do when you sit at your desk and give yourself a time limit to finish a job. If you think you will not manage, inform your manager about your difficulty. Be reliable and try keeping your word so you don’t disappoint.

A final word of advice: don’t overlook your soft skills and don’t stop evolving. Treasure and grow your soft skills for your own good, your own self-worth and job satisfaction and to be noticed in your next job interview. If you’re looking for a job, look for employers who want you to deliver more than just code and are ready to offer a nurturing environment for you to thrive in.

Treasure and grow your soft skills for your own good, your own self-worth and job satisfaction and to be noticed in your next job interview.

Treasure and grow your soft skills for your own good, your own self-worth and job satisfaction and to be noticed in your next job interview.

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