A Beginner’s Guide to Soft Skills for Programmers
At first glance, programming seems to be all about technical ability. That’s why many young developers underestimate the importance of soft skills and focus on developing their technical skills only.
But ignoring soft skill development may lead to problems like a lack of effective communication with team members or clients, which can impact company operations as well as the developer’s career.
In this post, we will see why having soft skills is vital and which soft skills can help you become a highly sought-after software programmer.
What’s the Difference Between Soft Skills and Technical Skills?
When a programmer sends in a job application, the employer looks at both soft skills and hard skills before choosing whether or not to hire them. Both types of skills help to define how successful the candidate is.
- Soft skills are subjective, and it is difficult to quantify them. Soft skills are related to the way a candidate interacts and relates with other people. They are also known as interpersonal skills. Some of these skills are flexibility, leadership, communication, patience, motivation, teamwork, time management, and work ethic.
- Technical or hard skills, on the other hand, are generally thought of as more teachable abilities—one can learn technical skills from a course or from books. These skills are usually most prominently displayed in a programmer’s resume. Some of these skills are degree or certificate, machine operation, language proficiency, computer programming, and typing speed.
Now that we understand the main differences between soft skills and technical skills for programmers, let’s talk about the importance of soft skills in a programmer’s career.
Why Are Soft Skills Important?
There are many reasons why soft skills are equally as important as hard skills for programmers. Having soft skills means having positive interactions with other developers, which has many career benefits. These are some of the benefits:
- Soft skills are important for networking. Soft skills help developers to build a network with fellow industry professionals. They can help you make connections, discover job opportunities, and find a mentor to help improve your performance. Though networking is a challenging task, having excellent interpersonal skills can make it easier.
- Soft skills mean teamwork. As a developer, you may find it easy to just focus on your tasks and solving programming errors. But software development is more than that. It’s about teamwork and how each member of the team can contribute toward the development of a robust product. Therefore, having soft skills can enable software developers to easily communicate with each other and solve errors as a team.
- Soft skills benefit retention. One of the most important reasons why soft skills are important is team retention. Once a software development company finds great talent that works well with the team, they should not let them go. Finding and training a new developer takes a lot of effort, time, and money.
We’ve gone over why you need soft skills, but which are the most important soft skills for developers to have?
The 10 Most Important Soft Skills That Every Developer Should Have
Let’s take a closer look at the soft skills a developer should have in order to thrive in their career. Although the list below is not exhaustive, it highlights the 10 most important soft skills all developers need to polish.
Communication is a very effective soft skill that should not be neglected. A key part of being part of a development team is being willing to speak up in meetings, either with the staff or with customers. And to do so effectively, you must have developed communication skills.
Some of the things that you should keep in mind while communicating are the following:
- Listen – Listening is an important part of communication. Before you start giving your point of view on the app development process or errors, first listen to your team members, and try to get on the same page when finding the best solution. Having the ability to listen also allows programmers to learn new things and expand their knowledge.
- Don’t Interrupt – Interrupting generally happens when a programmer has knowledge about something that they feel can’t wait until others are finished talking. This is not a good sign for communication or teamwork. It’s important to wait until the other person is finished talking.
- Speak Clearly – Whenever any sort of discussion is going on, whether about a new project or progress on the current project, you should speak up and clearly outline any ideas you have. Communicating your ideas in a clear manner ensures that everyone is on the same page.
Following these tips for communications skills will help you have good interpersonal relationships with your colleagues.
At some point, you will face issues with your project or role, and it could happen on a regular basis. Problem-solving skills help you to handle the problem without disrupting the project.
Besides helping to solve technical issues smoothly, problem-solving skills can also make you helpful to the team or company. For instance, you could help a new colleague arrange their office equipment.
Being a Team Player
Being a team player is a skill where every team member actively contributes to completing tasks, managing projects, or meeting goals. It is one of the most important skills a developer can have, as every software engineer has to work as a part of a team—whether it is a team of designers or developers or a project development team.
Working well with other team members makes the team more likely to create a robust, user-friendly, and feature-driven application. Besides this, teamwork lessens the time it takes to develop a project, and it also helps in generating more ideas, as more brains are attached with the same work.
Accountability is a skill that enables developers to take responsibility for their mistakes and make a decision accordingly.
Although it can be difficult to accept that your decision created an issue in the system, admitting it and trying to resolve it with the help of fellow developers is the best decision. This shows that you are a responsible engineer and a good teammate.
Adaptability and Versatility
Adaptability is a soft skill that shows that a programmer or a project manager is able to handle the changes that come with the development environment. The developer must be ready to evolve with the growing technology whether it is hardware or software. Changing tech means that adaptability and versatility should definitely be part of your soft skills arsenal.
Language skills include the way one speaks and writes as well as how many languages you can speak and understand. It’s important to communicate clearly to your clients, which often means making sure that you use layman’s terms instead of technical terms.
Also, you may have to deal with clients who do not understand your native language, so you might have to learn a new language to improve communication. For instance, many developers who are not familiar with English need to learn it to be able to communicate with their clients. Reading books in English about programming concepts and new technologies can help develop language skills and technical skills at the same time.
Confidence is a skill that enables professionals like you to make independent decisions about their projects. It is an important skill that makes you highly motivated to complete the tasks with perfection.
Building confidence can be difficult, but the more experience a developer has, the more confidence they get. For instance, solving a programming issue for the fifth time is much easier than doing it for the first time. Your confidence will increase as you educate yourself with each project you take on.
Time management is a soft skill that changes with the role you play in the application development process.
For instance, if you are a project manager, you must manage tasks and your team members in a specific amount of time. And if you are a developer, you need to manage your time while creating an application and coworking with designers and quality analysts.
With time management skills, you can prioritize tasks, making sure that the most important parts of the development process are taken care of first.
Self-learning is a soft skill every software development company looks for in an employee, and it benefits the developers to learn at their workplace. Self-learning gives the programmer the ability to identify issues and resolve them with ease, learn new technologies and languages, and create more unique solutions for clients.
The development process can feel very long. From finalizing the project scope; and developing, testing, and deploying the project; to updating it when needed, the whole process requires patience.
Having patience means giving yourself enough time to make errors and then fix them. Besides, patience also helps you to be stress-free during deadlines or extra-work pressure.
Soft Skills Complement Each Other
The great thing about soft skills is that they complement each other. Learning one makes it easier to improve on another.
For instance, having great communication skills can help you to easily collaborate with team members and clients, making you a great team player. In turn, this helps you become more confident and self-aware, which improves your accountability skills.
To develop your soft skills, you first need to figure out which soft skills you need to work on. Have a learning mindset, reflecting on the soft skills you are good at while accepting the fact that there are others you need to improve on.
Afterward, be open to expanding your knowledge and skills, leveraging the LMS software at your workplace. Practice collaboration, teamwork, and communication, and don’t be afraid to accept feedback from your team leaders or managers.
Being a versatile developer definitely requires hard skills, but you won’t succeed without soft skills.