5 Soft Skills Every Software Developer Should Master
“Mastering music is more than learning technical skills.”—Yo-Yo Ma, cellist
Technical skills may triumph over other qualities when judging a programmer’s work. However, developers can equip themselves with soft skills that complement technical skills and help them stand out in a pile of resumes.
Become a well-rounded software developer.
Yes, that’s right. According to statistics compiled by Queens University of Charlotte, “73 percent of business leaders … feel soft skills are more important than job-specific skills.”
What’s more? That same report claimed, “44 percent of top execs … say soft skills are the biggest part of the U.S. skills gap.”
Want to possess a perfect balance of technical and nontechnical skills? Here are five soft skills you should focus on.
The Art of Communication
Developers usually face the predicament of explaining technical information to nontechnical audiences. Good communication skills are not only important for better client management but also for effective internal communication. If you are unable to get your message across effectively, your hard work may have gone to waste.
Good communication skills can be classified into three main categories—listening, verbal communication, and nonverbal communication.
Listening to your audience is key to delivering quality work. Whether it is your boss, client, or colleague, listening to different ideas may help in faster problem-solving. Remember to maintain eye contact, ask questions, and avoid interrupting. Always take notes.
Verbal skills are not just important for client/sales-based work, they are imperative for good internal communication. Effective verbal communication should leave little to the imagination.
Whether you are advising, presenting, providing feedback, or playing devil’s advocate, remember to speak with confidence. Don’t worry, mastering this art will take time.
Nonverbal communication includes gestures, facial expressions, body language, and even our appearance.
Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted studies on nonverbal communication, after which he concluded 55 percent of the message is conveyed nonverbally. Fascinating, right? And we usually end up neglecting its importance, especially in today’s remote-work culture, where your clients are probably sitting halfway across the world from you.
A teleconference—on Skype or Zoom—is a great way to connect with your remote team member or client. This will give you a chance to pick up on verbal as well as nonverbal cues and help you express yourself better. Pay close attention to your posture and hand gestures.
Moreover, your social media profiles say a lot about you. Make sure your LinkedIn and Twitter thumbnails depict professionalism. Your body language and facial expressions in pictures can be used to assess your personality traits.
So, whether you’re on a Skype call or setting up your social media profile, start today and take control of your nonverbal communication.
Let’s Work Together
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”—Michael Jordan, former professional basketball player
Collaborative effort is very important, especially when work is interdependent. Imagine a group of programmers working on a project, with little communication, no set guidelines, and members not willing to listen to each other’s suggestions. A recipe for disaster, right?
Effective internal communication complements teamwork. According to Salesforce, 86 percent of employees and executives point to “lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for work-place failures.”
Make sure to set defined targets, allow team members to actively take part in discussions, recognize a job well done, and handle conflict resolution with patience. Problem-solving is more effective when team collaboration is strong.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at these seven studies that prove productivity increases when teamwork thrives. Mo’ teamwork, mo’ money.
Deliver Powerful Presentations
Complement your technical skills by instilling good documentation and presentation skills.
Why is this important? Imagine a cake with a delicious chocolate filling, decorated with beautiful buttercream frosting. Now imagine another cake with the same filling but with a sloppy appearance. With both priced the same, which one would you buy? Your answer isn’t hard to guess.
Similarly, presenting your hard work well is important, whether you are writing a case study, documenting your progress or presenting in front of an audience. Write for your audience, use facts, be clear and concise, and always remember to proofread your document.
According to a survey conducted by Prezi last year, “70 percent of employed Americans who give presentations agree that presentation skills are critical to their success at work.” In order to become good at presenting, rehearse your presentation until you’re confident about your delivery, focus on maintaining eye contact, avoid moving too much, and remember to think positive.
Dread presentations? Don’t worry, take a look at these tips on how you can improve your stage presence, engage the audience, and deliver confidently. Most importantly, focus on your body language—people can tell you are nervous just by observing your hunched posture or your jittery hand movements.
Want to be inspired? Read the journey of this stuttering sovereign who overcame his speech impediment and led his nation during difficult times.
Empathize and Connect
Many of us need to work on our empathy skills, that is, if we want to be liked by our co-workers.
According to Businessolver’s “2018 State of Workplace Empathy” report, “Eight in 10 employees, HR professionals, and CEOs agree an empathetic workplace has a positive impact on business performance.”
Empathy can help you achieve your goals faster. So be friendly, be open to suggestions, avoid making assumptions, and practice handling conflict in a diplomatic fashion. This is the perfect way to add value to your work and create a healthier work environment.
Want to improve your empathy skills? Take a look at “8 Crucial Steps to Creating Empathy in the Workplace.”
Plan, Prioritize, and Deliver
“Time management is life management.”—Robin Sharma, writer
Whether it’s meeting project deadlines or keeping the client up-to-date, this is a key attribute to have. Project resource management involves developing a schedule—from defining activities to meeting objectives—and making sure to follow it. And guess what, the most valuable resource to manage is time itself.
“A lack of clear goals is the most common factor (37 percent) behind project failure, according to executive leaders.”—“PMI Pulse of the Profession 2017”
So prioritize, delegate, and stop procrastinating! Follow the 80-20 rule. According to the Pareto Principle (80-20 rule), if you are able to identify 20 percent of the efforts that produce 80 percent of the results, you can greatly improve your outcomes and productivity.
Time management is vital if you want to get things done, from waking up on time and completing your morning rituals, to delivering project deadlines. Eliminate your bad habits, instill good ones, and set SMART (specific, meaningful, achievable, relevant, and time-based) goals. Take a look at “15 Time Management Tips for Achieving Your Goals” in detail.
Soft Skills Are Game Changers
Technical skills alone are not enough for a thriving career. Soft skills are as important—if not more—in an increasingly interpersonal workplace.
We have listed five of the most important nontechnical skills to master. They truly are game changers, and practicing them will definitely help you achieve a successful and fulfilling career.