7 Must-Have Soft Skills for Software Developers

Software Developers who ignore the development of soft skills will miss out on the best positions and the highest salaries.

 

When applying for a software development position, most candidates are eager to highlight their technical skills. While this is obviously important, the value of soft skills is often forgotten.

Thousands of tech companies across Asia have used GetLinks to find developers, and they tell us they are finding a depressingly large gap in soft skills in the market.While the technical skills the market needs evolve at the break-neck pace of technological innovation, soft skills are the only constant. Possessing stellar soft skills as a software developer places a candidate in another galaxy comparatively to the competition.

Whilst soft skills often don’t get the attention they deserve, they can actually make the difference between getting a good job and a great job. So what are the skills you must learn and why?

Here are 7 soft skills you should focus on to improve your market value and open all the doors.

Communication

Communication is always number one on our list of soft skills for tech people. That’s because it’s so important and oftentimes neglected. Words like CSS, object oriented languages, front end ect. will be easily understood by immediate colleagues, while also being (literally) a foreign language to some others. So being able to bridge the gap and explain oneself across departments will be a handy skill to master.

When the software development life cycle includes so many different people fulfilling diverse roles, they need to fit together just right to result in a successful product.

It does not matter whether you consider yourself to be an introvert or an extrovert. Build up the courage to voice your opinion in a constructive manner. You must be able to communicate, inspire others, and be trustworthy.

What you can do now:

  • Mind your written tone: 93% of communication is non-verbal, so relying on written communication can be risky. Put yourself in their shoes and read again before you press send!
  • Don’t type. Speak: Avoid miscommunications, save time and build relationships – practice getting face to face.
  • Be concise and specific: Rather than going into a face to face unprepared, at the risk of rambling, condense your main points down into a headline or opening paragraph which you can then lead with. Then explain the details if necessary.

Active listening

To be a good communicator you must also be an active listener. Not a restless, bored or distracted listener. We are surrounded by many distractions – when did you last speak on the phone without doing something else at the same time? – so it is important to remember that there are times when we need to just listen.

If you don’t understand something, speak up; ask the speaker to clarify, or ask questions that lead the speaker to clarify or elaborate. For particularly complex discussions that involve several instructions, it helps to sometimes repeat these instructions in your own words. Doing this shows the speaker that you have not only listened, but that you understand what is expected.

What you can do now:

  • Ask questions: The best way to learn and become a better listener is to ask questions first.
  • Silence the distractions: Put your phone on silent and delete unnecessary social media apps. This will improve your attention span and make you a better listener.

Creativity

The reason your creativity expands when you learn to code is because you begin to possess the tools to build almost anything you want, whether you learn to build video games, virtual reality programs, robots or websites, the possibilities are endless.

The best ideas and solutions often come to us when we approach things from a different, less obvious angle. This is what separates the most creative people — from programmers to entrepreneurs to authors — from everyone else.

What you can do now:

  • Read fiction: Many people don’t read fiction because it is seen as escapism and a waste of time. But studies show that reading fiction can improve your memory, vocabulary, and your ability to identify patterns and make connections.
  • Create diverse teams. The greater the diversity, the more ideas people will be able to bring to the table. Mix Java programmers with .Net programmers; seasoned pros with a fresh grad; web developers with main framers.
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Teamwork

At some point in your career as a developer, you are definitely going to be part of a team, even if you work remotely. And nobody wants to be stuck with a team member who does not play well with others.

Although developers spend a sizable part of the day working independently, collaborating as part of a team is vital, as it’s often the best way to create a coherent product. When implemented correctly and made the priority of a software development project, teamwork can bring lots of benefits to the product being created, leading to increased efficiency, creativity and innovation.

Whether it’s a team of designers or a project team, developers need to work well with others to be successful.

What you can do now:

  • Create spaces for collaboration: Noone wants to spend their days going from meeting to meeting, but teamwork is something that needs to be encouraged. Use agile methodologies to identify teamwork opportunities in your sprints.
  • Build relationships: Take the time to build trust with your teammates by going out for lunch or drinks. Strengthening these bonds inspires better work environment. Try networking. It might sound like a terrible idea, but it’s not as awkward as you think it is.
  • Technology: Take advantage of the technology available to you. Slack, G Suite, Trello, and Jira are great ways to encourage teamwork and collaboration online.

Time management

Time management is considered to be one of the primary soft skills valued in the workplace. Employers need staff who can take the initiative, make sensible business decisions, and prioritize tasks independently. Effective time management strengthens your organization skills, decision making, your ability to work under pressure, and your punctuality.

Not giving something your full attention means that tasks take longer to complete and you’re more likely to make errors. If you often multitask, prioritize your to-do list. You’ll be surprised how much faster you get things done when they have your full attention!

What you can do now:

  • Planning is everything: When creating software, research takes up 80% of your energy, while 20% is spent completing the actual work. Though planning won’t devour that much time, it’s as important as research when developing software.
  • Packaging tasks: When planning your day, package tasks the over-arching purpose. This avoids long boring to-do lists and keeps you focused on the bigger picture.
  • It’s all in the technique: Techniques like the Pomodoro or Kanban are great ways to build a routine or learn how to focus your attention if you’re prone to multitasking.

Problem Solving

A programmer’s job is to solve problems by creating and modifying software tools. This goes for both big-picture problem solving and for the details of how to make it actually happen.

The ability to break a problem into smaller ones and then solve all of those smaller problems takes a lot of practice. Getting good at problem-solving can help you become a much stronger programmer. Also, for most problems, there will be more than one solution.

A large part of our jobs as software developers is to think through those different solutions and choose the one that is best. Is one faster to implement? Or does it run more efficiently? Or will it be less expensive? All of these are important questions, and picking the correct solution is a challenging but important part of software development.

What you can do now:

  • Gather all the information: Make sure you have a clear understanding of all requirements to ensure what you create meets all the clients needs.
  • Stepwise refinement: This is a process you can use of breaking up the original problem into some number of smaller sub-problems, a way of developing a computer program by first describing general functions, then breaking each function down into details which are refined in successive steps until the whole program is fully defined.
  • Reflection: Take the time to reflect on how you reached a solution. If you keep a notebook nearby to jot down notes you can go back to them when you are implementing something.

Adaptability

Adaptability has long topped lists outlining the key soft skills for a resume, and unsurprisingly, hiring managers continue to regard it as essential because it shows them that you can handle changes in the development environment—regardless of your background.

Programming is still a new world, and it is evolving super fast. Being able to adapt when things change is critical. When a new framework, library, or language comes out that takes over, it’s important to be able to learn it (within reason of course).

What you can do:

  • Stop moaning: No one likes a moaner! Respond to changes in your workplace by seeking out the benefits and opportunities.
  • Positive self talk: Positive self-talk and incantations every now and then can help you adapt to change faster. Wire your mind to accept and embrace change by telling yourself what you wish to believe.
  • Ask for feedback: Encourage a culture of frequent and actionable feedback.

In conclusion

These skills are often referred to as “soft skills”, but that’s reductive. They are so much more important than knowing a specific language or framework as they go far even outside of tech.

It is difficult, but not impossible, to demonstrate and improve your soft skills, and it helps if you see each soft skill as a collection of behaviors. Changing any of the behaviors, or habits, will result in either an improvement or of the related skill, and this is what you should focus on as much as you focus on improving your hard skills.

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