It takes more than great code to be a great engineer.

Subscribe Now Support us on Patreon

Soft Skills Engineering is a weekly advice podcast for software developers. We answer questions about all the stuff you didn't realize you needed to know about being an engineer:

  • pay raises
  • hiring
  • going into management
  • annoying co-workers
  • quitting your job
  • meetings
  • micromanagers
  • installing a ball pit in your office
  • and much much more...

For answers to these and other questions, our hosts Dave Smith and Jamison Dance are here to help.

Why should you listen?

Soft Skills Engineering listeners are awesome. Here's what they are saying about the podcast.

Jack says:

Not only did Soft Skills Engineering help me land my first gig, I also used your advice to negotiate a $10,000 raise! I love your podcast and will continue to heartily recommend you to everyone I know!

Hdennen says:

Facing a 9 hour drive, I grabbed a bunch of podcasts to listen to. I don't even know what the other ones are. Seriously, this podcast is full of massively helpful and relevant content from two people who are experienced, funny, and insightful.

Saad says:

Listening to Soft Skills Engineering has completely shifted my thoughts on what it means to be an engineer. It’s probably one of the more useful things I’ve gained during my time at Amazon. It definitely helped me grow, and I’m totally indebted to you for that.

Follow the show

Follow the show on social media for the latest news:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SoftSkillsEng/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SoftSkillsEng/

Recent Episodes:

Episode 145: What to do with a bad manager who is loved by upper management and should I include detecting major security vulnerabilities on my resume?

Download

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. How do I deal with the manager on my team who is both not very technical and positions himself as the “boss” spending almost no time with the team (except dragging everyone into more and more meetings! 😡) .

    My manager upsets and demotivates the team but not upper management and is clearly trying to climb the career ladders as fast as possible.

    Obviously everyone wants the team to succeed but the friction is growing. Some team members already left with (maybe too subtle) hints at the problem.

    Should one stage a coup and take over? Silently manipulate people to go to into “the right” direction? Switch teams/jobs and see it burn from the sidelines 🍿?

  2. While testing my system at work, I was shocked how little security there was. Two issues exposed the entire system’s data by just changing the query string. Also every API call had no backend check on the user making the call. These are just two examples of many.

    This is at a gigantic multi billion dollar institution handling hundreds of thousands of people’s data, some of it incredibly sensitive. This fact will be known on my resume.

    This leads to my question: I am looking for a new job now, and wondering how much detail about these security issues is appropriate to share on a resume? I feel this helps me stand out as a newer dev, but would this be frowned upon by prospective employers that may worry I might overshare their own security issues?

    Thanks for all your help!

Episode 144: Job hunting while employed and how to start my first technical lead role

Download

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I’ve been job hunting while employed (gasp), and I have a number of opportunities that have advanced to the in-person interview. Most of the requests I’ve seen have said that they’ll be 4-5 hours in the office (which seems fairly typical).

    The problem is that I don’t have unlimited vacation, and I feel dishonest taking so many days off. How can I navigate new opportunities without disrespecting them, or completely failing in my current responsibilities?

  2. Hey guys, great show (though I think, as with all shows, it could probably use more discussion of badgers [yes, I said badgers!]).

    I’m about to start a new job (I took the time-honored and hallowed show advice, though I’m leaving on great terms with my old job) and will be coming in as that fanciest of newly-invented titles in software, Staff Software Engineer. This is the only third time I’ve started a new job [not counting odd jobs in high school and college], and I’ve never stepped into a leadership role before when starting. What are the most helpful things you’ve done or seen other engineers do when joining a team in a technical leadership role?

    Thanks!

Episode 143: Dealing with meeting interrupters and setting work limits

Download

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I have noticed one of my coworkers, a fellow senior software engineer, often interrupts people during their meetings with his comments and thoughts.

    While I’m not against voicing opinions during a meeting, he does it so often that he takes over meetings. Some of his points are off-topic. He’ll cut off the presenter or another colleague (who displayed good etiquette) mid-sentence, not letting them finish their thought and derailing the flow of the meeting.

    In our last meeting I tried to quickly respond to his interjections rather than let him finish so we can keep the meeting moving. I thought he would take the hint to think a little more before interrupting. Ineffective so far. I think next time I will recommend that all questions and concerns be held to the end so we can get through all the meaningful content before letting him speak. Any other suggestions on how to deal with people like this?

  2. Hi guys! I have a question about setting limits to your work. I hear that its a common practice among developers to set restrictions to their work like turning off slack notifications when at home, not staying late at work, etc. This seems like a healthy approach, and I like it.

    But I can’t bring myself to do it.

    I’m a successful developer, I love my job, and I love the work communication in our chat. I have no problems struggling through the workday, but I have problems not falling into work in my free time.

    I have a lot of friends, a lot of hobbies, I’m definitely not bored outside of work. But still I always have this inner desire to open and read the workchat when I have a free minute, or finish an interesting feature in the evening instead of reading an interesting book.

    I can’t say it makes me unhappy in some way or affects my private life - I still will go and see a friend if I’m invited and still will attend my yoga class on a normal schedule - but this ““desire”” distracts me sometimes and that’s not normal either. Am I right?

Episode 142: Can I get hired above my level even though I look inexperienced on paper and should I be brutally honest in peer performance reviews

Download

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. On Episode 66 you attempted to answer my question: ‘How bad can a Junior Front End Developer be?’ Well, I’m now 4 months into my new job as a Junior Front End Developer and it turns out, they can be pretty bad!

    I’m in this junior role I feel overqualified for. My peers rate me as a solid mid-level, and I’ve started to realize that I’m not really a “junior”. I think this can all be attributed to learning from really good devs at my last company. My best friend is a Senior JS Contractor (legend) and I talk to him about code and best practices everyday.

    Question: Would you ever hire someone at a mid-level role even if they only had 6 months of profressional experience? i.e. how much weight do you put on the CV?

    I love you guys, listened to every podcast!

  2. Thank you so much for the show, I’ve been binge listening to old episodes ever since a friend of mine suggested it. Your excellent, and often comedic, advice has been getting me through the work day and I really appreciate it! Onward to the question!

    One of the members on my team, who is more senior than me, often does poor work, and the rest of the team picks up the slack to redo the work, pushing out deadlines we would have otherwise met. I know better than to vent about this at work even though it is very frustrating, however now I’m in a bit of a predicament. Part of our annual review process requires us to provide feedback on each of the members of our team which is not anonymous. The feedback is used to make decisions about raises and promotions. This individual has mentioned that they expect a promotion to a team lead position in this upcoming review cycle, which makes me quite nervous. Should I be honest in my review and mention my concerns or should I take the much more comfortable route that will also protect relationships on my team of pretending everything is fine.

Episode 141: A Rampant Rewriter and Dealing with an Overexplainer (rerun of episode 73)

Download

This is a re-broadcast of episode 73 from August 2017. We’ll be back next week with a new episode!

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. A developer on my team has been rewriting my code under the guise of “code cleanup” without saying anything to me. Is this normal? What should I do?
  2. How do you deal with co-workers who over-explain unimportant issues?

Episode 140: Should I apologize for my bugs after I quit and should I become a project manager

Download

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. Shan writes:

    “Awesome podcast! I’ve used your advice to better communicate with my employers which has been super helpful.

    I recently was working as an intern at a company where I did quite a bit of significant work. I left to pursue a Master’s in CS. I set the expectation that I would be available for questions, but not bug fixes during at least the beginning part of grad school. The company said that was totally fine and they would take any amount of work I could give them.

    I’ve noticed some bugs that have to do with what I was working on. I feel really bad for my team having to work on those bugs while I’m not. It is getting to the point that it is distracting me during the day as I see emails or Slack messages about them. I want to help them, but I just don’t have the time. I am also worried that the reputation I built up of being a solid engineer is damaged.

    Should I apologize to my teammates that have to work on my now legacy code?

    I have this feeling of having abandoned my team. Any thoughts on how to mitigate those feelings?

  2. I work as software engineer at a ~10 person software agency. During my last review my manager rejected my salary raise proposal arguing that I reached the top level for my current position. He said to get a raise, I would have to act as project manager to get commissions for new projects I acquire. I feel conflicted, since even though I like the idea of upping my game, I do not know much about handling this kind of situations with clients. What is your recommendation for developers getting out of the world of code and into the world of people? Bonus question: Ideas on how to get new projects from clients?

Episode 139: How to deal with badmouthing and how to survive in a loud open office

Download

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. My boss is fairly new to management and has recently made some decisions which had a negative impact on my squad. While this was annoying, it didn’t cause any major problems - we worked around the issues and recovered and everyone including my boss learned from the experience. However, my squad has started criticising him pretty harshly in standups and retrospectives and it’s making me really uncomfortable. Often their criticisms are for things that he has very little influence over and it seems like they’re scapegoating him for the general dysfunction within the company. He’s a nice guy who is trying his best and I wouldn’t want him to think I’m taking part in these badmouthing sessions if word ever gets back to him. He doesn’t manage any of the other squad members. What should I do?

  2. I work at a big software company and sit in a room with about 20 people. Not all of them are on my project, and lots of them are REALLY loud. You know like in a stock market or something. I use headphones to listen to your podcast (well, not only yours to be honest) but usually that’s no help. I turn on music - still can hear every word. These guys somehow think it’s ok to discuss their work in our room instead of a meeting room (which we have plenty of), and do it loudly, while me and my team always go somewhere else to talk.

    I talked to these guys a couple of times about it. They laughed and said they would try to be a little bit more quiet, but forgot this promise 5 minutes later. How else can I handle this situation? I have good relationships with all of them (probably that’s why I had not been taken seriously), but I don’t want to lose them.

Episode 138: Should I ask for a raise before my annual review and how to keep up with young, single, overtime-working co-workers

Download

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. Hi Dave and Jamison, love the show and your advice, there’s no podcast quite like yours out there in the audiosphere.

    I’m a long time listener, first time question asker.

    “I’ve been doing a really good job lately. I’ve had feedback from my manager and my managers-manager that I’ve exceeded expectations and gone above and beyond over the last year. While the compliments are great to hear, I’d like to approach my manager about a raise to go along with it. Do I wait until performance review time in three months and hope that I get a what I’m hoping for, or bring it up now? How do I approach this conversation without sounding greedy, braggy and potentially asking for too much, leaving a bad impression when I’m on such a roll?

  2. I don’t feel like I can keep up at work, 😬, my team is super clever, young and all singles. They spend weekends, evenings and spare time learning. We are introducing a new tool or framework every couple weeks and it is exhausting. I am constantly learning a lot from them and the projects always go really well. 🤷‍♂️ - I’m not sure how to have a good conversation about it as they all love the learning culture. Any tips?

Episode 137: How to get answers to technical questions and Should managers also be technical

Download

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. What’s the best approach to connecting with people who know about specific technologies that could help me if I have a question? And what’s the best way to cast a net via co-workers, friends, & family?

    The details of my situation are that I’m trying to build a PostgreSQL database from scratch, and I’m running into lots of problems. I spent 2 hours digging through the Postgres documentation, I asked questions on my University Slack channel, and even the PostgreSQL team Slack with no answers. I also reached out to my boss. But I still have no answers.

    In any case, I’m just happy I had the wherewithal to walk away after 2 hours instead of spiraling into an absolute rage and wasting my night cursing PostgreSQL.

  2. Should a team lead do technical work or restrict himself to people management? What are the pros and cons from each approach?

    HR in my company wants to change from a unified model of team and tech leads (single person performing both roles) to a split model (one team lead with multiple tech leads that hold no people management responsibilities) and I’m not sure what to think about this. I feel not having the team leads ““on the ground”” will make them less effective in the people management aspect.

Episode 136: My family thinks I'm over paid and Is a 10% raise good

Download

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I am a software developer and as such, i get paid nicely. My family doesn’t think I work hard enough or deserve the money. Any advice?

  2. I am a software developer that was promoted earlier this year. I received a 10% raise with this promotion. Since working for this company for some time, this is the first substantial raise I have received. Previous raises ranged from nothing to sub-inflation raises.

    Today, my manager informed me that at my annual review I would not be receiving a raise. My manager said this has nothing to do with my performance but more with the fact that I was given a raise with my promotion earlier this year. I was caught off guard by this and did not really know how to feel about this information.

    Does this seem reasonable? Is this something worth following up on with my manager? If so, what are good questions to ask?