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

Soft Skills Engineering is a weekly advice podcast for software developers.

The show's hosts are experienced developers who answer your questions about topics like:

  • pay raises
  • hiring and firing developers
  • technical leadership
  • learning new technologies
  • quitting your job
  • getting promoted
  • code review etiquette
  • and much more...

Soft Skills Engineering is made possible through generous donations from listeners. A heart with a striped shadowSupport us on Patreon

A speech bubble

Why should you listen?

Here's what listeners say:

Recent Episodes

Latest Episode

Episode 249: Settling the Wild West and credit for self-study

Download

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

Questions

  1. I recently took over to manage development at a small company that has been around for a few decades. We just wrapped up a four year effort to move to a more modern web stack.

    The development style before my new position is best described as ‘Wild West’. My direct boss’s philosophy can be illustrated with the following phrases:

    • “We are going to have to rewrite it, so just get it out fast.”
    • “Just hardcode the sh*[email protected] out of it”
    • “It just has to look like it works, but it doesn’t really have to work.”

    My boss is the co-founder of the company and ran development before me. I have made a concerted effort with my current team to introduce best practices, Unit Testing, PSR standards, APIs and so forth but engagement is really low. I’ve tried every way I know how to get them to care about quality code, tests, standards, etc but they just don’t respond. They are more concerned about getting things out fast which is nice but not my top priority. I’d rather have clean, predictable code that doesn’t break in production.

    How do I get my team to buy off on these principles?

  2. Hi Dave and Jamison

    How do I communicate all of the self-study that I’ve done to potential employers?

    I transitioned from a bachelor’s degree in the health sciences to the software industry and I have now worked as a data scientist for a couple of years. I spent a lot of time and effort taking free online classes in mathematics and computer science through Stanford and MIT. Over 3 years I’ve probably done the equivalent of half of a math degree and about a third of a full CS curriculum. And even though I’m employed now, I still keep working on more advanced classes in my spare time.

    How can I communicate this to potential employers considering that I’m not getting any academic credits for my effort? Should I just leave this off my resume? Is it okay to mention that I have audited those classes? Any other ideas?

    Thanks for the lovely podcast.

A smiling speech bubble

Episode 248: Non-private slack channels and expectations

Download

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

Questions

  1. Our engineering manager keeps sneaking/creeping on our private slack channels. As an admin of the workspace he can join any private slack channel without being invited.

    I feel like this is an unacceptable behavior. What should I do? Should I just reach out to him and ask him not to abuse his admin privileges? Should I setup a discord server for me and my fellow developers? Or should I take the soft skills engineering advice and quit my job?

  2. Thank you guys for your awesome podcast.

    I have recently begun my foray into management with the reception of my first subordinate. I selected him due to his illustrious undergraduate project presentation and his ability to expound on the intricacies of said projects. But, I’m having a hard time managing my expectations. He is unable to complete the simplest of tasks, often going off on tangents that, despite being given the answer, result in spending hours in unrelated rabbit holes. Additionally, he asked for a high salary and was promised an increase scheduled ahead of review.

    As a first-time manager, I worry that I am inflicting unrealistic expectations especially since software is my passion. I enjoy learning learning new languages and technologies.

    What is the best way to let him know that he is not meeting expectations? How can I say this without my typical brashness which will ultimately result in me blurting out something to the tune of “you aren’t nearly as capable as you made yourself out to be”?

A smiling speech bubble

Episode 247: Estimates and hotdesking

Download

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

Questions

  1. What is your opinion about estimates. Is it a good practice? Are they helpful or just a guess? Should we estimate in story points or hours? How can we improve our estimation skills to be more accurate? I really don’t like estimating. I don’t think it is a good practice because we almost never get it right. The teams that I have worked also almost always made wrong estimates, causing us to miss our sprints commitments frequently. Is it a problem with this practice, or there is a way to improve it? I heard about the Kanban method, that don’t use estimations, but metrics, to give predictability. What do you think?

  2. Hello Soft Skills Audio :) Love the show and the great advice, I look forward to the show every week.

    I just joined a company that embraces hotdesking and I’m having trouble feeling like I am part of the team. All the engineers report into the head of engineering but we work on different projects. I work with one other engineer who works remotely from another state, and take direction from the product owner who works from another.

    The culture of hotdesking across five floors of a multistory building means each morning I end up circling around hunting for a place to sit. Because anyone can sit anywhere, I could be sitting next to someone new from sales, marketing, finance, or engineering everyday. Everyone always looks hard at work with headphones on and our organization chart doesn’t feature profile photos.

    I’ve tried introducing myself to the people I find myself next to but it’s just small talk and I never see them again as everyone shuffles around. I’m sick of sitting alone at lunch and missing out on “watercooler” conversations. How do I make friends and figure out how I fit in with an office environment like this?