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

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Recent Episodes

Latest Episode

Episode 229: Other people's code and moving into product management


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:


  1. I have been working at a large tech company for two years now, after I graduated college. My job title is ““Software Engineer””, but I have barely written any code on my job in the past two years. I’m on a product team that doesn’t own any infrastructure, and when the product managers want us to build something, we find out which teams in the company own the infrastructure and stitch a product together. We often get push backs because usually the infrastructure we need to build a product belong to some entirely different team who do not have stakes in the product we’re building.

    I am worried that my coding skills are deteriorating, since most of my time at work are not spent on coding. For example, meetings where people hash out how to do something in a system none of us are familiar with, chasing down people in other teams to ask them to squeeze out time from their busy schedule to help my team, and completing process paperwork. On the rare occasions when I do make code changes, it’s been copy-and-pasting another section of the code/config and changing a few parameters.

    It seems to me that success on this job depends mostly on knowledge of the different internal systems, as well as the social capital of knowing people on different teams. Is this normal? Is this what software engineering is about?

  2. Hi there! Love the show and your fun but useful answers.

    I have a career question and would love to hear what you think.

    I’ve been an Engineer for several years now and was recently asked if I’d like to move into Product Management. At first this sounded great. I’d get to set the direction of the product, get involved with strategic planning and roadmap meetings, and generally have more input into my squads work.

    The thing is … that isn’t what it is at all. Most of the time I am fielding requests from marketing and sales people for sales collateral, sitting on customer calls, and digging through dashboards to find enough ‘evidence’ to prove why we should prioritize the backlog the way I have in mind, and I have even become the ‘bad guy’ when the squads ideas don’t line up with the Product team.

    Have I made a terrible mistake? Is Product Management really a good move for Engineers?

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Episode 228: Unpaid team lead and banking hours


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:


  1. I’m a team lead right now, but I’m leaving the company. When I discussed with my manager, I recommended a team member to take over my position and suggested raising his salary. In the end, the manager asked that team member to take over as team lead, but refused to raise his salary or even give him the title.

    He said he needs to prove that he can take responsibility as a team lead. Then he will get the title and raise. But I feel they just want to procrastinate and save the money.

    What can I do to help my team member fight for the title and raise?

  2. Hi Dave and Jamison. You have a great show and I really enjoy listening. I am currently a software engineer at a small/medium sized tech company in the healthcare industry. I was recently asked to interview for a similar role at a pretty large hedge fund. I am wondering if there would be a big culture shift if I were to end up making that change. I am under the (possibly inaccurate) impression that for bankers something like an 80+ hour work week is common. I’m wondering if this impression is accurate, if it extends to the finance industry as a whole, and how much it extends to developers rather than bankers/traders if so. I also remember you guys mentioning in a previous episode that video game developers also typically work long hours. Are there other industries where this culture is typical?

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Episode 227: Junior expectations and manager flakiness


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:


  1. What should I expect from a junior develop, and how can I help them grow?

    A junior developer joined my team of 4 a few months ago. He has learned things at a reasonable speed but it is still hard for him to implement new features without any help or existing code to copy.

    In past jobs, I usually gave juniors simple, easy tasks, but we don’t have that simple tasks in my current job because we’re working on complicated internal systems.

    Also other junior developers spent lots of their private time learning. I don’t think this junior has spent any time learning in his private time.

    I don’t want to ask them to learn in their private time, but I just can’t help feel annoyed about the fact that he still cannot pick up a well-defined task in our backlog and complete it by himself. I think he really needs to take some time learning some basics like networking and some skills like keyboard shortcuts of text editors. I know there is lots to learn. However, sometimes I lose my patience when I have to repeat myself.

    In addition to lack of knowledge and skills, I feel that he always waits somebody to tell him what to do and explain everything to him. I tried to tell him the whole picture of the project before explain a specific task, but I couldn’t see any improvement.

    What could I do to help him (or make myself feel better)?

  2. I’ve worked with 3 managers in the past 2 years at my first company and all of them seem to have trouble producing results from team meetings and one on ones. More specifically, my managers have mentioned things/events/changes they would plan to do with the team or me and several weeks/months go by and the idea is never mentioned again. At times it felt like maybe it was me that was unable to produce the outcomes of said ideas or that maybe I was some sort of a lost cause. However, my most recent manager doubled the ratio of ideas:results, so I don’t think it’s just me. For my one on ones, we have a long running list of things we talk about and even the trail there doesn’t seem to amount to anything.

    How do I hold my manager accountable for things they say or plan to do? How do I bring up these conversation on one-on-ones without making it seem like I’m the one managing them?