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

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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:

  • navigating pay raises
  • hiring and interviewing
  • deciding to go into management
  • dealing with annoying co-workers
  • quitting your job
  • managing meeting creep
  • 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.

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:

I owe you a lot, listening to Soft Skills 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. I kind of brushed this stuff off, considering some of it politics, and the rest unimportant, but boy was I wrong. It definitely helped me grow, and I’m totally indebted to you for that.

Recent Episodes:

Episode 96: Teaching Burden and Unknown Unknowns

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This week Jamison and Dave answer these questions:

  1. I know that teaching others is important when working on a team so that the team can grow and get better. But what happens when one member of the team, despite being the friendliest person in the world, is missing so many required skills for his job that it becomes impossible for me to do anything besides teach him?
  2. I recently heard the concept of “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns”. It’s the unknown unknowns that get me. Sometimes I ask a question of a seasoned developer and they seem annoyed because it’s something that I could have looked up. They knew it but I didn’t. Sometimes I ask a question and they are eager to help because the question is interesting and they know it will be good for me to learn. I struggle because I don’t want to waste my time or theirs, but I want to work through things and learn. How do I do this well?

Wikipedia has a whole article on the origin of the phrase “unknown unknowns”.

Also, Gary Bernhardt has a fantastic talk called Ideology about “unknown knowns” - things we believe in software without even realizing we believe them.

Hoobastank.

Episode 95: Paying For Help and Scared of Recruiters

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This week Jamison and Dave answer these questions:

  1. When should asking a developer pal for help go from something that is free because you’re pals to something you should compensate them for in some way?
  2. I’ve never worked with recruiters before. I’ve always found jobs from friends and other connections. Is working with recruiters worth it? What should I watch out for?

I finally found the creepy Jack and the Beanstalk video! It is still horrifying.

Episode 94: Dodging Recommendations and Full Sleeve Tattoos

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This week Jamison and Dave answer these questions:

  1. As a “less than ideal” engineer was leaving our team, he asked if he could use me as a job reference. How should I tell them no?
  2. What are your thoughts on having full sleeve tattoos (ie, tattoos that cover the entire arm) within engineering?

Episode 93: Negotiating Annual Raises and Part-Time Work

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This week Jamison and Dave answer these questions:

  1. My job doesn’t seem to leave room to negotiate salary or raises for our year-end review. Is this normal? How do I negotiate in this process?
  2. Can working part-time, when it’s possible to work full time, to invest in personal development look bad to a future employer?

This tweet storm by Sarah Mei is good and relevant.

This is the video about making your own font and anagraphs that Jamison mentioned at the end. It is SO GOOD.

This is a funny and enlightening video that people of taste and culture will appreciate. This one is also good. Ok fine, they are all good.

Episode 92: Career Death by Friction and New Job Woes

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This week Jamison and Dave answer these questions:

  1. A previous job involved a coworker who, over time, became very difficult to get along with.

    I did my best to talk it through with him, but he would only ever say I needed to “fix my attitude”. I tried to deflect and avoid conflict, but he’d continually impose himself on the situation. (Assign himself to review my code, come into my cube and demand my help, etc.)

    I had good relationships with the rest of the team, and they all agreed that he was out of line. Yet management viewed the situation as simply friction between two devs, with no clear instigator.

    Being a source of team friction is career death, and I’m personally embarrassed that anyone got that impression of me.

    How can I (or other listeners) handle this situation so that I don’t get painted as “part of the problem?”

  2. I’ve started a new job. I’m enjoying the work and the culture slightly less, and I discovered my salary could have been much higher had I negotiated harder. Is it too late to negotiate for a higher salary after I’ve already joined?

    Dave mentions this article on salary negotiation. It’s good!

Episode 91: Job Requirements and Teams of Misfits

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This week Jamison and Dave answer these questions:

  1. How often do candidates get hired who don’t match the requirements listed in a job posting? Is it a waste for me to apply to all jobs I come across even though I only have about 1/3 of what they want?
  2. I’ve been moved to a newly formed team. I suspect the team consists of people nobody really wants to work with. What are my options in a situation like this?

Episode 90: Upper Management Dislikes Me and Undeserved Job Offers

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This week Jamison and Dave answer these questions:

  1. Upper management has a negative impression of me because of an early manager. How do I manage and improve my reputation with mid and upper level management, who I interact with very rarely?
  2. I have a job offer I feel unqualified for. Should I decline this offer I honestly don’t deserve, or face a massive amount of impostor syndrome and risk not delivering?

Episode 89: Departed Engineers and Employment Contracts

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This week Jamison and Dave answer these questions:

  1. How do I deal with co-workers who constantly cite the decisions of engineers who don’t work here anymore?
  2. My employment makes it sound like the company owns my past work and side-projects. Is this true? Is this normal?

Episode 88: How To Dress For Interviews and Learning To Interview

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This week Jamison and Dave answer these questions:

  1. How do you dress for interviews? Full on informal beach bum? Smart casual? Formal suit tie?
  2. I’m a new developer and have been asked to interview incoming developers. How do I learn how to interview?

This is the NoRedInk interview process. This is the blog post Jamison likes on getting data out of the technical portion of the interview. This is a slightly pessimistic look at pitfalls in the standard interview process. Google wrote a great article about structured interviewing that might also be helpful.

Episode 87: Pushover Coworkers and Productivity Metrics

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This week Jamison and Dave answer these questions:

  1. My peers give up and say “have it your way” whenever we have technical discussions. How do I get them to be more vocal about their opinions?
  2. I like the idea of measuring things, but metrics seem easy to game. How do I effectively measure team and personal productivity?

Jamison cites this tweet and this blog post about examining your own productivity.