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 305: About that raise and *you're* not fired


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I recently told my boss I thought my comp was below market value and that, while I enjoy working here, I may have to start looking elsewhere for my next opportunity unless there was a way to adjust my salary. He actually agreed with me and said he would go to HR to see what he could do.

    A few days later, he came back to me and said they could do a market-rate adjustment of 20k per year. I was super happy. He said, “great I will let HR know that you accepted by EOD tomorrow and they will get the paperwork started.”

    At 10am the following day, he, along with a couple hundred other employees, were laid off.

    So my boss, my boss’s boss, my boss’s boss’s boss and the HR rep that my boss was talking to are no longer here.

    So my questions is, what’s the appropriate amount of time to wait before bringing this up to my new boss. With so many of my colleagues now out of work , it seems a bit insensitive to be so concerned with a raise, but also, I like more money.

  2. I am 8 months into my first job out of college in an entry level role and today the other new hire (4 months) got fired for poor performance. I have been assured that my performance is still satisfactory, but I have been unable to think about anything else since it happened. I know that I am probably fine, but I am still very shocked and on edge. Any advice on how to move past this without destroying my bloodpressure would be appreciated!

    Signed, your fellow high strung engineer

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Episode 304: My subordinate is smarter than me and confused in meetings


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I just hired someone as my direct report who is very, very smart, and has a great background. Ivy undergrad CS, Ivy grad school, and big tech experience. This is great!

    Except… he’s definitely much smarter than me. I slacked my way through a liberal arts degree, and have worked only for small startups my whole career. I’ve gotten by, but I’m no 10xer.

    How do I be a good manager for him considering all this? I want to help him grow in his career and be a good resource for him, but I don’t know what I have to offer. Should I just give him my key to the nonexistent middle manager cafeteria, and say, “I work for you now?

  2. Hi, I have a question about how to handle being confused in certain team meetings.

    It happens when the meeting is about discussing a certain problem to solve and most participants are much more up to speed with the issue being discussed. What ends up happening is that they discuss things fast, while I am hardly following and wondering if I should even be there. That is painful to me, because I’m aware that I’m not contributing much, while my time there is wasted and spent half trying to follow and half stressing out thinking what I should do.

    I guess that in order to contribute I would need to ask to be brought up to speed. Which I find a bit tricky because I’ll be asking myself: is it because I missed something? Or is it because of something I actually couldn’t possibly know? And secondly, should I have it clarified, which would disrupt the discussion and draw it out for others (especially if I need to go back to something that the group already went over)?

    Or should I address this completely differently, for example by requesting meeting agendas and preparing questions before the meetings? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to tackle this, because it’s a pain every time it happens.

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Episode 303: Should I stop coding and off to the field


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I’ve been a Staff Software Engineer at my company for 1 1/2 years. We have about 120 engineers company-wide. I’ve had 4 different bosses during the last year and our team has moved around a few times on the org chart.

    I lead a team of 2 engineers. My boss told me I shouldn’t be doing any of the coding but should spending my time working with the product manager, doing research for upcoming features, doing code reviews, managing the Jira board, mastering jellyfish metrics, reviewing architecture documents, setting up measurement in our logging tool and coordinating deployments of our features.

    Because my team is small and our product roadmap is pretty well defined, these tasks do not take 40 hours per week. I feel like I have nothing to do. I’ve tried to improve the velocity of the team by doing some coding and triaging on bugs. I miss doing the technical work and feel like I could do more but I also want the other 2 engineers on the team to own most of the big, bulky tasks.

    What do you suggest I do? Should I enjoy my light load or should I be looking for other ways to add value?

  2. I am the lead developer on a few projects with developers that have 20+ years of experience compared to my eight years. I have been made lead of the projects, but I’ve never actually had management tell the team that I am the lead or that I have any control whatsoever on the members of the team (typical ‘all of the responsibility, none of the power’ scenario). One of my teammates is tough. He writes unreadable but working spaghetti code. He also works in the field and will often times push to master and then leave to perform fieldwork, leaving the team in the lurch for several days before he can come back and fix his broken code. He habitually fails to push code, often holding the source on his own computer for months before pushing. I have mandated using pre-commit hooks to guard against breaking the build, but as IT has control over the repositories, these become “optional” and appear to be disregarded. I have brought this up with management, to no avail; the behavior continues. I have also expressed my concerns with management, and provided data on the impact this has to the project via tickets and time spent between the remaining team members.

    How do I rein in this unwieldy developer? What else can I do?

Show Notes