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 315: Poor feedback recipient and rubber duck


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. Do you have any advice on how to give feedback to people who don’t take critical feedback well? There’s a person who joined my team with the same job title and level as me (senior product designer/L5) more than a year ago, and since then he has shown that he not only lacks a lot of skills to be considered senior but also lacks the self-awareness to see where he falls short and how he needs to improve. There have been multiple occasions in our 1:1s where he has alluded to critical feedback he’s gotten from people on our team (including our manager) and has written it off as irrelevant or untrue, will come up with excuses for his poor performance, and will make off-hand comments about the person as a way to discount their credibility. Overall I feel like this is part of a larger display of narcissist behavior; I’ve noticed that the only time he’ll listen to suggestions is if you make it not sound critical and sandwich them in between compliments.

    Up until now, I (hopefully) have avoided being on the receiving end of his negative comments, but since I’m trying to go for promotion, my manager wants me to give him more guidance and tell him directly the feedback that I’ve brought up to her. Seeing how he’s reacted in the past, I’m unsure how to just start giving him unsolicited feedback and am afraid of what he’ll think and say to others about me as someone with four less years of industry experience trying to give him advice. I’m also afraid that this will damage our working relationship as I’ve seen how despondent he becomes when things don’t go his way. I’ve told my manager these concerns and her response was that it isn’t on me if he reacts poorly to my feedback, but I feel like putting in the energy to give him feedback that he probably won’t even listen to is exhausting and isn’t worth the possibility of him becoming more adversarial towards me. What can I do? Any advice??

  2. I recently joined a new company following the patented space law certified strategy of quit your job. I have a senior colleague who has been there maybe 8 months more than me. Whenever he has a problem, he likes to call me away from my desk and start explaining his entire problem to me. I have no knowledge of the real codebase yet and am not even an experienced programmer as I barely have 2 year of experience. I just stand there and nod and give various quips from time to time to pretend I’m listening. This can last up to 30 minutes and happens numerous times a day. If I say I’m busy he just waits 5 minutes before calling me over again. I cant get any work done because of this. How do I deal with this senior team mate that uses me as a rubber duck. Should I just buy him an actual rubber duck ?

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Episode 314: "That guy" and how to skip level


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. Hi! Love the podcast and have been listening for a while.

    I have a question about dealing with “that guy” on the team. I’ve been through several teams throughout my career, and every once in a while, I get on a team where there’s always a “that guy” that everyone seems to tiptoe around. They’re the type that would yell and scream to have everything go their way, and they’re typically very blunt to anyone, saying things in a really hurtful way. These people can either be technical or on the product side, but I’ve found it really difficult to work with people like this.

    After working long enough with “that guy”, it seems the common thing people do is just to say “Oh, that’s just so-and-so.” or “That’s just the way so-and-so is.”, which I feel is the only thing you can do, but that just doesn’t sit right with me because it’s incredibly toxic.

    I don’t think the solution is to just fire people like this, but it boggles my mind how so many teams just let this kind of behavior happen because the manager can’t or won’t take any action other than give them a talking to, which seems to just allow the behavior to continue because there are no consequences.

    Have you ever dealt with situations like this? And if so, how do you normally handle it without just ignoring it?

  2. I am a senior FE engineer and I have recurring 1-1s with my skip level manager (manager of my manager) who is the Head of Engineering at the unicorn I work for. I usually ask what is top of mind for them (usually hiring), give feedback about my manager, and get additional feedback on bigger picture things I’m working on (e.g. we’re currently working on metrics to measure impact and value of our design system and other internal tooling). What else would you ask them to make the best use of this time?

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Episode 313: Parents are fighting and hat-removal


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. After six years at my first job out of college, I took the foolproof SSE advice and quit my job last year during the height of the pandemic. I landed at one of the Big Software Companies and learned that I negotiated very well for pay within my role (in large part, thanks to this podcast - yay!), but I am way overqualified compared to my peers and should have attempted to come in at the next software engineer level (oops).

    To get promoted I need signoff from my fairly new manager and the very tenured principal engineer (PE) who has historically run the team. My manager and the PE are frequently in disagreement, and send me one-off slacks to make requests that are directly at odds with each other. I’m squarely aligned with my manager’s prioritization which frequently puts me at odds with the senior PE. Yikes.

    The senior PE frequently overlooks technical complexity and business context, and gives far more technical opportunities to the men on the team. I don’t like his mode of leadership, and so do not want to mimic his style. Unfortunately, he’s very respected by the VP+ level so I worry that friction with him will swiftly crush my dreams of promotion.

    The parents are fighting. I’m caught in the middle and feel like I’m aligned with the side that is at a political disadvantage. Is there any hope of success for me unless they can magically start to get along?

  2. I joined a small team as a developer a few years ago, and was asked by management to help introduce some formal processes to the team to help us release a project that has been in the works for a number of years.

    With the team’s buy-in, I introduced SCRUM, and started playing the role of Scrum Master and Product Owner. I may also be the development team’s functional manager in the future. It seems that having the roles of 1) developer, 2) scrum master, 3) product owner, and 4) functional manager is too much for any one person to do well. With a primary role of functional manager, which of these other roles would make sense to hold onto? Which roles would be better to either hire replacements for or coach other team members to take over?