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 251: Working with real live developers and the royal we?

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In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

Questions

  1. I’m not a developer, and have never worked with developers. I have four years of systems/IT experience (ansible, bash, python, windows, etc). I got hired in a devops role at a company with many developers. How can I make sure I’ll have meaningful discussions (and a good learing experience) with software developers in my upcoming devops role at a new company? Will they notice that I don’t know what an enterprise communication bus is if just don’t ask but instead scribble something in my notebook?

  2. I just watched “How to crash an airplane” by Nickolas Means. It is about how the flight crew of an airplane crashed in 1989 yet saved 189 lives. The learning is that there are no heroes and teams can succeed only with inputs from all members in the team. All opinions need to be heard. And he also emphasizes that the captain used “we” in all his speeches.

    When it comes to interviews, the expectation is to talk about your personal experience. Using “we” during interviews would look like negative, right? Especially in leadership interviews, this is difficult since leaders are successful only with their team.

    Can you give us some strategies to balance this the best?

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Episode 250: The management track and active listening

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In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

Questions

  1. I’m a Tech Lead at a decent sized corporation. If I want to grow towards a promotion my options are a more people management track towards Engineering Lead (basically a TL who also manages 1-2 other TLs) or a more technical track towards Staff TL. Where I’m struggling is I don’t know how I would actually work towards the Staff level, seeing as most of my time is spent wrapped up in mentoring, coaching, planning meetings, and just generally large blocks of time spent on Zoom. Have you ever seen someone move down that path? I worry I would be letting my other responsibilities slip through the cracks by focusing on my own technical advancement. How should I balance what my team needs from me vs. what I need to focus on to get to a role like that? Is the best way to get there 1 step back (to being an individual contributor again) and then two steps forward (working towards Staff Engineer then Staff TL)?

  2. Hello soft skills! Love the show and your great banter, keep the laughs coming.

    Do you have any tips for ‘active listening’? My manager is very, very chatty and our catch ups over zoom often last two hours or more. I find myself drifting in and out while he talks and then need to snap out of it when I hear something that might be useful.

    How do I keep focused in extra long meetings where we are one on one and the content is not particularly interesting?

    Thanks!

Show Notes

https://mediocre.dev/it-takes-more

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

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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.