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 294: Unqualified internal applicant and speculative specs


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I work in a squad that has been slow in delivering. Squad leadership (including myself) concluded we need a staff engineer (one level above senior engineer) to help guide tech directions and to support other engineers.

    Unfortunately we have received only a single applicant- senior engineer “Brett” who’s already on the team. Brett is a good engineer and has a lot of great qualities - but falls short of the “staff” level. Our tech lead “Chris” doesn’t think Brett is suitable due to bad technical decisions Brett has made in the past. Chris also thinks Brett should have been discouraged from applying in the first place. (Brett’s manager is outside the team so has less visibility on what’s happening inside the squad)

    We’re suddenly in a bind. If we give Brett the role we are in the same situation as before but having to pay him more.

    If we don’t give him the role we run the risk of losing him in this environment - which would be very bad as he is a good engineer!

    Should our decision be down to how Brett interviews? What could have been done differently?

  2. I recently did some extensive planning for a feature with a back-end engineer where we negotiated what the GraphQL api would look like. As I was finishing up my feature work, I realized that they departed from that plan and didn’t tell me. Now the feature is late. They’re having to make adjustments because the departure from the spec made it impossible for the front-end to handle the data. I’m having to do more work because they used a completely different architecture than what we discussed. What’s even more frustrating is that the end result on the backend is going to be exactly the design that I initially proposed (this is documented), which the backend engineer shot down when I proposed it.

    I feel angry that they dismissed my technical expertise. This has also eroded my faith in collaborating with this person. Retro’s coming up. How would you approach retro? What outcome do I even want here? I don’t think more process is going to be helpful (I spent 6-8 hours on the planning portion of this feature). I am starting to wonder if my perception as a primarily front-end engineer prevents the back-end engineers from lending me credibility.

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Episode 293: Moving TOO fast and following my manager


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. Is it possible to move too fast and do you believe in too much enthusiasm? I am one of the youngest member of the team and am always willing to start new projects and balance a few different things. Is there a point where this can start hurting my career? I’ve gotten bumped in compensation fairly, almost 25% raise since I first started. My career goal is to stay on the programming side but want to become a possible trainer for newer engineers/devs.

  2. Listener Michael asks,

    I’m a backend engineer in an engineering/coding role with a small bit of SRE type work. I love the work as I get to dig deep into tech we use and have become subject a matter expert on databases within the company. I really like my team and my manager in particular, and get to learn a lot every week. My manager is leaving my team to lead a new team within the company that is focused on the company’s SaaS offering and I’ve been given the option of joining this new team if I wish. I like their managerial style and how they have helped me with my career progression so far. However, I’d be doing Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) work. I’m not sure if I’m ready yet to commit to being an SRE and code less/focus more on ensuring the reliability of mission critical production systems. I don’t know how easy it would be to switch back to more of a coding role in a years time or if it would pigeonhole me into that type of role. Have you got any advice?

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Episode 292: Haunted by former co-worker and awkward manager endorsement


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I recently joined a new company that pays me much better and has much better engineering practices than my previous job.

    I referred a great engineer who was hired on a different team. Then, another engineer from my old job applied for MY team and is currently being interviewed for the role.

    This engineer is one of the reasons I left my former company! They have an impressive resume and interview well, but are unable to complete even the most basic tasks and have no interest in improving their skills. They asked me to put in a good word with my tech lead, but if anything, I want to encourage my tech lead NOT to hire them. I’m not a part of the interviewing process but I feel an obligation to let my tech lead know just how bad this developer is. Help?

  2. Thanks for thinking I’m neat! I think you are pretty neat too!

    In my most recent 121, my manager asked me to give some feedback on another colleague on whether I thought they would make a good Engineering Manager. My genuine thoughts about my colleague are that they’re pretty good technically, they have good communication skills, are friendly, and just generally a good team player. Outside of work, we’re pretty good friends and so I really want to see them succeed. However, I can’t shake the feeling that they wouldn’t necessarily be a good Engineering Manager and I can’t figure out why. What are some other (not so obvious) qualities that you think are important for EMs, since on paper, I would think they tick a lot of the boxes.