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 222: Cowboy CTO and underpaid after promotion


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:


  1. Hey, long time fan of the show!

    Our current CTO came in as the result of a merger. For most of his life, he was a solo developer and owned his own company.

    The struggles we are facing now are:

    • He is not responsive at all, neither via chat, nor email, nor any other communication tool.
    • He often says “I’ll do it” but then takes weeks to finish
    • He has thousands of unread emails in his inbox
    • When he writes tickets, the details are unclear for others
    • He codes way too much for a CTO, in my opinion, and his code is a bit messy compared to the other developers

    Since he is a really nice person, we all want to give him feedback that makes him understand his role better, and to avoid being a bottleneck.

    I know that changing another person is hard, but at the same time I know that he is motivated to become a good CTO.

    How do I help him?”

  2. Hi. I’ve only recently discovered your podcast this quarantine, and it’s been really helpful at work already. So when I was faced with this problem, I immediately thought of you!

    I have been a professional software developer for just over a year and have received great feedback from my manager and team. During my performance review, I asked what I would need to qualify for promotion. I got the news that I had already been recommended for a promotion!

    Meanwhile, a friend still in university got an entry-level job offer from my company that pays more than I would make if my promotion went through. Where I come from, there are no negotiations when companies recruit at universities, so it’s not a matter of them negotiating a better deal.

    If the promotion does not come through I have no qualms trying to negotiate. If the promotion does comes through, would I come off as ungrateful if I bring this up? Am I asking for too much by wanting to be paid more at a higher position than what a new grad would be paid at entry level? I know it’s not an ideal world and I feel greedy as I type this, but I just want to be compensated for what I think I’m worth. I also think that it also comes down to my ego at some point. SEND HALP

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Episode 221: Current boss reference and getting paid to do nothing


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:


  1. I’m in the process of quitting my job. I’ve been a developer here for a few years and made amazing friends. I love the people here but I am looking for a new challenge and a pay increase.

    I was discussing my references for the new role with my partner and she said I should ask my current manager. I stopped hard in my tracks and said “absolutely not.” She works in healthcare and said she wouldn’t get a job unless her old manager gave a good reference. I dismissed this as not applying to software engineering. But the thought has stayed with me.

    Would use your current manager as a reference? Am I wrong to not do this? At what point do you tell your current manager your looking to leave?

    My manager does not know anything yet and I thought it would be “mean” to tell him I’m leaving and also ask for a reference. I do believe he would give a good reference though.

    What are your thoughts?

  2. Hey guys,

    Should I stay at a job where I get paid to do nothing?

    I took a new job as a data scientist a few months ago and since COVID-19 blew up I have had absolutely nothing to do at my job. I’m supposed to be working remotely but our team doesn’t get a lot of business and we’re mostly keeping a facade of being busy with “internal projects” and “training”. This was nice for the first few weeks but at this point I’m concerned about my career development.

    Also, the job is more business-oriented than I expected while I would rather focus on building things. I would like my next job to be a machine learning engineer or a software developer role in some other domain. I’m worried that my “hard” engineering skills are deteriorating with every passing week.

    All of this is made more difficult by the disturbed job market at the moment and the fact that if I stay at my role for another 7 months, I will receive a sizeable retention payment.

    What should I do?

    I love the podcast. Keep up the great work.

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Episode 220: Premature leadership push and credit and status


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:


  1. Hello,

    I know you said you don’t read the compliments on air most of the time but this podcast is great. I just found it a few weeks ago and I love the positive fun approach to question answering. It has really made me think about software engineering outside of the ““make code do thing”” box.

    Anyway, the question: I have been at the same company for 4 years. It is my first job out of college. I have ended up working in so many different languages and frameworks I don’t remember them all. I guess that’s just how things go. Recently I have been selected to take on a scrum master role and I feel I am quickly being groomed for management.

    That was never really my goal. I wanted to build a depth of knowledge and always have my hands on code.

    Will taking on these kind of roles hurt my chances at future technical roles? Am I dooming myself to managing spreadsheets and Jira tickets until I retire? Will I only communicate in Dilbert references?

  2. My teammate frequently gives status updates or fields follow up questions about work that was mostly done by someone else. I am pretty sure they do this to be helpful not to claim credit for all the work. I just wish I could speak up about the work I contributed primarily to before they do so on my behalf. I wish it didn’t bother me since we are one team and I would rather focus on the progress of the team rather than receiving credit.

    How should I respond to these situations in a way that allows me to not get bothered emotionally and also do what’s best for the team?