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 224: Bad review from conflicted boss and questioning my career choices


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:


  1. Hi Dave and Jamison, I’m in my mid twenties working at a large company with 1,000+ devs. My direct manager (let’s call him Bob) is probably in his late forties, is from a different country, and has a wife and two children who live in his home country. He currently manages ~20 devs in multiple scrums.

    Last month, I had my mid-year performance review with Bob. I am pretty sure that I’ve done a great job during the first half of the year. I made a few performance improvements, designed and partly implemented a few new systems, and even saved the company from a potential lawsuit. I think that I’m already delivering much more than the typical junior would already. Bob seems to disagree. He only gave me a mediocre review. When I pushed him for his reasoning, he seems to avoid the question and just told me to focus on the whole year review instead.

    Last week, I just came to know that Bob is filing a divorce. I would think that he is probably feeling quite depressed. Nonetheless, it bothers me to feel that my review score is somehow related to his personal affairs. He rushed all of his reviews on the last deadline though. I get the feeling that he is dispirited and didn’t focus on giving his team a thorough and honest review.

    I don’t want to bring this up to Bob’s manager as it would probably make him even more miserable. I also don’t think I can give him divorce advice. What would you do?

  2. Hi there. I just graduated from undergrad and will be starting my career in just a few days. A big question on my mind going in is whether software development is the right career for me. I landed here because my parents saw me tinkering with HTML as a kid and pushed me into a CS major and this job. Me personally, I had wildly varying attitudes towards programming in college. Some days I was so hungry that I threw myself into hackathons and side projects; other days I was ready to drop my CS major. All this left me unsure of where I really stand. I’m grateful to have ended up on this path, but as I think more long-term, I question whether I’m really here for the long haul. What signs could I look for to gauge my compatibility with the tech industry or help me decide whether this career is really for me?

    Either way, thanks so much for making this podcast - it’s been a great window into the world that I’m about to join.

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Episode 223: Feedback rage and making up for lost time


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:


  1. Hello. Thanks for hosting such a great podcast. I recently finished binging all the previous episodes.

    I’ve recently noticed in conversations with my team, whether synchronous or asynchronous, after I propose an idea or stake out a position, I easily get defensive if a teammate tries to give feedback on my idea.

    I don’t mean to get angry, but I sometimes don’t notice until it’s too late.

    I think it has gotten to the point where my teammates might have caught on, and I don’t want this to lead to a state where they never disagree with me.

    Have you ever dealt with this, in yourself or others? How have you dealt with changing this mindset?

  2. My first software developer job lasted two years. I didn’t learn much.

    • We deployed legacy Java apps with SCP
    • We had no tests
    • We didn’t have CI/CD
    • We were using a beta version of an old framework which we never upgraded
    • Our repos were not in sync with our production code
    • A lot of commented out code, dead code over the place
    • Using multiple languages across the board. We were using Java for something, Node for some, PHP for web/api, JS for client side. Basically the devs were cowboy coding to get the stuff out.

    I am three years into my current role & have already learned so much more than in my first role. I feel like my first job set me back. How do I overcome this?

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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