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 331: Prickly ticket and title downgrade

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In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. Listener ninjamonkey says,

    I am a new grad who is half a year into the role now at a very large company. Recently, a senior engineer on my team asked me to create a ticket for an infra team for a problem with a service. I provided logs and steps to reproduce the issue and did a health check before submitting.

    Right after, the manager of the team put me into a group chat with their team, asked why I created the ticket and told me to start doing my job and they can’t debug for me.

    From these interactions and comments on the ticket, it feels the infra team will likely not work on the tickets I report or de-prioritize them. This has left me discouraged and hesitant.

    I will have to do lots of this kind of infrastructure work in the future. Additionally, one of the goals my manager set for me is to work with more external teams for the upcoming year.

    What do I do here? Do I tell my manager about these interactions? Do I tell my team lead, staff/seniors to swap out for different kind of story?

  2. I work for a small startup. I was the first employee other than the 2 founders.

    Being the first developer hired, naturally means I have the most knowledge about our application. I also have good organisational skills, which has led to me becoming and being referred to as the “Lead Developer”.

    I have recruited 2 of the 3 new developers, and have trained both of them and got them up to speed.

    At first I was pleased with the progression and was keen to grow into the position, and told the founders so.

    Since then, I have changed my mind, I don’t want to be the lead - due to the following:

    • The communication is absolutely pitiful. Any questions we ask of the founders we get about a 30% reply rate no matter the form of communication.
    • We get poorly defined tasks and requirements
    • The CTO will just blast through some of our features over the weekend and say here I fixed it for you

    I don’t want to quit my job (just yet… its a comin though).

    I have actually discussed the above points with them, but I know these 2 founders will never change their ways.

    How do I tell them I just want to go back to being an Individual Contributor like my Employment contract states?

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Episode 330: Mixed signals and not ready for senior

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In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. Dan asks,

    Hey friends! How do you get ahead when your manager gives you mixed signals? I was told there would be lots of opportunities to work on exciting new projects when I interviewed for this role. After six months this hasn’t really happened and I’m beginning to get concerned it never will. Half the team is working on ‘new things’ while the rest of us are working on maintenance work. This is meant to be rotated but my colleagues tell me this isn’t the case. I’ve asked my manager in our one on ones if I can work on the next piece of new work but have got some odd responses. They told me if I want to work on better projects I should look in my managers calendar and invite myself to anything that looks good. This seems bizarre. Is it normal to lurk your managers calendar and just turn up at meetings that ‘look good’?

  2. I’ve worked at small but mature companies for about 3 years now, and I feel that I’m soon coming to the point where you would expect me to be a senior engineer given my years of experience (which I’m aiming for!). I’ve struggled a lot to come up with ideas to add value to the team outside of the standard sprint tickets. I know these things aren’t “required” in the job scope, but often with teams at smaller companies, I worry my manager might think I’m not ready for a senior role if I’m not actively thinking outside the box about the team’s goals beyond the tickets I’ve been assigned.

    I do have a lot of initiative and independence, but the thing is I’m just not very creative. As much as I love tech, it’s difficult for me to dream of non-trivial ideas that would actually make an impact. I feel that if I want to progress in my career, I’m going to have to get better at seeing the bigger picture. What tips might you have?

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Episode 329: Falling behind and can't get a management job

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In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I’m a few months into my first full time job, and the learning curve is immense. I feel like I’m falling behind and not keeping up with my work, as well as not understanding things that should be simple. I often feel I am wasting time on a lot of work that I do. How do I know if this is just an anxious feeling, or if I am legitimately falling behind?

  2. I am currently a staff engineer and have a career goal to move into management. I have been with my current employer for 15+ years and positions to promote into just don’t come up. The tech i work with is not very technical, there is no coding and its incredibly specialized. I have applied and interviewed for manager positions outside of my team/company and i get the same feedback that i am well qualified, but there is someone with previous manager experience that beats me. I see it being forever if not impossible to get a manager position due to people needing to retire etc. If i go to another engineering position i feel like i would need to start over in a junior spot. What other options do i have.