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 374: Secret burnout and no room for failure


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. Morning! I will cut straight to the chase: I’m burned out and tired. At the same time, I’m aiming to get a promotion during the next cycle. My manager is aware of the latter, but not the former. Should I tell them? I suspect that I would get a lighter work load and less responsibilities, but it might also impact my chances at getting a promotion. The project I’m working is a “high stakes, tight deadlines” mess. I usually would just take a week or two of PTO, but the tight deadlines make it hard. Do I grin and bear it till promotion cycle (another 4-6 months) or just tell my manager and risk losing the rewards?

  2. I’m about to get promoted to L6, what my company calls Lead Engineer, but I have to move to another team for it to happen. The other team already has a few people who are applying for that same promotion, and they got skipped over for my promo. They’ve also been devs longer than me. (4 years for me) So, I’m worried about tension on that team when I join.

    On top of that, I’ll be learning this role too! How can I make room for myself to have failures and make poor decisions, while also not undermining my expertise? How can I step into this lead role while not stepping on the toes of the engineers already on the team?

    Any tips for someone leading a team for the first time, while also joining that team?

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Episode 373: I have no vision and not-so-positive environment


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. Love the show, you guys have saved my bacon more times than I can count!

    I interviewed at an organization for a Senior Engineering role, but the interview went so well, they actually offered me the option to accept a Staff role! I definitely didn’t feel ready for that, but I accepted as a way to stretch and challenge myself. The company has been through some internal churn and re-arranging for most of my time there, and I bounced between a lot of projects, which means I’ve now been at the company coming up on 2 years, but not really had the chance to grow into the role. Now, I’ve been here awhile, don’t have a lot of excuses, and am bad at being a Staff Engineer. My biggest failing, is that I lack a bigger vision for our project, beyond just meeting customer needs for today. I’m not even sure how to start building that bigger vision! In my current project, this is especially apparent, because we do need to meet internal customer needs, but the end goal is a larger platform. We need features that inspire new avenues of work as well as enable current ones. How the heck do I even begin to start imagining what this bigger vision could be? Moreover, once I have that vision, how do I get buy in for that vision? My inability to do this kind of forward thinking has been a boat anchor around my ankles my entire career, and I’m lost as to where to even start.

    Help me guys, I love my job, but I fear I’ve become the embodiment of the Peter Principle. Help me chew my ankles off to save my career

  2. Listener Trevor asks,

    I work as a data scientist at a small company. I joined the company specifically because of the positive work environment. I do mostly software development and until recently have only received positive reviews.

    Recently we had a heated meeting with the CTO and CFO where we demonstrated that a customer’s request wasn’t feasible. The CTO challenged and expressed disbelief in our numbers which we had thoroughly analyzed and confirmed as accurate. I felt like their reaction was due to our results conflicting with our business needs.

    After that, my manager began pushing me to prioritize data science tasks. He attributed the outcome of the meeting to my lack of attention to detail, even though the results were accurate. He also said this would affect my next performance review. We reached a resolution when I apologized and committed to improvement. I’ve only received positive feedback since, but I still feel the assessment was unfairly based on such a brief meeting.

    Now I view the company and my manager differently. Without the positive work relationships with management and colleagues, I’m not sure what is keeping me here. Our tech stack is outdated, and there’s reluctance to change practices. For example, we didn’t have a CICD pipeline until only a few months ago. Additionally, the performance review and promotion schedules are nebulous and irregular.

    I’m uncertain about my next steps. Should I address the perceived unfairness of the meeting feedback? Or would it be better to start exploring other job opportunities?

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Episode 372: Equity and getting interrupted in Zoom meetings


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I joined a startup at the peak of the tech bubble which sadly means that my equity was based on the company’s valuation which was very over-valued. To corroborate this, the company has not grown much in terms of users or revenue. The company also had a layoff just like many startups.

    As even public or unicorn tech companies are often devalued by 50-75%, I think it is reasonable to say that my equity grant is worth a lot less and I’m being underpaid.

    Most likely, I will leave the company anyway for some other reasons, but I was curious whether it would be reasonable to ask for significantly more equity. From a pure financial point of view, if a company is valued 75% less then asking for 2x does not seem too unreasonable to me, but I can see that it can be seen as too calculative and the company may be unwilling to grant more equity to that extent. What do you think?

    Assuming that asking for more equity grants is not unreasonable, I’m also curious how you would bring it up to your manager without looking to be too greedy.

  2. I have been a software engineer at a large finance firm for around 2 years out of school. My team works in a hybrid model but most of my meetings are still remote.

    At least once every couple weeks when I try to ask a question or otherwise participate on a group call or more rarely when I’m responding to a question about my own topic I get interrupted and completely cut off by more senior people on the call, such as my manager, product owner or architect. The other developers and technical people rarely interrupt each other.

    Some other details: I try to wait for pauses before speaking, and have tried reiterating after the new topic changes again but often it’s just too late. I also tried ignoring the interruption and continuing to speak but I really don’t enjoy having to do this in order to be heard and it feels disrespectful.

    I’ve noticed this also happens to other more junior members of the team, most of whom are much more reserved in meetings than I am. Another thing to mention is its not really a problem for me during in-person meetings.

    Am I being a special snowflake to find this annoying and humiliating or is it just par for the course of being a more junior member of the team?