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 313: Parents are fighting and hat-removal


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. After six years at my first job out of college, I took the foolproof SSE advice and quit my job last year during the height of the pandemic. I landed at one of the Big Software Companies and learned that I negotiated very well for pay within my role (in large part, thanks to this podcast - yay!), but I am way overqualified compared to my peers and should have attempted to come in at the next software engineer level (oops).

    To get promoted I need signoff from my fairly new manager and the very tenured principal engineer (PE) who has historically run the team. My manager and the PE are frequently in disagreement, and send me one-off slacks to make requests that are directly at odds with each other. I’m squarely aligned with my manager’s prioritization which frequently puts me at odds with the senior PE. Yikes.

    The senior PE frequently overlooks technical complexity and business context, and gives far more technical opportunities to the men on the team. I don’t like his mode of leadership, and so do not want to mimic his style. Unfortunately, he’s very respected by the VP+ level so I worry that friction with him will swiftly crush my dreams of promotion.

    The parents are fighting. I’m caught in the middle and feel like I’m aligned with the side that is at a political disadvantage. Is there any hope of success for me unless they can magically start to get along?

  2. I joined a small team as a developer a few years ago, and was asked by management to help introduce some formal processes to the team to help us release a project that has been in the works for a number of years.

    With the team’s buy-in, I introduced SCRUM, and started playing the role of Scrum Master and Product Owner. I may also be the development team’s functional manager in the future. It seems that having the roles of 1) developer, 2) scrum master, 3) product owner, and 4) functional manager is too much for any one person to do well. With a primary role of functional manager, which of these other roles would make sense to hold onto? Which roles would be better to either hire replacements for or coach other team members to take over?

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Episode 312: Nit-picking and Promo raises


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I’m on a team of two. My manager/teammate is young (under 30, less than 5 years total work experience), minimally experienced with anything other than writing code, and has an inflated self-assessment of their own coding skills.

    They have a habit of either asking for (or simply changing on their own) every little thing to be their own way. This can be as unimportant as renaming all the variables to a different word with the same meaning (think $largeCar instead of $bigCar) or as bad as - after a discussion between two techniques for a feature in which their preferred method wasn’t chosen, - going in later and changing the code to how they wanted to do things.

    I’m feeling burnt out by the lack of control over my work and feeling like what I’m doing doesn’t make a difference..

    Where and how should you draw lines in order to balance writing good software with showing respect for your team members? How do you deal with people who think their actions are justifiable because they are “improving” the code but really can only defend this by claiming it is “more readable” or some other subjective measure?

  2. I work at a well-funded startup and am likely going to be promoted (into another IC engineering role) in the next few months. I’m pretty clear on the leverage I have when negotiating salary before accepting a job offer, but I’m wondering how I should approach negotiation and raise expectations when it comes to receiving a promotion. Obviously, my company wants to retain me, otherwise I wouldn’t be getting promoted, but I don’t feel confident in negotiating when I’m already being given a raise and my only alternative to accepting it would be to leave and find another job.

    Additionally, I’m on great terms with my company and manager and I would not leave over a 5-10k difference in raise expectations. Just want to better prepare myself for the offer. My manager has also told me that when/if I receive a raise, I can negotiate (it’s not too late). That came up because I told him I assumed raises and promotions are long processes that need to be decided way in advance, but that is not the case at my company.

Show Notes

Tweet about engineers’ puzzle obsession:

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Episode 311: (rerun of 207) Unclear career goals and garbage code


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I’m a senior software engineer at a fast growing software startup. In the past year and a half that I’ve been with the company I’ve gone through 5 reorgs and have had 5 different managers in 4 different teams. Each time I sit down to do a 1 on 1 with a new manager they ask about my career goals and aspirations.

    Initially, when I joined the company I was a weak and feeble non-senior software engineer. When I was asked this question then, my answer was “to learn and grow, and have more authority and autonomy over the systems that I build, and be considered a senior software engineer”. Over the past year and half I have proven my worth and paid my dues and got the title of senior software engineer, along with the pay raise that came with it.

    My career development horizon has not been very broad. I didn’t even know there were levels beyond senior software engineer for a long time.

    I feel like I’m missing out on growth opportunities by not having a clear answer to this question. Please help!

    Love your show, keep it up.

  2. I career switched via a coding bootcamp 3 years ago and have been at my current company ever since.

    The bugs created by my garbage code from the early days made me a big believer in clean code practices — I now feel strongly about using descriptive variable names, avoiding duplicate code, etc.

    However, my boss/CTO is on the opposite end of the spectrum. As long as the code works, he doesn’t care what it look like.

    I want to stay at this company because I strongly believe in the product and I love the flexibility of a small start-up, but my boss and I keep bumping heads.

    For example, we recently switched over to PRs, and each PR my boss has made included blatant violations of the coding standards document we created together (!). When I request changes on the PR, he says he’ll do it but it isn’t a good use of our time to rewrite it when the code works.

    My question is two-fold:

    (1) As the most senior engineer on the software team, how can I go about promoting a quality-driven approach when the CTO doesn’t see the value in it?

    (2) If all else fails, I’m open to quitting, but I don’t want to end up the same boat. During interviews, what questions can I ask to find out if the company truly values code quality?