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

Recent Episodes

Latest Episode

Episode 183: Terrible boss code and peer-to-peer mentorship

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In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I work in a small team under 10 people on a new project that should be shipping soon. I have a manager who is leading this project, and I’m the most senior developer on the team.

    My manager tries to help with the project by writing code, but does it rather poorly. When he wants to implement new functionality, he creates a new branch and brews his code in this branch for 2-3 months, constantly complaining how hard it is to write code in our codebase. After he is done, the resulting code is unreadable, unmaintainable and untestable. He doesn’t write unit tests himself (which is weird, considering he was working as a QA before for several years) and usually breaks good portion of already written ones. I always have to go to his branch and refactor his code so it’s at least testable, fix broken unit tests and write new ones for his functionality. He always makes it look like our codebase is hard to work with, though the rest of the team doesn’t have this problem.

    How should I deal with this situation?

    I tried speaking to him directly, but he is pretty stubborn and thinks that he is doing everything perfectly.

    I can’t talk to his manager, since we have a pretty flat company and his manager is the CEO who I don’t have a direct access to.

  2. I work in a digital agency as part of team of 5 front end developers with varying levels of experience. We don’t have a senior / lead / director, it’s pretty flat. I have been told by management that we need to work on peer to peer mentor-ship because each of us have been guilty at some point of spinning our wheels on some problem when we should have reached out. The problem is we all work on different projects, there’s never 2 ““fed””s building the same site, and each site kind of feels like it’s own unique bowl of spaghetti.

    If you have any pointers about breaking out our code bubbles that would be amazing! Love the show, I hadn’t given non technical skills much thought but you’ve opened my brain! Thank you!

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Episode 182: Lunch and switching to product management

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In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. My team often goes out to lunch; I almost always bring a lunch from home. They invite me to come with them, but it feels weird, since I won’t be purchasing a meal from the restaurant. Should I swallow (pun intended) my pride and go with them anyway, or decline their offer? I would bring lunch less frequently, but it’s difficult to predict what days they are going out together.

  2. I’ve been a software engineer for 7 years and it recently occurred to me that product management would be an interesting and fulfilling field that I’d like to give a shot. Is this something I should discuss with my engineering manager or director, or other product managers at my company?

    While I think it’s possible these people might be able to help me, my anxious mind can think of many ways that advertising I want help transitioning out of my current role could go badly. I also happen to be fully remote, so I don’t have many opportunities to bring these things up in more casual settings. I doubt I’d be able to get hired as a PM at another company without prior experience, so getting help from co-workers or management at my current company seems pretty important. Do either of you know anyone who’s made this jump? Any tips on getting help without pushing too hard or creating problems for myself?

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Episode 181: Blocked by back-end and tired of coding

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In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I recently took a job at a start-up as the only front-end developer. The distinction of front-end and back-end is new to me as all of my previous experience has been full stack development.

    Most of my work can only be started once a back end developer has done their part. There is only one back end developer who just so happens to be one of the co-founders of the company. Because he can’t exclusively dedicate his time to back-end work due to his other roles with the company, I am left sitting at my desk writing to you guys trying to figure out what to do with all this free time I suddenly have. I’d like to stay busy and not just look busy.

    I’d appreciate any advice to help get me busy again!

  2. Hey Dave and Jamison, love the show. Quit my job twice since I started listening so I’m a super fan.

    Long story short, I think I’m bored with coding(?). I just see everything as moving JSON around. Putting it in databases or putting it in queues or on a screen. I’ve done mobile, I’ve done backend, I’ve done front end, and it all just starts to look the same after a while. As an industry I feel we’ve solved the hard problems and now its degraded to this.

    What do I do next? Do I find a software product where the JSON moving around excites me (for example, a social good or cutting edge product)

    Do I look at something very different like embedded dev or games dev? (No JSON there!)

    Or do I look to tech leadership or people leadership? These options appeal but I’m just five years into my career and 26 years old and of course no one takes me seriously, naturally.

    However, I have been very deliberate and been very intense about my career, but now I’m feeling a bit done with coding. Team velocity problems interest me more than JSON APIs. People interests me more than code.

    I’d love to hear any of your thoughts on this! Thanks :D Keep up the great work.

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