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 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?

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Episode 310: Flip flop and architecture astronaut


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. Hey guys! Love the show!

    I’ve worked for 8 years as a Software Engineer for a large aircraft company, and while I had a great time there, I left because I was tired of working with old tech and wanted to learn new stuff.

    I joined a medium-size company, working with lots of fun new tech, but after 8 months I got the opportunity to get my dream job as a Software Engineer at a specific Big Tech company.

    The problem is that after I started on my dream job, I “crashed” really hard. The people and org are great, but the job revolves around working with a large legacy product, using mostly old/basic tech, and overall I’ve been feeling really unmotivated since joining.

    After 4 months there, I was called by my previous fun job, and they offered me twice as much as I’m making at this Big Tech company to come back.

    I’m very tempted, but I’m afraid of screwing my resume by leaving so early. Should I toughen up and stick with my new fancy job, or go back and make more money and maybe be happier?

  2. Hello Dave & Jamison,

    First time, long time - I am 6 months into my first engineering job and loving it! (until recently…) my large team split into smaller teams. On my old team, we had lots of work to do and it was fun. My new team, however, is suffering from “spin-up time.” My tasks have shifted from clearly defined individual contributor type tasks, to amorphous research tasks on large architectural decisions. After about 3 months of this, it feels like this spin-up time is never going to end and we just don’t actually have much work coming our way.

    On the one hand, these are more senior engineering type tasks and I could probably learn a lot if I stay to see these through.

    On the other hand, I am certainly not at a senior engineer level and I miss spending my time coding. It was fun and I was learning a lot from that too. I fear that I may be atrophying as I haven’t done much coding for multiple months.

    On the third hand (I have three hands), I could definitely be making more money elsewhere.

    Should I stay and be patient, or is it time to take the magical SSE advice? is the economy crashing? I need help!!!

    Thanks, you guys are the best, Johnny Threehands

Show Notes

Architecture Astronaut:

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Episode 309: Missing boss support and new manager, who dis


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I am working on a devops team building the shared services that our engineers depend on: log aggregation, CICD, Monitoring, K8s clusters, etc. The team is myself, my boss (lead devops engineer), and a handful of pretty junior people. I feel pulled in a bunch of directions. I’ve asked for written documentation from my boss to help establish expectations and processes. Think branching strategies, who owns what, what should be prioritized. I want to make it easier to train up the junior people on the team and enable us to push back when devs ask for stuff with no context of what it will take to finish. Nothing has been written. It’s starting to get to me because without that it’s very difficult for me to push back on requests from the developers on our various teams. How do I tell my boss that I feel like he’s letting me down and that I’m drowning because it seems he just can’t be bothered to write down some base information?

  2. I have been working with my manager for almost a year to be promoted. I have been making a lot of progress on my tasks and as a developer. My manager agreed that I would be promoted in the next month or so if I kept it up. Then he quit to go to a new company. I now have a new manager and I feel like I have to start from scratch. Not much has been translated over from the old manager to the new manager about my progress. The new manager is now telling me there is no way they would hire me as a mid-level dev. I feel like I wasted a lot of time with the old manager and that the new manager is not seeing my value to the company and all the work that I’ve done to this point. I’m not going to quit or anything but I just wanted to rant. thanks for listening.

Show Notes

Writing strategy and vision documents: