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 377: Short Tenure Promotion and too much free time at work


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. Hi, I’m a senior software engineer at a big tech company, where I’ve been employed for precisely one year. So far, the feedback I’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive. My manager has even mentioned that her superiors are impressed with my performance, and my colleagues have shared their positive feedback as well.

    While I’ve been told that I’m doing exceptionally well and may be on track for a promotion in my upcoming year-end review, there’s a slight concern. Given that I’ll have been with the company for just over a year at that point, my relatively short tenure might affect my chances. During my mid-year review, my manager advised me to tackle more complex problems and take on larger tasks that have an impact on multiple teams to bolster my promotion prospects.

    I don’t really know what to do with this advice since I don’t know what else to do besides passively wait and hope that these famous ‘complex problems’ come my way. I feel like whether or not I get to prove myself in a big way to secure the promotion will come down to luck, is there anything I can do to reduce this luck factor?

  2. I recently started a new remote job as a lead engineer at a startup. Previously, I was working for an agency and was almost constantly busy. Additionally, I was held extremely accountable for the time I spent working through submission of daily timesheets.

    Now that I’m at a startup, I’m struggling to not feel guilty when I feel like I have nothing to do. My area of the product moves much slower than everyone else’s, so while everyone else is constantly busy, I feel like I’m making much less impact. My manager, the CTO, is fully aware of my lighter workload and is fine with it.

    My question isn’t necessarily about how I can make more impact. It’s about how to make peace with the idea that I’m not being productive for 8 hours every day. When you’re in an office, you feel like you’re working even when you’re not, because you’re physically there. When working remotely, I tend to feel guilty when I’m not physically sitting at my desk writing code, even when there isn’t really any code to write. Do I need to just get over myself and feel more grateful for all my free time? Or is there another way of looking at this that I’m missing?

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Episode 376: Return to office and quitting tech


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I applied and was hired for a 100% telecommute position. Recently, the company has mandated all employees near an office switch to a hybrid schedule. I’m looking at an hour or more round trip and the yearly cost of parking is several thousand dollars. The company also announced to their investors that massive layoffs will be coming due to the economy and redundancies due to a large merger.

    I’m relatively new to the company and left my previous company after only a couple of years. I like where I work and the company benefits. I do prefer working in office and don’t want to be seen as a perpetual job hopper. I’m just not thrilled about the commute time and commute paycut.

    We have been assured my product is invaluable but should I believe that? A friend referred me to a hybrid position biking distance from my house. Assuming I’m made an offer, should I take it? What if it’s slightly less than what I’m making now?

  2. Hi Jamison and Dave, another long time listener here. Thank you for all your advice and the good laughs you provide in the show!

    I’m in my early 40s and have been working since I was 19 with a few years spent in education at university. In all these years there have been ups and downs, financial crises, personal crises, layoffs, good laughs and friendships, great teams, projects and bosses, and not so great teams, projects and bosses. I have enjoyed some of the work I’ve been doing in my industry, and I’ve enjoyed making some good contributions to my field.

    I have been badly burned out two times in my career. Healing and recovering was hard but thankfully I was able to rejoin the workforce successfully (or that’s what I thought). Last year I identified I’m slowly burning out badly again. Since this will be my third time, I’m *very* seriously reconsidering a career change, to quit tech and software altogether. I’m passionate about the field I work in though it seems I can’t avoid getting sick badly from time to time in part because of the difficulties for finding a good team/project fit, having to deal with difficult people at work and a mental health condition I’ve been struggling with since my teens.

    I have friends in the industry that are very senior, and we all share common struggles and our complaints about the industry are getting worse and worse with time. Is that a symptom of becoming more experienced? Are we all becoming jaded?

    My current job pays well, but I’ve come to the realisation that it isn’t a good deal to trade great compensation for my health. I’m seriously considering downshifting and quitting tech to hopefully (and finally) bring sanity and peace to my life. This is something I’ve been also discussing with my therapist lately. So here’s my question: do you think it’s worth pursuing a long career in tech, or it’s just that the more experienced and senior you become the hardest the job becomes because your awareness raises? Do you have any other advice?

    Thanks for reading and congrats again on the podcast!

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Episode 375: visa woes and Bob does everything wrong


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I work as a Software Engineering Manager at the European office of a US company. Recently, many of my colleagues successfully obtained US visas for an upcoming business trip. When it was my turn, everyone said it would be a piece of cake because our company is well-known. However, to my surprise, I was rejected during the visa interview. Now I won’t be able to join my colleagues (including my direct reports). I’m concerned they might perceive me as less capable because of this. What would you think if your manager couldn’t travel with you? To make matters worse, I might soon be managing a few US-based employees remotely.

  2. Hi guys, love the podcast. I never miss an episode!

    I have a co-worker, let’s call him “Bob”. Bob’s a lovely guy and very eager to learn.

    Here’s the thing. Bob never learns from his mistakes and needs to be continually asked to correct the same types of errors over and over again.

    The problem is that Bob doesn’t seem to have a developers mindset. I’d go so far as to say that if there’s a decision to be made then Bob is 95% guaranteed to do the opposite of what everybody else on the team would do.

    The end result of this is that whenever a pull request is opened up with Bobs name attached to it I can be sure that I will be spending more time reviewing it and inevitably the PR will need to go back and forth multiple times as Bob is asked to correct the same types of things that he was just asked to correct in the last review.

    The frustrating is that my manager is also nice and wants to encourage Bob to grow and improve and so regularly gives Bob some pretty complex tasks in order to encourage this growth. While I admire the managers attitude (and surely have benefitted from it on occasions :) ) my heart sinks just a bit more than normal when this happens as I know that the previously mentioned merry go round of reviews will inevitably be larger than usual. Sometimes it can get to the point where much (or all) of Bobs work ends up being discarded.

    I do precious little development work myself as my senior position in the team means that I’m the one ends up doing most of the peer reviewing. So each time I see Bob being given a piece of work that I would have enjoyed doing (and sometimes have even specced out) I get disheartened.

    Bob has been a developer in our field for about 6 years and still needs to be told on a regular basis about things that you would usually need to tell a fresh graduate.

    How do I broach the issue of Bob with the powers that be?

Show Notes