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Soft Skills Engineering is a weekly advice podcast for software developers.

Hosts Dave Smith and Jamison Dance answer software developers' most pressing questions about life, the universe, and everything. Join us each week to laugh at our terrible amazing jokes and gasp at our pretty good ideas pure wisdom.

Recent Episodes:

Episode 29: What Should I Do When Starting A New Job?

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Literally the only episode that the advice “quit your job and get a better one” doesn’t apply.

Dave and Jamison answer the question:

What should I do when starting a new job?

Episode 28: How Long Should I Stay At My Job and How Do I Help Junior Developers Improve

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In episode 28, Jamison and Dave answer these questions:

How long should I stay before I quit my job?

  • Two to three years seems fairly normal.
  • Dave sees people with less than 12 months regularly.
  • Staying at a job means you experience things you wouldn’t if you hopped around a lot.
  • It is much easier to see the hype cycle play out if you stick around.
  • You get to see the outcome of your own decisions.
  • Quitting usually == raise.
  • Chronic job hopping might result in a reputation of not sticking with things.
  • Dave thinks you should quit your first job after 18 months because of the Monty Hall problem

How do you encourage junior developers to improve?

  • We assume that these junior developers really want to improve.
  • Make it clear that people get stuck and struggle, and that is normal.
  • Make it clear that you don’t want them to get too stuck.
  • Make it OK to ask questions.
  • People generally live up or down to your expectations, so help them feel trusted and that you expect they will be great.
  • Make the outcome of their work clear.

Episode 27: Writing Great Resumes and Pushing Back on Non-Engineering Tasks

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In episode 27, Jamison and Dave answer these questions:

How do I write a great resume?

  • Do you really need a resume these days?
  • How important is formatting and good design?
  • What content should be on your resume?

Should I push back on non-engineering tasks like PowerPoint presentations?

From listener samspot: I am a Sr. Developer and I am often asked to spend time on PowerPoint presentations for funding and other business stuff. I want to ask why the managers, analysts, etc can’t handle these tasks. I find them to be a frequent distraction from my actual responsibilities, especially because these are so frequently “emergency” requests. Should I push back on this work, or is it better to be a team player?

Episode 26: Communicate Your Efforts and I Told You So

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In episode 26, Jamison and Dave answer these question:

How do you make sure people know about your good work?

See Matt Zabriskie’s great post for background on this.

We also mentioned Do Things, Write About It.

How do you get your point across effectively so you don’t have to say “I told you so” later?

Episode 25: Understanding the Business and Managing Without Being a Developer

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In episode 25, Jamison and Dave answer these question:

How do I understand the business side better?

  • Analysis of tabs vs spaces
  • How does your business make money?
  • Just ask your CEO/manager
  • Kill the myth of the pointy-haired boss
  • Smaller companies expose you to this more
  • Just ask questions:
    • What was our revenue last month?
    • How much did we spend last month?
    • Who are our biggest customers?
    • How does the sales process work?
  • The Dave Smith Method® for learning business jargon.
  • Be kind and have empathy when you learn.

Can I be a good technical manager without a technical background?

  • Technical leadership vs management.
  • Management means empathy and understanding. Can you get that without “coming up through the ranks”?
  • What are the skills of a good manager?
  • Does being a developer give you those skills?
  • Dave is a Night Elf Code Mage.
  • How do you handle technical concerns as a non-technical person?
  • Don’t fake technical knowledge.
  • Leading a team when you don’t directly see the effect of your actions.
  • Managing Nerds by Rands.
  • Jamison’s former boss’s technical expertise

Episode 24: Should I be a generalist or specialist developer?

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In episode 24, Jamison and Dave answer this question:

As a software developer, should I be a generalist or a specialist? This was inspired by a Twitter conversation here: https://twitter.com/iam_preethi/status/766758679743954944

Episode 23: Joining a startup as a CTO and asking for a raise

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In episode 23, Jamison and Dave answer these questions:

You are asked to be a CTO of a start-up. What questions would you ask in order to decide whether to join, and what things would you give most attention to, if you do join?

I REALLY want and deserve a raise so I hope you two discuss how a nerdy introvert gets the CFO of a small privately owned business to want to give her more money when she’s already happily donating an additional 10-20 hours a week.

Episode 22: Health insurance and contributing to open source projects

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In episode 21, Jamison and Dave answer these questions:

What’s up with all this health insurance jargon?

How do I get started contributing to open source?

Episode 21: Giving work to interns and dealing with "dead weight" developers

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In episode 21, Jamison and Dave answer these questions:

What kind of work should interns be given?

How do you handle developers who are dead weight?

Episode 20: Stories from people who got fired and doing effective code reviews

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In episode 20, Jamison and Dave share some stories from people who have been fired.

We also answer this question: How do I make code reviews more effective? It feels like reviewers fit into 2 categories: either they are too quick and superficial, or they get bogged down in nit picks.