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 337: Helping the principal and Manager conflict


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I am a mid-level engineer with ~5 years of experience (1 year at my current company). My team has recently hired a new principal engineer, and I’m wondering how I can help the principal engineer. There is, as always, some organization-specific context that I am familiar with, and the principal engineer is not. As a mid-level IC, I am not used to being a repository of knowledge for engineers that many roles above me, and have only ever been on a team that hired engineers at my skill level or below. Are there general tips on how to provide help for someone who has much more experience than I do?

  2. I have been in the industry for 5.5 years and have had 5 managers. My newest one (call them “S”) has been my manager for 4 months. Our communication is terrible. We do not understand each other and I am usually left feeling like I missed something or I am not interpreting his question correctly. I literally have told him “I am not sure what you want me to say” because that is better than “wtf”.

    I ended up crying in a meeting because I was so frustrated and confused. I know and trust my team mates. This is only the second time in my career where I just did not get along well with someone. The meeting was supposed to be some feedback for him and me, some career development, and some goals for 2023. It ended up with him giving lots of examples of technical deficiencies, the fact that I am unable to work independently (which is not true, I ask more senior engineers for help), the fact that I give him pushback (no duh why at this point). He even said I was careless because I made some silly copy paste errors in my code (which we all do and is human). [Sidenote: he does not code. He just sometimes asks questions on prs or gives nits.]

    I do not know what to do. His manager J used to be my manager. Should I talk to J about my issues since he knows both of us well? Do I go to my manager with ways that I would prefer our 1x1s go and how I personally like to get feedback? Do I ask for a new manager? I know he says he wants me to succeed, but nothing in the last 4 months have made me feel like that is true. I am a young woman in engineering, and I have never felt less trusted by a coworker. Especially the fact that I cried makes me feel like I may have lost more credibility to him. What do I do? Please help. I love my team. I just hate my manager.

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Episode 336: Roadmap roadkill and returning to office


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. Dear Dave and Jamison,

    I work for a medium sized startup, and our planning process sucks!

    We used to do quarterly planning, and it seemed like the product managers had no idea what was going on at a higher level. The big focus seems to have changed every quarter that I’ve been here, and the whole planning process is a charade: 75% of the so called ‘road map’ gets thrown away after a few weeks.

    Normally, this wouldn’t bother me, but I end up spending a lot of time in meetings helping these product managers come up with plausible timelines and making sure that what the business wants to build is actually feasible, and it’s bad for my morale to see so much of my work wasted.

    The product management team heard some of this feedback from me and others, and started changing to ‘continuous planning’, but now there is even less structure for when they build the big spreadsheet roadmap for the quarter. They bought new tools, and don’t seem to be using them.

    Should I suck it up and just check out or try and get a license to use the patented soft skills advice and quit my job?

  2. Hi Dave and Jamison in no particular order.I have been listening to the podcast for a couple of months now. I have enjoyed every episode and and the advice you give.

    I am a junior software developer who has been working at a startup 9 months ago. I was offered a remote junior position and accepted even though the company is based in a neighbouring city. This made sense at the time because I would not have to worry about commuting to the office.

    3 months ago my manager suggested that I come to the office more often as this would benefit my development and give a me a chance to socialise with my co-workers. We agreed that I go in 3 times a week.

    Now the past few weeks there has been pressure to start coming to the office full time.

    I would be fine with this but the problem is that I currently do not own a car and have to rely on public transport to get to work. With public transport it takes almost 4 hours to get to and from work each day (I actually listen to multiple episodes of the podcast on each trip) There is about 40 minutes of walk time included in that because the nearest bus stop is not close to the office.

    As you can imagine that is physically draining and also affects my work life balance as I spend almost 15 hours of the day either travelling and working. My biggest concern now is that 9 months ago If I was offered this job but as full time on site I would not have even considered it.

    Do you have any advice with how to refuse going to the office more often without making it seem like I’m opting out of an option that is more beneficial to my career. Thanks in advance.

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Episode 335: Senior questions and overly optimistic


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. Greetings Jamison and Dave, love the show and all your shenanigans! I’m a mid-level dev who has quit my job (TM) a few times. While I feel like I’ve absorbed some good experience from each company I’ve been at, I also feel like my training is not yet complete.

    At my last company, I hit my ceiling as a dev but I also felt the bar was really low. I had to do a lot of hand holding and fielded a lot of engineer questions that could have easily been Googled and it was really frustrating. But now I’m at a place where I feel everyone else is heads and shoulders above me. The tables have turned! I’m trying to learn as much as I can on my own but I’ve found there are limits to what I can do. I feel like I’m drowning but I’m timid to ask too many questions because I remember how annoying it was to get pinged every 10 minutes at my previous job.

    What are some tips you have to navigate the murky waters of being a mid-level dev wanting to learn as much as possible to become a seasoned dev without giving off an “intern smell”?

  2. Listener Charlie,

    Nearly all your answers presuppose a software engineer has a good manager and leadership. Why is this?