It takes more than great code to be a great engineer.

Subscribe Now Support us on Patreon

Soft Skills Engineering is a weekly advice podcast for software developers. We answer questions about all the stuff you didn't realize you needed to know about being an engineer:

  • navigating pay raises
  • hiring and interviewing
  • deciding to go into management
  • dealing with annoying co-workers
  • quitting your job
  • managing meeting creep
  • micromanagers
  • installing a ball pit in your office
  • and much much more...

For answers to these and other questions, our hosts Dave Smith and Jamison Dance are here to help.

Why should you listen?

Soft Skills Engineering listeners are awesome. Here's what they are saying about the podcast.

Saad says:

I owe you a lot, listening to Soft Skills has completely shifted my thoughts on what it means to be an engineer. It’s probably one of the more useful things I’ve gained during my time at Amazon. I kind of brushed this stuff off, considering some of it politics, and the rest unimportant, but boy was I wrong. It definitely helped me grow, and I’m totally indebted to you for that.

Recent Episodes:

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

Download

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

Download

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

Download

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?

Download

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

Download

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

Download

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

Download

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

Download

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.

Episode 19: Firing someone for a coding mistake and getting demoted

Download

In episode 19, Jamison and Dave answer these questions:

Would you ever fire someone over a coding mistake? For example, should you empathize with ignorance and explain how SQL injection works or is the mistake so basic as to be intolerable. Would you change your answer if the mistake was found during a code review or found as the source of a data breach?

How do you positively represent the desire to be demoted? I am called a ‘senior engineer’, but I got that way because of null instead of actual skill. I would like to be a senior engineer at some point, but I would be a better one if I travel more where I have seniors to look up to, established processes etc rather than stressing about defining everything myself; but that’s a weird thing to say to a current or potential boss and is hard to do without also volunteering for a pay cut.

Episode 18: Dropping out of college and preparing for interviews

Download

In episode 18, Jamison and Dave answer these questions:

I’m a computer science major who still has a couple years of school left. I also have a part time job doing web development. I love what I’m learning and doing at work to the point that I question if it’s worth investing two more years into school. How would you counsel someone in my position?

From listener Antonio: How do I prepare for an interview?