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

A speech bubble

Why should you listen?

Here's what listeners say:

Recent Episodes

Latest Episode

Episode 314: "That guy" and how to skip level


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. Hi! Love the podcast and have been listening for a while.

    I have a question about dealing with “that guy” on the team. I’ve been through several teams throughout my career, and every once in a while, I get on a team where there’s always a “that guy” that everyone seems to tiptoe around. They’re the type that would yell and scream to have everything go their way, and they’re typically very blunt to anyone, saying things in a really hurtful way. These people can either be technical or on the product side, but I’ve found it really difficult to work with people like this.

    After working long enough with “that guy”, it seems the common thing people do is just to say “Oh, that’s just so-and-so.” or “That’s just the way so-and-so is.”, which I feel is the only thing you can do, but that just doesn’t sit right with me because it’s incredibly toxic.

    I don’t think the solution is to just fire people like this, but it boggles my mind how so many teams just let this kind of behavior happen because the manager can’t or won’t take any action other than give them a talking to, which seems to just allow the behavior to continue because there are no consequences.

    Have you ever dealt with situations like this? And if so, how do you normally handle it without just ignoring it?

  2. I am a senior FE engineer and I have recurring 1-1s with my skip level manager (manager of my manager) who is the Head of Engineering at the unicorn I work for. I usually ask what is top of mind for them (usually hiring), give feedback about my manager, and get additional feedback on bigger picture things I’m working on (e.g. we’re currently working on metrics to measure impact and value of our design system and other internal tooling). What else would you ask them to make the best use of this time?

A smiling speech bubble

Episode 313: Parents are fighting and hat-removal


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. After six years at my first job out of college, I took the foolproof SSE advice and quit my job last year during the height of the pandemic. I landed at one of the Big Software Companies and learned that I negotiated very well for pay within my role (in large part, thanks to this podcast - yay!), but I am way overqualified compared to my peers and should have attempted to come in at the next software engineer level (oops).

    To get promoted I need signoff from my fairly new manager and the very tenured principal engineer (PE) who has historically run the team. My manager and the PE are frequently in disagreement, and send me one-off slacks to make requests that are directly at odds with each other. I’m squarely aligned with my manager’s prioritization which frequently puts me at odds with the senior PE. Yikes.

    The senior PE frequently overlooks technical complexity and business context, and gives far more technical opportunities to the men on the team. I don’t like his mode of leadership, and so do not want to mimic his style. Unfortunately, he’s very respected by the VP+ level so I worry that friction with him will swiftly crush my dreams of promotion.

    The parents are fighting. I’m caught in the middle and feel like I’m aligned with the side that is at a political disadvantage. Is there any hope of success for me unless they can magically start to get along?

  2. I joined a small team as a developer a few years ago, and was asked by management to help introduce some formal processes to the team to help us release a project that has been in the works for a number of years.

    With the team’s buy-in, I introduced SCRUM, and started playing the role of Scrum Master and Product Owner. I may also be the development team’s functional manager in the future. It seems that having the roles of 1) developer, 2) scrum master, 3) product owner, and 4) functional manager is too much for any one person to do well. With a primary role of functional manager, which of these other roles would make sense to hold onto? Which roles would be better to either hire replacements for or coach other team members to take over?

A smiling speech bubble

Episode 312: Nit-picking and Promo raises


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I’m on a team of two. My manager/teammate is young (under 30, less than 5 years total work experience), minimally experienced with anything other than writing code, and has an inflated self-assessment of their own coding skills.

    They have a habit of either asking for (or simply changing on their own) every little thing to be their own way. This can be as unimportant as renaming all the variables to a different word with the same meaning (think $largeCar instead of $bigCar) or as bad as - after a discussion between two techniques for a feature in which their preferred method wasn’t chosen, - going in later and changing the code to how they wanted to do things.

    I’m feeling burnt out by the lack of control over my work and feeling like what I’m doing doesn’t make a difference..

    Where and how should you draw lines in order to balance writing good software with showing respect for your team members? How do you deal with people who think their actions are justifiable because they are “improving” the code but really can only defend this by claiming it is “more readable” or some other subjective measure?

  2. I work at a well-funded startup and am likely going to be promoted (into another IC engineering role) in the next few months. I’m pretty clear on the leverage I have when negotiating salary before accepting a job offer, but I’m wondering how I should approach negotiation and raise expectations when it comes to receiving a promotion. Obviously, my company wants to retain me, otherwise I wouldn’t be getting promoted, but I don’t feel confident in negotiating when I’m already being given a raise and my only alternative to accepting it would be to leave and find another job.

    Additionally, I’m on great terms with my company and manager and I would not leave over a 5-10k difference in raise expectations. Just want to better prepare myself for the offer. My manager has also told me that when/if I receive a raise, I can negotiate (it’s not too late). That came up because I told him I assumed raises and promotions are long processes that need to be decided way in advance, but that is not the case at my company.

Show Notes

Tweet about engineers’ puzzle obsession: