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 149: How to get my engineering career back on track and how to thrive in a heavy process environment

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Joining us this episode is special guest Nedda Amini!

In this episode, Nedda, Dave, and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. My engineering career started out pretty promising. But along the way, I took a couple of unfortunate decisions and jobs, that instead of helping me grow as an engineer, were a big setback. When you career takes a few too many bad turns, how do you steer it back to where you want it to go?

  2. I work on product development with ~25 other developers, and management recently had us all embark on a journey to gain some level of CMMI appraisal. The goal is to deliver higher quality software at a more predictable pace. In practice this means that we got more processes to follow, more meetings to attend and more time-tracking fuss.

    I’m trying to keep an open mind because I, as a programmer, also have high standards for the product and it’s development. I’m scared that programmers are being turned in to factory workers stripped of any autonomy. These new processes don’t allow me to do anything without my product owner’s approval. I’m afraid that it will limit my creativity and ultimately cause my work and the product to suffer.

    In this kind of scenario, what’s your advice for a programmer who often gets inspired to remove tech debt, tinker with our dev environment, and otherwise make small improvements and refactorings that shouldn’t require management approval?

    What’s your opinion on the level of freedom that programmers should be provided in order to do their job well?

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Episode 148: In the orbit of a Rock Star Programmer and Should I share my salary with my coworkers?

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In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I’ve been an engineer for about 5 years and in the last two jobs, rock-star programmers have made my life very difficult. I define rock star programmers as ones with ability to produce lots of code and implement features at a pace that dwarfs my own. In my last job, the RSP would constantly rewrite core libraries and I would have to figure out his design and rewrite my code to adapt to the new design multiple times.

    In the current job, the RSP is very uncommunicative but with his sheer productivity steers the project into wild directions that are always coming as a surprise. Half the time my work then becomes throw-away because I was working based on the previous design. Am I a slowpoke and I’m seeing a normal programmer as a rock star or are these programmers just slightly above normal programmers but creating lots of work for everyone else?

    Managers are completely starry eyed at RSP and so talking to managers seems like a bad idea. What should I do?

  2. How do you feel about sharing salaries amongst your co-workers? I’m about to have my yearly review and I get the sense that my raise (which has already been promised to me) will be underwhelming given how stingy the company has been previously. That is simply a hunch based on previous experience and the fact that our team budgets have tightened up in the past 6 months. Recently a co-worker let it slip what his salary is, and though I don’t like playing the comparison game, it made me feel underappreciated. I discovered that he was making the same salary I was, but for lower quality of work and less contributions to the team. I’ve heard some devs in other companies advocate for sharing salaries amongst their peers, but I’m not sure if it’s a good idea. Will sharing my salary and encouraging my co-workers to do the same, allow for myself and my co-workers to better understand our value and help us negotiate raises? Or will it simply foster resentment and division?

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Episode 147: How to grow in a flat organization and how to get references when job hunting in stealth mode?

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In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. I work in a flat organization. There aren’t really any titles, and very few managers. There is no common “climbing the ladder” here. What are options for career growth that will help me feel confident that I am progressing in my career?

  2. How do references work? I’m starting to look for a new job which means potential employers are going to be asking me for references. I’m not ready to let my boss know I’m thinking of leaving and aside from my current coworkers I don’t know who would attest to my ability as an engineer. I work for a small company (under 50) in an even smaller firmware department (about half a dozen). What am I to do?