10 Soft Skills Developers Need (Part 1)
Author: Kristina Proffitt
21st March 2017
Oxford Dictionary describes soft skills as “Personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.” Things like empathy, open-mindedness and a willingness to learn are all soft skills that we can utilize whatever industry we’re in.
We’ve spoken to the developers at Cronofy to see what soft skills they feel benefit them most. In this two-part series, we’re going to look at what they are and how you can build and improve yours.
Being able to empathize with your team allows you to fully understand the problems that they face and find a way to make your project work for everyone. Suggesting new ideas is much easier when there is an understanding between members of a team that there won’t be any negative feedback or mockery, no matter how someone feels about that idea. Empathy allows us to predict how others are likely to react to what we say, meaning that we can tailor how we speak to our audience.
If you don’t like someone’s idea, ask yourself why. Then, when you give feedback, start off by saying something positive about their suggestion, then what you don’t like, and finish off on another positive. This ‘sandwich’ approach means that the person you’re giving feedback to won’t dwell on the negatives but will understand the pros and cons of their idea.
Empathizing with your user, meanwhile, allows you to see things from their point of view. They’re the ones that will be using your product, so you must always, always try to see things from their point of view before your own. Just because you like how something looks/works, that doesn’t mean your users will. Decision-making should be about more than personal preference.
Effective communication is key both at work and at home.
It’s a common stereotype that developers are unsociable. Let’s prove it wrong!
Our developers are key parts of our team and are always willing to speak up in meetings, whether they’re with staff or customers.
Some things to keep in mind to communicate effectively:
- Speak clearly and with conviction, even if you’re unsure of yourself – people will pay more attention to what you say if you say it with confidence
- Listen. The best communicators spend as much time listening as they do talking
- Don’t interrupt the person speaking. Let them say what they want to say, then chime in with your thoughts
No matter what you do, there will be time when you have to work as part of a team. Whether it’s a team of developers, designers, or a project team, developers need to work well with others to be successful. Working well with others makes what you’re working on more fun, and makes people more likely to help you in the future.
You may not always agree with the people in your team, but having different points of view helps build more successful companies.
4. Approachability and Helpfulness
At some point, someone’s going to want to ask you something. It could be about your tasks for the day, about an issue or a bug, or just about your plans for the weekend. Being approachable is key. If people don’t feel they can approach you and ask you something, when something goes go wrong, they’re less likely to ask you for help. That could mean that a little problem soon evolves into a big one.
Not being approachable or helpful also means that others are less likely to help you should you need it. If you can establish a rapport with people, they’re more likely to work with you and not against you.
Make it clear to people when you don’t have time to communicate by putting headphones in when you’re busy and setting yourself offline on the company chat. If someone still approaches you, set a time when you can meet to discuss things.
Sometimes you’ll be a part of a team or meeting that doesn’t just consist of developers. That means you’re going to have to explain the reasons behind your decisions and do so in a non-technical way. Some people will get everything straight away, while others will need more time. Being patient with people at moments like this is crucial for teams to work well together.
Not everyone understands how difficult programming is, or how long code takes to write. They may ask you to do something without realizing the scope of what they’re asking, which can lead to frustration. Take your time to explain why it’s not as simple as they think, and to answer any questions they have. Once you’ve taken the time to do this, future sessions will become much easier!
Want to find out what other soft skills can benefit developers? Check out part two.