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Top 6 Soft Skills Every Software Engineer Needs to Have

Tina Lj.7 min readJun 6, 2024Industry Insights
Top 6 Soft Skills Every Software Engineer Needs to Have
Tina Lj.7 min read
Soft software engineer skills you need to have
Embrace the growth mindset

In software engineering, it's easy to assume that technical skills are all that matter. After all, writing code, mastering programming languages, and understanding complex software systems are fundamental to the job.

However, technical skills alone won't get you through a job interview, help you secure the best projects, or enable you to collaborate with others effectively. What happens when you need to work in a team of diverse personalities or when you aim to become a tech lead?

To truly excel in software development, soft skills are just as crucial as the usual technical/programming skills. These skills enable you to communicate effectively, work well in teams, and navigate the tech industry.

We have already talked about the challenges of a tech lead, but what soft skills does every software engineer need to have, even if they are just entering the industry?

Soft software engineer skills you need to have

1. The art of communication and active listening

It is true that effective teamwork begins and ends with communication. However, communication skills are not just for the team; they are also for you.

As a software engineer, you need to clearly convey your ideas, share updates on project progress, and participate in discussions about software solutions. Good communication helps prevent misunderstandings and ensures that everyone on the team is on the same page. One key aspect of team communication is active listening.

Someone once asked me, "Isn't all listening active listening?" No! Many people don't truly listen; they're merely waiting for their turn to speak rather than genuinely engaging with what the other person is saying. Paying attention to what your teammates are saying and making sure you understand their points before responding builds trust and ensures that you are contributing meaningfully to the conversation.

Communication skills are not just for the team but for yourself as well. Knowing how to express and present yourself is crucial, especially during job interviews and when advocating for yourself within a company. Being confident in sharing your ideas and opinions, whether in a meeting or a casual discussion, can set you apart and show your value.

We all know that learning to present your work and achievements effectively is particularly important during interviews, where you need to sell your skills and experiences. Practice summarizing your projects, emphasizing your role, and highlighting the outcomes to make a strong impression.

2. Embrace repetitive tasks early in your career - The importance of thoroughness and consistency

Early in your software engineering career, it's common to encounter repetitive tasks. While these may seem mundane, unchallenging, or let's be honest - just plain boring, embracing them can actually be a valuable soft skill that sets the foundation for your professional growth.

Repetitive tasks are beneficial because they allow you to master fundamental skills through practice and repetition. For example, regularly debugging code or writing unit tests helps you develop a keen eye for detail and an understanding of common errors and best practices in coding. This enables you to handle more complex software systems and projects in the future.

Moreover, engaging in repetitive tasks at the beginning of a career can enhance your efficiency and speed. As you become quicker and more adept at handling these tasks, they become second nature. This process not only improves your technical skills but can also help you with patience and persistence.

3. Collaboration is a great way to achieve common goals in software development

Steve Jobs said, "Great things in business are never done by one person; they are done by a team of people." This is where those good communication skills from the beginning come into play.

In the context of software engineering, collaboration means working effectively with others to achieve a common goal, whether it's developing a new feature, solving a complex bug, or launching a new software product. Successful collaboration goes beyond merely working alongside others; it involves active participation, mutual respect, and leveraging diverse skills and perspectives to produce the best possible outcome.

One of the key aspects of effective collaboration is the ability to engage in pair programming. This practice involves two developers working together at one workstation, with one writing the code while the other reviews each line as it is written. It requires clear communication, patience, and the willingness to give and receive constructive feedback.

Collaboration also involves understanding and navigating the dynamics of working with diverse personalities. Each team member brings unique strengths, experiences, and perspectives to the table. Recognizing and valuing these differences can lead to innovative solutions and more robust software systems.

Effective collaboration benefits not only the team but also individual growth. Working closely with others, whether they are software engineers or not, exposes you to different approaches and techniques, broadening your knowledge and skills. It helps you build strong professional relationships, which can lead to mentorship opportunities, career advancement, and a more enjoyable work environment.

You can always learn something from others, not just technical skills, but for example you might struggle with balancing personal and professional life, but by collaborating with someone who has successfully navigated this challenge, you can learn valuable strategies.

4. Adaptability is the only constant among software engineers

Adaptability is the only constant in the tech industry. Being adaptable means being open to change, willing to learn, and capable of adjusting your approach based on new information or circumstances.

One key aspect of adaptability is continuous learning. Successful software engineers understand the importance of staying updated with industry trends and are always eager to acquire new skills. Whether it's learning a new programming language, mastering software development methodologies, or exploring topics like AI, continuous learning keeps you relevant and competitive in the tech industry.

Adaptability also involves being open to feedback and using it constructively to improve your work. Participating in code reviews, for example, allows you to receive insights from your peers, helping you refine your coding practices and develop more reliable software solutions.

Working with diverse teams is another area where adaptability is essential. Here, adaptability and collaboration meet. In a product development team, you might collaborate with frontend and backend developers, scrum masters, UX/UI designers, tech leads, and architects. Each role brings a different perspective and set of skills to the table. By adapting to various working styles and integrating different viewpoints, you can contribute to more innovative and comprehensive software solutions.

5. Have determination - Perfection is the enemy

Newsflash: you will make mistakes as a software engineer. A lot of them. It's an inevitable part of the learning process and, let's say, a necessary step in software development. In software development, hesitation and indecision can be more detrimental than making mistakes.

Decision-making is not your enemy. Many software engineers, especially those new to the field, fear making the wrong choice or seeking perfectionism to the point of inaction. This mindset can stall your progress. It's important to understand that mistakes are valuable learning opportunities that drive improvement and growth. By making decisions and taking calculated risks, you gain insights into what works and what doesn't, refining your approach to software development and work in general.

Incorporating determination into your workflow means being proactive in problem-solving and not shying away from challenges. The ability to analyze and make a determination is an important soft skill.

Additionally, determination helps you stay focused on your goals despite setbacks. The tech industry is demanding, and maintaining determination ensures you can overcome obstacles and continue developing your skills. This persistence is essential for mastering various programming languages, understanding data structures, and excelling in both technical and soft skills required for a successful software engineering career.

P.S. This is not an invitation to have a big ego and ignore feedback about your work or projects. This mindset means embracing decision-making, learning from mistakes, and staying focused on the end goal. Being determined should enhance your collaboration and willingness to learn from others, ensuring continuous growth and success in your software engineering career.

6. Be curious

While the old saying goes, "Curiosity killed the cat," remember the rest of the saying: "But satisfaction brought it back."

Curiosity leads you to delve deeper into programming languages, experiment with new software development methodologies, and explore emerging fields like artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms.

If you are this eager, then no matter the industry, you will follow the technology trends, not just the trends of the industry that you are currently working in. You want to stay up to date because it genuinely interests you as a software developer.

A curious mindset encourages asking questions and seeking feedback. This can lead to deeper insights and better solutions as you lack surface-level understanding. Engaging with your peers, participating in code reviews, and attending industry conferences or meetups are great ways to satisfy your curiosity and expand your knowledge base.

For example, many people do not know how to use AI to their benefit. If they are curious enough, they will know that AI can help software developers switch between programming languages. Aside from being curious about software engineer skills, it's always great to be curious about other things in life; it will certainly set you apart in job interviews.

software engineers

Embrace the growth mindset

I know that we grouped several traits under each soft skill, but well, it doesn't hurt. There is no definitive list of skills you need to become a software engineer; it all depends on your career path and goals. You probably already know what technical skills you need to have to be the best software engineer. However, these soft skills form the foundation of our Employer Branding pillars because, in every software development project, this approach has resonated the most with our clients.

If you have a dedicated team with these soft software development skills incorporated with the technical skills needed, you will create innovative solutions, foster a collaborative work environment, and consistently deliver successful projects that exceed client expectations.

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