5 Soft Skills Every Software Engineer Needs

See also: Personal Development

As lots of new digital products appear every single day, the demand for software engineers has never been higher. However, it's not enough to simply have a strong technical skillset in one or a couple of programming languages. Soft skills are just as important to set yourself up for success. In fact, a software engineer with strong interpersonal skills and weaker coding skills often wins the position over a technical geek with weak communication skills.

So, let's find out what are the main soft skills that every software engineer should have for a successful career.

1. Problem-solving and critical thinking

Problem-solving and critical thinking are probably the most important skills a software engineer should have and cultivate further in their career. Any person in this field faces a lot of complex problems that require analyzing the situation, identifying the root cause, and coming up with an optimal solution. These problem-solving skills help developers build effective applications without reinventing the wheel and easier troubleshoot coding issues along the way. These skills help you to evaluate information, do research, find similar problems, and make informed decisions based on that.

For example, a software engineer may be assigned the task of building an online ordering system for a company. In this case, problem-solving and critical thinking skills would help the engineer identify challenges such as how to store customer data while also providing an easy-to-use interface securely. It would also be helpful for the engineer to evaluate different technical solutions and come up with a design that meets all of the requirements.

Critical thinking also means that you always try to find the reason why a task has to be done and how to do this effectively. So, you should build a habit of asking yourself questions about the goal of a particular task or application, about another possible approach you could take, whether you’re not overlooking something, etc. Another important habit to build these skills is to always verify your assumption by testing, asking your team, or simply by googling it.

2. Open-mindedness and curiosity

Having an open-minded mindset is a vital soft skill that a software engineer should be born with or actively develop. Being curious means being open to different ideas and perspectives that lead to innovative approaches and more effective solutions.

As technology evolves rapidly, software development projects often require quick adjustments to meet new user needs and market demands. Programming languages change all the time, especially the most popular ones like Javascript or Python. Open-minded professionals are usually faster at adapting to new technologies, syntaxes, and libraries. You can always learn new technologies on platforms like Udacity or Coursera, but you should have that inner fire to get new knowledge instead of doing your tasks using the old but well-known approach.

Moreover, open-mindedness will help you with other important skills – for example, effective communication, collaboration, and teamwork.

3. Communication skills and teamwork

Software engineers should have good communication skills to effectively interact with team members, clients, and managers. These skills help tech teams build a healthy, productive working environment so then to be able to build great applications easier. It is important to build both the ability to clearly communicate your ideas and concerns to others as well as the skill of active listening. So, when talking to your college, make sure you are concentrating on what the other person is saying, including non-verbal cues.

Teamwork is also a crucial skill, especially if you work for a big company. Good communication, active listening, and a willingness to learn from others are key components of effective teamwork. This skill includes effective cooperation within your dev team, both colleges and a project manager, as well as with other departments. As a software engineer, you will probably receive tasks from analytics, marketing team, or support teams and also will closely cooperate with a product and design team. These all are different people who will probably have different communication styles. For instance, a marketing team might not speak your technical language, but you still need to understand the task and communicate the possible concerns or outcomes in an understandable for others manner. So, as an engineer, you should be flexible in choosing your communication style and adjust it to the situation and participants.

4. Empathy and emotional intelligence

Software engineers may spend most of their time behind a screen, but they still need to build empathy and emotional intelligence skills. Empathy allows developers to understand the perspective and feelings of their teammates, manager, and end-users to better collaborate and meet project requirements. Emotional intelligence is critical in a high-stakes environment like software development as it helps individuals identify and manage their own emotions while being mindful of others. Developers should be confident in what they know but humble in what they need to learn while maintaining a calm demeanor when facing challenges.

However, empathy is just a component of a wider concept, emotional intelligence that is hugely developed by Daniel Goleman. This means being able to effectively handle interpersonal relationships by understanding your own emotions and the emotions of others as well as being able to communicate them. Emotional intelligence is a foundation of strong communication skills as you can’t communicate and collaborate effectively if you can read someone's emotions or can’t manage your own.

Additionally, emotional intelligence also includes a high level of self-awareness which means recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses and understanding the impact of your behavior on others. This skill not only helps to improve your communication at work but also helps you develop your career faster.

5. Time management and prioritizing

Time management is an important skill for any profession and it’s especially important for software engineers. Meanwhile, this skill is vital if you are a manager of a development team. This soft skill enables you to better prioritize, plan and estimate tasks and get things done before the deadlines. You might also work on multiple tasks and face strict deadlines–so you need to decide what to do first.

Being a part of a team, you will often receive requests from your management and colleagues that urgent issues must be fixed. Such tasks, and blockers, might stop your main workflow. So, you need to find a balance between planned and urgent tasks to complete them on time and avoid delays. When you grow your time management, this can also help reduce stress and even help you with your communication skills. As you learn how to talk about deadlines and prioritization with other team members.

Bottom line

Software development is becoming more people-driven and value-driven, and people who want to succeed in this field should cultivate the soft skills to get their spot in this changing and competitive landscape. Remember that skills like problem-solving, effective communication, emotional intelligence, and time management can be what help you get the dream tech position and also climb the career ladder within a company.

About the Author

Stacey is a content creator at Self Starters, where she writes about building hard and soft skills and covers other self-development topics. ​​Stacey always searches for effective ways to build skills that are in demand and helps others effectively learn online.