Top 8 Soft Skills for Software Developers

Software development is one of the most in-demand careers in the world today, and almost every developed country is struggling to meet its demand. Yet, having the right programming skills is just not enough to be hired. Soft skills are now vital when it comes to the skills a software engineer should have.

This not only applies to entry-level or semi-senior developer positions but also to more senior and leadership ones, where demand is more limited and competition is intense.

If you are looking to grow professionally, soft skills are key. 

Learn more about the top software engineer soft skills below.

What Are Soft Skills?

As opposed to hard skills, which are mostly focused on technical abilities, knowledge, and expertise, soft skills are “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people”, according to Oxford. 

While a hard skill may be the ability to program in a specific language, a soft skill is empathy, leadership, and communication.

The Importance of Soft Skills for Engineers  

Connecting to your manager, your teammates and the rest of the company is essential to creating quality products and promoting a good work environment, and it becomes even more important if you want to be in charge of your team. These soft skills are key to communicating and interacting in meaningful and harmonious ways.

Some have natural people skills, while others have to learn to develop and hone them.

8 Must-Have Soft Skills for a Software Developer

Find a list of soft skills for engineers below and a few tricks on how to develop or learn them:

  1. Communication

One of the most important soft skills for a software developer is communication since it’s helpful not only at work but in your personal life as well. Communicating clearly with your boss, your teammates, and other members of the company, both in person and in writing, is crucial to ensure projects are delivered on time and in the best quality possible. 

To communicate effectively in meetings or one on one with other colleagues, make sure to: 

  • always speak clearly, express confidence and conviction. 
  • actively listen to others and respond to what they say or propose.
  • be polite and avoid interrupting others. 
  • be open-minded and respectful towards others.
  • ask questions to be sure you understand what others want to find a compromise or rebuke their points.

You may also need to speak at meetings with other colleagues and even discuss your work with others in non-technical words, so being able to speak clearly and concisely is always a great asset.

You are probably wondering “how can I improve my soft skills?”. And the answer when it comes to communication in your soft skills list can have many answers. You can start a blog or podcast, take a writing course, or a conversation class to help you feel more at ease talking out loud. Here are a few useful free courses that can help you improve your skills:

  1. Teamwork

Although this is related to communication, teamwork in itself is a key software developer soft skill, essential for collaborating with others. Developers communicate constantly with other developers (front-end, back-end, data scientists, system developers), as well as designers, content writers, marketing analysts, and business intelligence analysts, among others, and complete tasks together. 

Additionally, you will have to deal with daily standups, pair programming and often you will have to work with people with different personalities and attitudes, so you will require patience and open-mindedness.

Working in teams is never easy, it takes time and dedication, but you can achieve much more together than alone. Yes, working alone may be faster, but by working together you will form long-term collaborations and achieve greater goals and better results. You can learn how to be a productive programmer while also learning from others.

To improve your team working skills make sure you:

  • know the common goal as well as your individual goal(s).
  • know exactly what your responsibilities are and understand the rest of your team’s responsibilities. 
  • have a positive mindset, this creates a better atmosphere and influences others.
  • manage your time efficiently, others may rely on your work to finish theirs.
  • participate in setting specific rules.
  • ask and give feedback.
  • don’t criticize, look for solutions together.
  1. Troubleshooting & Problem-solving

Troubleshooting and problem-solving are related terms, but while the first is all about identifying problems, the second involves finding the right solution for the problem at hand. The first is necessary for the second to be executed. 

Yes, you can always resort to Google, forums, and repositories, but when you understand the full picture, you can better know how to approach that specific issue. If the task at hand is big, divide it into smaller, more achievable issues and tackle each individually. 

If you are trying to identify the problem, consider:

  • thoroughly reviewing the application or site, including the features.
  • what the code is trying to address: improve user accessibility, report, etc.

If you need to develop your troubleshooting skills and learn useful strategies, several courses can help, such as Udemy’s IT Troubleshooting Skill Training course, 360 training’s Basic Troubleshooting course, or Google’s Troubleshooting and Debugging Techniques course in Coursera.

Hackathons can also be helpful, as can building your projects.

In terms of problem-solving, being able to evaluate and decide is key for any developer. However, finding the right answer can be tricky. Whenever you are dealing with a specific problem, be sure to:

  • identify what is the root cause of the problem.
  • analyze all the details through logic.
  • formulate a possible solution.
  • communicate your solution and start implementing it.

Brainstorming is a great way of exercising your problem-solving skills, on your own or together with other developers. Puzzles and logic games are also a great way of improving your abilities.

  1. Patience

Coding can be exhilarating, but it can also be frustrating. Finding the right solution for any issue can be time-consuming and it may often involve hitting your head against the same wall until you find a way around. Code reviews can take time as well, as can any new language or skill you want to learn. 

As a developer, you also have to be in constant communication with other teammates, including developers, designers, content writers and editors, Q/A analysts, product owners, marketing analysts, etc. You will require others to finish tasks to start your own, you’ll need to discuss roadblocks and you won’t always see eye to eye. Patience is fundamental.

As with any other soft skill, you can train yourself to be more patient. To do that, try:

  • waiting for things, like waiting for 5 minutes before drinking a glass of juice. With each completed task you can extend your waiting times for any task you want to be completed.
  • considering which things make you feel impatient so you can be mindful of them, focus on each one and solve them.
  1. Adaptability

The tech industry is constantly evolving, which means new tools and techniques are developed every year, while others become unused and eventually obsolete. For this reason, adaptability is key for any developer who needs to learn new things and adapt to new situations, technologies, languages, software, etc. 

If your company isn’t adopting a language or technology you are interested in, you can research, experiment on your own and test your skills.   

To develop more adaptability, consider:

  • thinking outside the box, looking at things from a different perspective, changing your thought process.
  • taking more risks, this can help you progress and become more adaptable.
  • practicing open-mindedness, asking questions, and getting involved.
  • sparking your curiosity is a key part of embracing learning. Seminars and conferences may help spark that flame, and so can discussing different aspects of your work with colleagues and actively trying to take part in different activities to find what you might be interested in pursuing or learning more about.
  1. Accountability

Among several soft skills needed for a software developer, accountability is one of them. Software engineers must hold themselves accountable in terms of how functional is the product they work on and how easy the interface is to use by users and clients. Ownership over one’s mistakes is a fundamental part of growing as a professional. They can be learning opportunities, they keep you humble and help you strive for greatness.

To help develop your accountability skills, you should consider:

  • knowing what your responsibilities are. 
  • practicing honesty and setting your pride aside.
  • asking for help whenever you need it.
  • apologizing for any mistakes you make.
  • taking just enough on and not over-committing to too many things.
  • reflecting on your behavior and the way you approach your work. 
  • asking for feedback from others.
  1. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to know and handle your emotions, as well as harness your intuition. People who have a high emotional intelligence are generally in touch with their emotions and can notice them in others. They look to understand the root of others’ emotions and are self-aware enough of their own emotions to know how to identify them in others and handle them accordingly. 

On the other hand, people with low EQ are not as conscious of their emotions and tend to hide them instead of responding to them and handling them appropriately. 

Emotional intelligence should be part of the list of soft skills for engineers since developers are constantly communicating with others and need to be aware of how their colleagues and teammates are feeling and know how to read situations. 

Being conscious and empathetic with others, understanding where others are coming from, and being open to their opinions and ideas is key to working together.  

  1. Time Management and Organization

Meeting deadlines under pressure is pretty common for developers. Being able to accurately estimate when you’ll complete each assignment and keep your tasks organized is an important aspect of a developer’s day-to-day work, regardless of whether you are managing a team or working remotely.  

Knowing how long you spend writing code, coming up with new ideas and planning can help manage your time efficiently and communicate more precisely when your tasks will be done so that others can also organize accordingly, and clients know to measure their expectations.  

Additionally, when your time is managed correctly, you know how much each task takes and how many tasks you can handle per sprint. This is crucial because you can know if you can take on any extra tasks or if it will take you far more than your regular work hours to complete them.

Knowing which are the soft skills for professional development you need to have or build on to become a better software engineer or developer and gives you a sort of roadmap to guide your personal and professional growth over time.

These skills complement each other and by dedicating time to one of them, you are simultaneously helping develop the others. Take it one step at a time and focus on what you wish to achieve first. Set small goals and go for it. If you focus and leave time out of your schedule to reflect and work on these soft skills, you will start seeing the results of your hard work in no time.