Tips for Advancing Your Software Development Career

The software development industry is extremely competitive due to the volatility of the skill sets it requires. Employers are always looking for software developers with skills that are adaptable across different frameworks, methodologies and technologies. However, these hard skills aren’t the only ones employers consider, as soft skills are becoming increasingly important in software development.

High tech industries have historically made a clear distinction between hard and soft skills. Hard skills are those that are specific to a particular role, such as proficiency in a particular programming language in the case of a software developer. Soft skills like communication, emotional intelligence and conflict resolution are non-technical and aren’t specific to any role. Improving your soft skills is excellent career advice for advancing your career in software development.

The Importance of Communication for Software Engineers

Soft skills like communication are especially beneficial for customer-facing roles like gathering requirements. Software developers must also be willing to speak to both customers and staff members in meetings. It’s important to speak with conviction when speaking in public, even when you’re unsure of yourself. Don’t interrupt people when they’re talking; let them finish before addressing their concerns. The best communicators spend more time listening than they do talking.

The ability to empathize with other people is an essential requirement for effective communication, since it allows you to understand the other person’s position. It’s much easier to suggest new ideas when you aren’t concerned about being receiving constructive criticism from other members of the group. Use a “sandwich” approach when giving criticism about an idea by saying something positive about it, providing your criticism, and then following up with another positive statement. This strategy helps to soften the sting of the criticism, while still providing your honest opinion about the idea.

Listening skills are an equally important part of communication that developers often need to develop. Professionals of all types tend to have strong opinions about their own work, but few people want to work with someone who never listens to them. The ability to consider other viewpoints also provides benefits that go beyond your career.

Is Emotional Intelligence Important to Advance in your Career?

Emotional intelligence is your ability to control and express emotions, which is necessary for handling personal relationships empathetically. It consists of the following five components:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

Emotional intelligence can help you in a variety of ways in your career as a software engineer. For example, you should ask for regular feedback on your performance, which requires you to be open to negative feedback. Bear in mind that people are generally more likely to provide an honest opinion when explicitly asked for it.

Everyone makes mistakes, but it takes high emotional intelligence to own up to them. You will earn more respect when you demonstrate your emotional vulnerability by admitting your mistakes. You can accomplish this while still maintaining a leadership role by engaging team members from a position of collaboration instead of dictatorship.

Apologizing when you’re at fault is another way of demonstrating your emotional intelligence in the workplace. Maintaining accountability is vital for building trust with your team members and helps create a more positive work environment. Remember that people are more productive when they’re happy.

Conflict Resolution for Software Developers

You may find conflicts with co-workers to be particularly uncomfortable if you're an introvert.  This process becomes even more difficult with the additional stress of tight deadlines and pressure to succeed. Another factor that increases the challenge of conflict resolution is the complex personal relationships that often develop with small teams. Emotional intelligence can help you address these issues directly instead of simply ignoring them.

The first step is to directly ask the person you’re in conflict with about the cause of that conflict. Hear them out completely to ensure you understand the cause before responding. You may find that the root cause is something in that person’s own life that has nothing to do with you or your work. However, you must be open to the possibility that you’ve done something wrong.

Once you’ve heard the other person’s side of the problem and determined the cause of the conflict, the next step is to work through those issues together. Some cases may require a mediator to ensure a conflict doesn’t get worse and threaten the cohesiveness of the working environment. This possibility is especially likely for small groups, where team members must work closely together.

The resolution may not be anything as formal as an apology and shaking hands. Often, it will simply be an agreement between the two of you to put the matter behind you and move on. In some cases, it may also be advisable to implement a new policy or procedure to prevent the same conflict from arising again in the future.