Soft skills get a bad rap; especially in tech. Code has always been king, but software constantly changes. The need to be good communicators and generally pleasant coworkers will always be there. That’s why it’s important to dedicate parts of your day to improving those skills that don’t involve code. No matter how great of a dev you are, you aren’t going to to be nearly as successful if you are difficult to be around. Here are a few soft skills crucial to working in tech.
The most successful among us didn’t become so by themselves. They had help along the way from those more knowledge and who were willing to share that knowledge. What does this mean about those C-suiters and founders we greatly admire? More often than not, they view accessibility as a core value.
Let’s bust a myth about accessibility because I do not want to confuse anyone: accessibility doesn’t mean saying yes to everything! It’s understanding the value of building great relationships with those both above and below you to help yourself and others. Being accessible requires being a great listener and having great patience. Listening inherently requires patience, but in this get-everything-right-this-second world we live in, patience suffers. As a result, listening does as well.
Listening is valuable because it’s a way to incorporate learning into our daily lives even when we’re booked solid. When you listen to people —especially when you don’t feel like it or don’t think you need to–you are also laying the foundation for a solid relationship with that person. That’s the key to accessibility: not just being available, but being invested.
Solving People Problems
You probably got into software development because you like computers and you wanted to build cool products. Now that you’re working in tech, I’d be willing to bet your biggest daily job task as a developer is solving technical problems. Most, if not all, developers excel at solving big and small hardware and software based issues; not nearly as many however can solve people problems. I’m not talking about large intergroup conflicts. I’m talking about not knowing what to say in certain situations or attempting to completely avoid talking to your coworkers.
Whether we like it or not, we’ll have to deal with people in any field we work in.. Because we have to communicate with them, we have to also consider them: their feelings, their thought processes, their intellectual and emotional capacities, and they way they communicate with others. Solving “people problems” really just boils down to communicating purposefully and effectively.
The best way to do this is to remember they are human beings. They have families, dreams, and lives outside of those four walls at work. When you speak to people—not just out of necessity, but also because you see the value in those interactions—your conversations will improve.
Keeping Your Ego in Check
Code is king, or so that’s what everyone says. We’ve developed a culture of worshipping code above everything else because that’s what brings in the revenue. Great code nets great results, so it should be the only thing that matters. This thinking is a bit flawed. Yes, code is essential to building awesome products. Great code is not, however, the only thing that matters.
Communication is just as important, as well as your capacity for empathy. In terms of your ego, the main reason you need to keep it in check is because you’ll be better able to learn from those around you. Consistently tying your identity to your work—and then, not-so-gently reminding your coworkers of just how great that work is—doesn’t encourage collaboration. In fact, it destroys it.
Instead of convincing yourself you are the best, focus on learning. Your code may be the best, but there’s always room for improvement, right? How do you make it better? Being the best is often situational; when we find ourselves around those that are quantifiably better, we generally don’t handle the transition to second-string well. When you focus on learning, however, you thrive in all situations because you’re always able to see how to make both yourself and others better.
Considering the Big Picture
We all can sometimes get tunnel vision, and that makes our worlds—as well as our jobs—very small and very tedious. It can also be frustrating to put in so much work on a project you have very little context on. Being curious and interested in how your role plays into the team as a whole is a great way to stay connected to those on your team. Equally as importantly, it signals to your boss you are actively engaged in how the company works and how you can make it better.
That’s the bottom line here when it comes to soft skills: as great as code is, it is only one part of the machine. Being a great developer will net you some success, but being a great human—a great coworker, a great friend, a great boss—will help propel you to jobs and positions that wouldn’t be possible if you just focused on the code.