When considering the hottest skills for software developers, the first thing that comes to mind is usually programming languages, platforms, and technology types. But you may be surprised to learn that the most important skills for developers might not be the kind you use for writing code.
The reason is that many software developers have the same technical skills set—but not all of them have the right non-technical skills. For today’s employers, good soft skills are in high demand. In a field crowded with candidates, these skills can help you stand out and land the career you want.
Dealing with people
The notion of the awkward, anti-social IT person that everyone tolerates because they can talk just fine to the machines is heading for extinction. No matter what kind of work you do—unless you’re a solo entrepreneur with a huge, independent cash flow—your software development career is going to involve other people.
Employers are looking for software developers who can work well not only with the rest of the development team, but also co-workers in other departments, managers and executives, investors, board members, and even customers. These people skills involve tact and diplomacy, a willingness to listen and take feedback, and often, the ability to explain complicated technical concepts in non-technical terms.
This is an absolutely critical skill for any software developer, because it is the definition of the work you do. No matter how complex or time-consuming the work, every software development project is about solving problems.
Software itself is something that solves a problem for the end user. Developing it means solving a series of problems on the way to the final solution. Without good problem-solving skills, you can’t be a good software developer. This is why technical interviews are often so difficult—employers want to know that you can solve problems, preferably quickly and creatively.
Technology is changing rapidly. Every day, some portions of technology decline toward obsolescence, while other portions rise to take their place. For this reason, employers prefer software developers who can learn new things on their own, quickly.
Even more importantly, you should be able to demonstrate your enthusiasm for learning and trying new technologies. It’s often easier than you might think to learn a new programming language, framework, or platform—because in most cases, you’ll have a decent foundation in place. Earning new certifications or developing side projects using different technologies is a good way to show an employer that you’re all about learning.
In software development, naming is important. You’ll often deal with reading and understanding code that includes components named by someone else, and when you write code, you’ll have to come up with several names for objects, concepts, and data along the way. These names need to help other people understand your code—and serve as a directory for yourself as you make changes.
You can impress an employer if you hand them a piece of code you’ve written, and they’re able to follow it through your logical naming methods, variables, and classes. Naming is a skill you need, both to make yourself more employable, and to improve as a software developer.
Developers need to have a solid foundation in some core technical skills. But when it comes to getting hired, you’ll also need these essential soft skills that enable you to work within a team and demonstrate your value to employers. Be sure to invest your time in improving your soft skills as well as your tech knowledge.
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