“In a high IQ Job pool, soft-skills like discipline, drive, and empathy mark those who emerge as outstanding.” -Daniel Goleman.

While working as an IT professional for more than two decades, I have made a few observations that I would like to share. When entering from college campus to the corporate world, it is very important to have traits and qualities such as being punctual, learning new things and skills, being flexible, and adjust to all situations. I still remember, when one of my friends was interviewed at a Multi-National Company, she was not aware of the full form of that company’s main product. However, she managed to pass the multiple rounds of interviews based on her people skills and soft skills. Later on, we found out that the company’s policy was to give equal weightage to technical skills and soft-skills. These are the skills that come from the human mind. Technology can never replace the human mind and emotions. Successful developers and engineers have a few things in common – the right attitude, being punctual, effective communication skills, self-awareness, and self-management.

Why do soft skills matter?

Soft skills help an individual with exceptional technical skills to become more empathetic and understanding as a leader. It empowers an employee to stand strong in dynamically changing situations of the industry.

During challenging times, an employee can remain productive and efficient in the virtual world. Soft skills such as time management, communication skills, presentation skills play a key role. These skills can be improved with practice.

To cope up in the era of robotics and Artificial Intelligence, these are the skills that will differentiate humans from a machine.

Which are the key soft skills required?

How to say ‘Yes’ at work and reprioritize:

While working in teams, developers get assigned tasks by the leaders or project manager. You might be allocated with additional work even if you have enough workload. It can happen due to new customer requirements coming in. It is considered a bad idea to always say no when you are assigned a task. Here are a few thoughts on how to say yes and reprioritize in the professional environment.

  • Ask yourself a question – What is it for? Can I do this? etc. before saying No
  • Check whether your teammate can take up the same task?
  • Ask your manager that if I take up this additional work, another low priority task may get delayed, would that be okay?
  • Change in priority is better than saying No

Empathy:

As a developer, while you are busy with coding, testing, and releasing the software, spending some time to get to know and understand others (teammates, customers) can make a difference in the final product.
While writing a code, think about the end-user’s point of view. A few lines of the code will create a new feature for your product and, it is a tool for the customer, be mindful and aware of the customer’s pain areas. Pay close attention to the feedback from the customer so as you can implement those required changes immediately.
Before you start to write a code, ask more questions about the requirements, understand the detailed specifications, discuss the same with other team members and then write the code. Being empathetic with your peers will help you build a good relationship with your teammates. Try to see from the (tester, designer, project manager) eyes regarding the requirements, specifications, deadlines, etc it helps a lot in understanding the final product output.

Agility:

Agile thinkers see things from a fresh mind, have good mental health, unbiased, and are willing to take risks, with a commitment to deliver better quality products and services.

Agility means responding to a change quickly and delivering products as per the customer’s requirement.
A few decades ago, most organizations used to follow the Waterfall Model of product development. Nowadays, organizations follow the Agile Methodology. The Waterfall Model was process-oriented, whereas the Agile methodology is people-oriented. It focuses on working on the most crucial thing first with a calm mind, being transparent within the team, being adaptive to the change in uncertain situations. In change over from Waterfall to Agile Methodology, some organizations could transition easily, while some organizations partially implemented the Agile Methodology and, some organizations failed to adapt to the changes.

Celebrate failures, team collaboration and, continuous learning are the features of the Agile method.

Working in the Hybrid Model:

In 2021, many organizations have adapted to the Hybrid Model of work for the employees. It is the best model for developers to keep the balance between professional and personal life.

  • Keep the workspace and personal space separate
  • Plan in advance when you will be working from home and in the office
  • While working from home, plan for the crisis such as; network failure, unavoidable situations, surrounding noise, etc
  • Keep an eye on your productivity

Communication Skills:

Communication skills are one of the vital skills for a developer. Most individuals consider themselves as good communicators, however working on the communication skills can help as mentioned below:

  • Communicate better within the team
  • Be mindful and use proper jargon, short forms in chat rooms
  • Report the right problem at the right time
  • Know and understand the product’s technical specification properly
  • Ask for the required change in priority
  • Build a good relationship with the other departments/teams
  • Listening to everyone is also helpful while making a decision
  • Self-advocate and make their point in a convincing manner

Time-management:

Developers need to manage time irrespective of the method of software development. Developers feel stressed in managing their time due to priority changes, new features to be developed, and resolving bugs/issues.

  • Some tips to follow:
  • Explore new tools to manage time and maintain a schedule
  • Evaluate and implement it as per the requirement of the company
  • Obstacles in the office environment such as; unplanned meetings, power failure, server failure, etc. Be assertive and learn to say No to all types of disturbances
  • Always learn processes first and follow them accordingly
  • Follow the same method of software development to avoid waste of time and frustration among team members
  • Follow the Pomodoro Technique for managing time
  • You can be more productive only if you have some buffer time for any surprises. Keep some extra minutes while allotting time for tasks and a to-do list

To conclude, soft skills can play an essential role in how you work and interact with others. Be flexible and open-minded while following the Agile Methodology. Focus on solutions rather than problems. Whenever there is a conflict with your colleague, come to a win-win solution. Be ready to accept the new challenges and learn new things as technology is changing very fast. Value your mentors and keep a good relationship with them. Keep a positive attitude in addition to your hard skills.

Other vital skills for beginners in the software development field are; problem-solving, leadership skills, patience, writing & drawing skills, adaptability, and analytical skills.

Sources:

  1. Quote:
    https://www.brainyquote.com/lists/authors/top-10-daniel-goleman-quotes
  2. Changed priorities:
    http://brendan-regan.com/how-to-prioritize-your-online-testing-roadmap/
  3. Empathy:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/10/well/live/how-to-y-in-children.htmlfoster-empath
  4. Agile mindset:
    https://lukkrz.medium.com/how-to-get-started-with-scrum-11-steps-to-kick-off-your-agile-journey-51bef8740d71
  5. Work from home:
    https://preyproject.com/blog/en/what-we-learned-about-communicating-from-working-in-a-hybrid-remote-office-for-10-years/
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