Beyond the code: 7 must-have soft skills to advance your Software Engineering career

4 mins

Software engineering is both challenging and rewarding. And it’s a career that requires not ...

Software engineering is both challenging and rewarding. And it’s a career that requires not only technical skills, but a range of soft skills too.

Research has shown that 85% of career success comes from having well-developed soft skills and people skills – those personal attributes that enable individuals to interact effectively and harmoniously with others in the workplace. And a study carried out by West Monroe revealed that more than three-quarters of HR leaders have become more focused on finding tech employees with strong soft skills.

Can you afford not to hone soft skills? And which should you focus on? To help, we’ve listed seven of the top soft skills that will help you take your software engineering career to the next level.

(1) Communication

Online searches for communication skills have increased year-on-year since the pandemic. But without a doubt, effective communication has always been crucial for software engineers. Teamwork’s a major part of your role, and you’ll often need to effectively express complex technical concepts to non-technical stakeholders. Good communication skills enable software engineers to explain complex concepts in simple terms, communicate progress and updates to team members, and collaborate with other departments. It's essential for software engineers to be clear and concise in their communication, whether it's through email, documentation, or face-to-face interactions.


(2) Adaptability and learning agility

Data from McKinsey showe that people proficient in adaptability were 24% more likely to be employed. And with technology and software development changing rapidly, software engineers need to be adaptable and commit to continuously learning. How else will you keep up with new developments in your field?

A willingness to learn and adapt to new processes and technologies is critical for software engineers who want to be the best. It's important to have the ability to work in different environments, such as start-ups or established companies, and to be able to interchange between different programming languages and frameworks.


(3) Teamwork and collaboration 

Software engineering is a team sport, and success often depends on the ability of team members to work well together. As a software engineer, you’ll need to be able to work collaboratively with others - think developers, project managers, designers, and other stakeholders – sometimes even C-Suite members as you demonstrate and report on exciting new developments. You should be confident in sharing ideas, providing advice, giving and taking constructive criticism, and group problem-solving. Strong teamwork skills also mean humility, valuing others’ contributions, and aligning with project goals and objectives.


(4) Creative problem-solving

Software engineers often face complex and challenging problems that require creative solutions. Strong problem-solving skills are critical for software engineers, who need to be able to think creatively, logically and laterally to find solutions to intricate problems. Problem-solving skills include assessing situations critically, considering different approaches, analysing potential solutions against goals and constraints, and developing solutions that are both innovative and feasible. Be sure to hone those inventive skills!


(5) Time management 

Workplace training company, Acuity Training, share that 25% of people just “deal with whatever seems most important at the time”, and only 18% of people use a dedicated time management system. That’s not ideal if you’re a software engineer requiring a great level of organisation to manage the many moving components of a project.

Software developers must meet deadlines, work under pressure, and manage the scope of the project, all while ensuring that the code is of a high quality. The ability to manage multiple activities, prioritise tasks efficiently, and manage time effectively are therefore essential soft skills for software engineers. This includes approaching estimates and deadlines realistically, as well as communicating progress and concerns to team members and stakeholders.


(6) Emotional intelligence and empathy

Software engineering is an analytical and logical field, but being emotionally intelligent is also important for successful engineers. Did you know nearly a third of UK employees say empathy is the most important soft skill their manager could possess? So, it’s particularly important for software engineers interested in progressing into leadership/management roles.

Emotional intelligence includes self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, and relationship management. Empathy comes into play when considering the needs of other team members, and understanding their perspectives, pain points and preferences, which can help you to build better products and provide excellent client service.


(7) Business acumen

As a software engineer, you’ll need to understand how your technical work impacts the business performance of the organisation and/or client. This soft skill involves knowledge, for instance, of the company’s goals, industry, competitors, and stakeholders, and how the software you create can help achieve strategic goals. Business acumen allows software engineers to communicate the value of their work, make informed decisions, and ultimately better align technical decisions with the overall business objectives.


With 89% of hiring managers believing that “bad hires” typically have poor soft skills, it’s no longer enough to rely on well-practised technical skills alone. If you’re looking to advance your software engineering career, it’s essential to ensure you can collaborate, influence, and add real value to an organisation too.

If you want advice on how to develop soft skills that’ll help you advance your career, get in touch with our knowledgeable team today.

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