Non-Technical Skills Any GREAT Software Developer Needs
14th Jan 2017
There is a skills shortage in Northern Ireland for software developers and it is widening all the time. This isn’t just a local problem but a global trend.
If you are a talented software developer then securing your next promotion or finding your next job may not seem like a major hurdle, however, the truth is it takes more than just technical skills to move up the ranks and be able to lead teams and projects or move to another company with new technology and working environments.
Are you applying for a new job?
A lot of my clients certainly put a lot of emphasis on “cultural fit” as well as technical skills whenever I am sourcing the right developer for them. One client, in particular, requires experience in a specific .NET technology but they also like their developers to have a lot of energy, bring a lot of ideas to the table and be quite vocal in the office. Another client likes developers who collaborate well with others in the team, can engage with end clients, mentor junior members of the team and be active in social events.
This is where a good recruiter can add a lot of value to the process. If we are doing our jobs properly we should know our clients well enough to understand the working environment as well as the technologies that they use. We can then use this knowledge source the right type of software developer. Also, we can then pass this knowledge on to the developer to help with interview preparation etc. A software developer can then really benefit from working with a good technical recruiter as opposed to dealing with the company directly.
Skills needed to be successful in your current job
From speaking with candidates and clients alike; there seem to be common non-technical skills that are often cited as important for developers to have. One that comes up quite often is written and verbal communication. This is important in so many scenarios. For example, you need to be able to speak at a level non-technical people can understand.
This would be particularly important in a client-facing role. You need to be able to communicate with others on their wavelength emphasizing what is important to them and what is possible. This includes being able to write intelligently. I’ve worked with talented programmers who can’t spell or make basic grammar errors. This is important when writing a CV as it is the first impression a potential employer gets from you.
The next skill I would list is the ability to focus on the task at hand. Bruce Epstein said it best, when he stated, “Your job as a developer is not to program software. Your job is to help the business make a profit by publishing software in a timely manner. 'Tis better to deliver adequate software on time than to blow through deadlines like a case of Red Bull.” This skill is needed for any job.
Yes, it is important to keep up-to-date with new technologies and to learn additional skills but it shouldn’t be at the expense of deadlines. If you manager needs something done by a certain time then you make it happen.
Finally, social skills are coming more and more important in the workplace for developers. In many instances, it is no longer the norm for developers sit in the corner of the office with headphones on producing code.
The onus isn’t just on the company to create a good working culture. The best way to cultivate this team-wide culture is through your own social skills. Be the person that everyone looks forward to seeing. Build up the courage to voice your opinion in a constructive manner. It does not matter whether you consider yourself to be an introvert or an extrovert.
Be sure to talk to people in customer support, marketing, sales, and business development. Understand their needs and frustrations. Establish a relationship so that everything isn't adversarial. Reach out to other departments to find out how you can help advance the business's interests. Not only will this make you a more valuable software developer but it will also help advance your career to the next level.
There are many more non-technical skills that can be listed here that are useful for advancing your career or securing your next jobs. I would be keen to hear from developers who can add to this list with their own experiences and learnings.
If you’re a developer seeking a new role or need help through the job search process, please contact me, Gareth on firstname.lastname@example.org for confidential expert advice.
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