212 episodes

It takes more than great code to be a great engineer. Soft Skills Engineering is a weekly advice podcast for software developers about the non-technical stuff that goes into being a great software developer.

Soft Skills Engineering Jamison Dance and Dave Smith

    • Technology

It takes more than great code to be a great engineer. Soft Skills Engineering is a weekly advice podcast for software developers about the non-technical stuff that goes into being a great software developer.

    Episode 211: Biorhythm and coworker roommate

    Episode 211: Biorhythm and coworker roommate

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

    Hi there Dave and Jamison! I am a tech lead in a small team of 5 people. 4 of them start working at 10-11 AM and one of them likes to start working at 1-2 PM. This person is me.
    Due to my biorhythm I feel I am the most productive at this time, and I also like to do some of the non-work-related stuff in the morning.

    Nobody in my team has any objections but as a team lead I feel guilty because it often happens that I block someone with my work schedule. I’m trying to do as much as I can to unblock everyone - distributing tasks in the evening, making it clear everyone knows what to do - but that’s not always helpful so it usually turns out that I am stopping my morning tasks to have a call and explain something or have a text conversation. Tbh it irritates me very much :D

    Should I feel guilty? As a tech lead, am I responsible for working at the same time everyone does?

    Hey Dave and Jamison! I love the show, I’ve listened to every episode and your advice has helped me a TON!

    I started a new job in a different city a month ago and because of Covid-19 everyone went remote, so I didn’t physically move to that city then. Now there are talks of going back to the office, and one of the developers on my team is also looking for a place to live so we started talking about rooming together.

    It seemed fine to me but then I realized I’d be spending almost ALL of my time with this person who I have not even met in real life yet.

    Do you think this is a good idea with a lot of convenience or a recipe for disaster? Have you ever lived with a co-worker? Any advice would be great.


    • 26 min
    Episode 210: Study time and caring less

    Episode 210: Study time and caring less

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

    My question is regarding studying and learning new material. Before I got my job as a web developer, I was studying at least 2 hours per night, but now that I have the job (been in the job for 2 years), I want to come home and relax. How much time do you spend reading about new technology or working on new projects? Do you do it while at work or at home at your own time?
    I plan on getting a new job in the future and I feel I need to start studying again. I need to refresh my skills on different algorithm questions. My GitHub is empty because I haven’t worked on new projects since I got the job. Should I worry about that? How much studying should I do for future interviews? Do I need to listen to hard skill engineering podcasts to be up to date on new technology? If I’m not doing any of these already, does that mean I’m not passionate enough and I won’t do well in this career?

    I just had a 1:1 with a junior engineer I’m mentoring. He mentioned that he has difficulty compartmentalizing work from his personal life (for example, even when he’s not working, he can’t stop thinking about his code and edge cases and possible bugs missed). Got any life hacks to help him care less?

    • 27 min
    Episode 209: Glue and Covid ghost job

    Episode 209: Glue and Covid ghost job

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

    Is a “glue person” valuable on a software team? Someone who isn’t the strongest developer but is liked by teammates and builds a cohesive team dynamic.

    A while ago I interviewed with a big company. Right after completing a code challenge, covid-19 got out of hand in my country and they sent me an email saying they are putting the process on hold.

    Weeks have passed and I came across a job opportunity posted recently by the company for the position I was applying to. I felt betrayed. I emailed the recruiter asking for follow-up and she said that they are sorry about the situation and that they wanted to schedule a meeting.

    The question is, should I let them know I was displeased by this or is this really a non-issue? Do I risk my chances by doing so? Am I acting like a jealous teenager? Thanks a lot and love the podcast, stay safe!!

    • 25 min
    Episode 208: Toe-stepper-on-er and high leverage work

    Episode 208: Toe-stepper-on-er and high leverage work

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

    Hi Dave and Jamison, my name is Bob Marley. I am a senior software engineer at a tech company. How do I deal with a chronic toe-stepper-onner?

    I have a coworker named Jimi Hendrix - also a senior software engineer - who has a habit of getting involved in and trying to manage my projects. He joins meetings and slack channels, uninvited, and starts asking people for status updates and questions them why things are done a certain way (and not the other), what’s taking so long on unfinished tasks, etc. Jimi basically feels that my projects are his to oversee and manage.

    So far, my response has only been passive aggressive - e.g. taking discussions to a different slack channel or thread, or meeting the team members offline when he is not around. This is obviously not working out and it is not sustainable so I’m looking for some advice on how to deal with it.

    It’s not hindering the project so I don’t have a strong reason to complain. Other than the fact that it drives me nuts when Jimi gets involved and asks for a status update on a project which I have fully under control.

    Should I just do nothing and wait for the problem to go away due to him getting moved to a different project? But how do I keep my sanity until then? And what if even then he finds a way to step on my toes? Have you guys experienced this kind of situation? Is there a permanent solution to it? And no, I don’t want to quit my job. Please help!

    Yours truly,
    Bob Marley

    Hi Dave and Jamison. Love the show.
    I have been gathering informal peer feedback from my team. I was told I am doing well, and I should be doing “more high leverage work”. I interpret that as coming up with design patterns, best practices, and mentoring other developers. I mentioned that to my manager, and while he agrees, he also said there is no additional head count for the coming year, and knowing that there is a backlog full of features, my concern is that I will be the primary person tasked with writing those features. How could I negotiate/convince my manager to let me do more tech lead work instead?

    • 28 min
    Episode 207: Unclear career goals and garbage code

    Episode 207: Unclear career goals and garbage code

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

    I’m a senior software engineer at a fast growing software startup. In the past year and a half that I’ve been with the company I’ve gone through 5 reorgs and have had 5 different managers in 4 different teams. Each time I sit down to do a 1 on 1 with a new manager they ask about my career goals and aspirations.

    Initially, when I joined the company I was a weak and feeble non-senior software engineer. When I was asked this question then, my answer was “to learn and grow, and have more authority and autonomy over the systems that I build, and be considered a senior software engineer”. Over the past year and half I have proven my worth and paid my dues and got the title of senior software engineer, along with the pay raise that came with it.

    My career development horizon has not been very broad. I didn’t even know there were levels beyond senior software engineer for a long time.

    I feel like I’m missing out on growth opportunities by not having a clear answer to this question. Please help!

    Love your show, keep it up.

    I career switched via a coding bootcamp 3 years ago and have been at my current company ever since.

    The bugs created by my garbage code from the early days made me a big believer in clean code practices — I now feel strongly about using descriptive variable names, avoiding duplicate code, etc.

    However, my boss/CTO is on the opposite end of the spectrum. As long as the code works, he doesn’t care what it look like.

    I want to stay at this company because I strongly believe in the product and I love the flexibility of a small start-up, but my boss and I keep bumping heads.

    For example, we recently switched over to PRs, and each PR my boss has made included blatant violations of the coding standards document we created together (!). When I request changes on the PR, he says he’ll do it but it isn’t a good use of our time to rewrite it when the code works.

    My question is two-fold:

    (1) As the most senior engineer on the software team, how can I go about promoting a quality-driven approach when the CTO doesn’t see the value in it?

    (2) If all else fails, I’m open to quitting, but I don’t want to end up the same boat. During interviews, what questions can I ask to find out if the company truly values code quality?

    • 34 min
    Episode 206: Micromanaging WFH and vaguely tech lead

    Episode 206: Micromanaging WFH and vaguely tech lead

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

    Due to corona virus, we had to work from home. But the manager, is checking up on us very frequently. We have to give the day’s plan at 10:00am sharp, otherwise he assumes that we are taking the day off. Also, we have to send an email listing the things we did at the end of the day. This is on top of using jira. I feel he is micromanaging a lot and because of this, the team isn’t able to work efficiently. P.S. Now he wants us to add our tasks to a Google sheet.

    Hi Dave + Jamison,

    First of all, thank you for putting on the show every week. It is definitely my favorite podcast by a wide margin, every Monday I just keep hitting refresh waiting to get my weekly fix.

    I started my job about 10 months ago in a late stage startup. In my last annually review, I was recognized for all my hard work and was made into a “Tech Lead”. I am not sure what this means. There is no “tech lead” title in the company wiki. Everyone title is just “software engineer” with a level. The salary adjustment definitely suggest this is not a promotion, and the all important company wiki says I need to wait to get promoted anyway. What is your advice? What should I start doing now, what does it mean for my career?

    • 32 min

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