311 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
    • 4.8 • 219 Ratings

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 310: Flip flop and architecture astronaut

    Episode 310: Flip flop and architecture astronaut

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

    Hey guys! Love the show!

    I’ve worked for 8 years as a Software Engineer for a large aircraft company, and while I had a great time there, I left because I was tired of working with old tech and wanted to learn new stuff.

    I joined a medium-size company, working with lots of fun new tech, but after 8 months I got the opportunity to get my dream job as a Software Engineer at a specific Big Tech company.

    The problem is that after I started on my dream job, I “crashed” really hard. The people and org are great, but the job revolves around working with a large legacy product, using mostly old/basic tech, and overall I’ve been feeling really unmotivated since joining.

    After 4 months there, I was called by my previous fun job, and they offered me twice as much as I’m making at this Big Tech company to come back.

    I’m very tempted, but I’m afraid of screwing my resume by leaving so early.
    Should I toughen up and stick with my new fancy job, or go back and make more money and maybe be happier?

    Hello Dave & Jamison,

    First time, long time - I am 6 months into my first engineering job and loving it! (until recently…) my large team split into smaller teams. On my old team, we had lots of work to do and it was fun. My new team, however, is suffering from “spin-up time.” My tasks have shifted from clearly defined individual contributor type tasks, to amorphous research tasks on large architectural decisions. After about 3 months of this, it feels like this spin-up time is never going to end and we just don’t actually have much work coming our way.

    On the one hand, these are more senior engineering type tasks and I could probably learn a lot if I stay to see these through.

    On the other hand, I am certainly not at a senior engineer level and I miss spending my time coding. It was fun and I was learning a lot from that too. I fear that I may be atrophying as I haven’t done much coding for multiple months.

    On the third hand (I have three hands), I could definitely be making more money elsewhere.

    Should I stay and be patient, or is it time to take the magical SSE advice? is the economy crashing? I need help!!!

    Thanks, you guys are the best,
    Johnny Threehands

    Show Notes
    Architecture Astronaut: https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2001/04/21/dont-let-architecture-astronauts-scare-you/

    • 30 min
    Episode 309: Missing boss support and new manager, who dis

    Episode 309: Missing boss support and new manager, who dis

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

    I am working on a devops team building the shared services that our engineers depend on: log aggregation, CICD, Monitoring, K8s clusters, etc. The team is myself, my boss (lead devops engineer), and a handful of pretty junior people.
    I feel pulled in a bunch of directions. I’ve asked for written documentation from my boss to help establish expectations and processes. Think branching strategies, who owns what, what should be prioritized. I want to make it easier to train up the junior people on the team and enable us to push back when devs ask for stuff with no context of what it will take to finish.
    Nothing has been written. It’s starting to get to me because without that it’s very difficult for me to push back on requests from the developers on our various teams.
    How do I tell my boss that I feel like he’s letting me down and that I’m drowning because it seems he just can’t be bothered to write down some base information?

    I have been working with my manager for almost a year to be promoted. I have been making a lot of progress on my tasks and as a developer. My manager agreed that I would be promoted in the next month or so if I kept it up. Then he quit to go to a new company. I now have a new manager and I feel like I have to start from scratch. Not much has been translated over from the old manager to the new manager about my progress. The new manager is now telling me there is no way they would hire me as a mid-level dev. I feel like I wasted a lot of time with the old manager and that the new manager is not seeing my value to the company and all the work that I’ve done to this point. I’m not going to quit or anything but I just wanted to rant. thanks for listening.

    Show Notes
    Writing strategy and vision documents: https://lethain.com/strategies-visions/

    • 30 min
    Episode 308: FAANG to startup and Google interview prep

    Episode 308: FAANG to startup and Google interview prep

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

    I’m currently working at a FAANG in Europe, and seriously underpaid. I recently got an offer from a US startup (Series C funded) to work remotely. Two big pluses: I’m gonna get a 2 times pay bump, and I can finally work remotely (and travel across Europe since they support work from anywhere, now that COVID restrictions are relaxed, something I wanted to do for years). Two problems: Their tech stack is Ruby on Rails, something that no “big” companies use so I may not be considered seriously because of last X years of working on a not-so-famous tech, and current tech environment screams of a recession, so I’m safer at a big company than some startup. Do you think 2.5 years in a FAANG provides enough of credibility to take care of both of these problems if things go south? Any other factors I should consider when moving from FAANG to a remote startup job?

    So I’ve been working at this big-tech company for around 4 years and working as a mid-level engineer. I recently got approached by a Google recruiter for L5 or Senior engineer position. I’ve led a few projects in my current company, but I don’t consider myself a “senior” level. That and the fact that I’ve worked majorly in Frontend and the role I’m gonna be getting interviewed for is Full-stack (interview rounds seem to be focused on Distributed systems mostly).

    I’ve two questions:

    Is this some dirty trick in recruitment I gotta be aware of? I hear about downlevel a lot, but never “uplevel”.
    If say I do prepare like crazy and pass the interviews, do you think I may not have any luck with the team matching Google does? Like no team may wanna hire a “junior” senior?

    Love the show! Keep it up.

    • 27 min
    Episode 307: Side hustle or new job and tell me when you're stuck

    Episode 307: Side hustle or new job and tell me when you're stuck

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

    I work for a big bank. I recently found out I am severely underpaid. I have only received “exceeds expectations” ratings since joining over 5 years ago. I rage-interviewed at a bunch of FAANG companies, made it to the final rounds of all, but always came up short on the offer.

    Expectations at my current job are low. I’ve been putting all my extra energy and time into my own startup idea with a group of small people, that shows a lot of promise.

    I so desperately want to leave my current job, but I can’t prep for interviews and work on my startup at the same time. I never interviewed since joining the bank over 5 years ago.

    I truly believe my startup can ultimately be my escape, but I’m just grappling with the fact that it may take years before I can quit vs. if I got a new job I’d have much better pay and not be depressed at my 9-5.

    P.S. are you hiring?

    I’ve recently been placed as tech lead for a small group of 3 people, myself included. One of my teammates seems to be having a hard time communicating in a timely manner when they are stuck on something or when their task will be late. I’ve spoken to that person a few times individually on the importance of communicating early and often, but it seems like that person is happy to just muddle on until the time runs out.

    I’ve had to jump on to finish some work that was time sensitive and I’ve gone to greater lengths to slack dm on how things are going. It’s getting old. I don’t want to be micro managing. Each time I bring it up with them, it seems to get through but never manifests in action. I’m not sure if this person realizes the impact that lack of communication has especially in a remote first setting. A sense of urgency might be helpful in some respects.

    At one of our 1on1 dm chats the topic of imposter syndrome came up and we shared our mutual struggles with it. I’ve tried to encourage that person that my dm’s are open and can help but I can’t keep checking in. There should be some ownership on their end to getting help from me. How do I get this person to communicate more, share blockers or confusion so we can finish our work on time and learn on the way?

    Love your show, long time listener, first time caller.

    • 28 min
    Episode 306: Sabbaticals and betray my team

    Episode 306: Sabbaticals and betray my team

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

    Listener Þór asks,

    Dear fellow binary smiths!

    I’m a Nordic software developer with about a decade in the industry under my belt who has recently returned back to the office, following a half a year long medical absence during which I helped my partner get through her second tough cancer treatment in as many years.

    I am now contemplating taking a sabbatical for some months to reset myself, as the ordeal has had a big impact on me in many ways.

    As sabbaticals are not a common occurrence in my parts of the world, I worry about what impact taking one could have on my future prospects once I start looking around for employment again.

    How does one frame having a “mental health” gap in the career when interviewing? Are they considered a “bad” signal by hiring managers?

    For the first time in my career, I’ve been given the opportunity to lead a project at work. This was something I really wanted and my teammates supported me. We agreed on the technical design and I recently started implementing it.

    However, I’ve been thinking about finding another job for a long time. I’m demotivated. Each week, I feel bad about how little I get done at work. It negatively impacts my self esteem, a lot. I never acted upon the desire to find another job because I have a great manager and skip level. Recently, my manager and skip level both announced they’re leaving the company.

    I’d like to pursue an opportunity at another company that seems to be a great fit for me but I don’t want to leave my teammates holding the bag for the project I’ve been working on. I’m the only backend developer working on it and my teammates trusted me to take ownership of it. It doesn’t feel fair for me to complete the more glamorous responsibility of coming up with the technical design and then leave when it’s time to do the “grunt work”. On the other hand, there’s probably at least six months left of work on this project and the company I’m interested in joining may very well not be hiring in six months. What steps should I take to not betray my teammates or myself, taking into account that my manager and skip level leave within a month and probably won’t be replaced by then?

    • 24 min
    Episode 305: About that raise and *you're* not fired

    Episode 305: About that raise and *you're* not fired

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

    I recently told my boss I thought my comp was below market value and that, while I enjoy working here, I may have to start looking elsewhere for my next opportunity unless there was a way to adjust my salary. He actually agreed with me and said he would go to HR to see what he could do.

    A few days later, he came back to me and said they could do a market-rate adjustment of 20k per year. I was super happy. He said, “great I will let HR know that you accepted by EOD tomorrow and they will get the paperwork started.”

    At 10am the following day, he, along with a couple hundred other employees, were laid off.

    So my boss, my boss’s boss, my boss’s boss’s boss and the HR rep that my boss was talking to are no longer here.

    So my questions is, what’s the appropriate amount of time to wait before bringing this up to my new boss. With so many of my colleagues now out of work , it seems a bit insensitive to be so concerned with a raise, but also, I like more money.

    I am 8 months into my first job out of college in an entry level role and today the other new hire (4 months) got fired for poor performance. I have been assured that my performance is still satisfactory, but I have been unable to think about anything else since it happened. I know that I am probably fine, but I am still very shocked and on edge. Any advice on how to move past this without destroying my bloodpressure would be appreciated!

    Signed, your fellow high strung engineer

    • 26 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
219 Ratings

219 Ratings

Lh15770 ,

They are super geeky and super funny

These guys are super geeky and super funny!

Highly recommend as a light technical podcast

rntunvs ,

Good content, a bit too silly

Listening to episode 304 as my first episode. Feels like the content is great, but my feedback to the hosts is that you’re being a bit too silly and it’s making it hard to focus on the wisdom.

Will nickname not taken angel ,

Car talk for software!

These guys are funny and educational!

Cartalk for software developers!

Really good stuff.

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