404 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 • 251 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 403: Massaging the software and career never-never-land

    Episode 403: Massaging the software and career never-never-land

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

    I’m a bootcamp graduate working on a career shift from massage to software development. How much of my previous career should I bring into my résumé? I’ve been building projects in public, and doing open source contribution in a part-time capacity for the past two years, but ultimately have not gotten very many bites on my résumé that resulted in interviews. It’s something like three skill tests and one for roughly 800 applications at the moment? That’s a guess. That’s basically the gist of it.

    Curious Coder Tries Tech Transition

    Listener Joshua says,

    I’ve done a number of things in my career, from Java to web dev on PHP and Angular/Node to low code development on Ignition SCADA and UIPath RPA .

    Because I love learning technologies and I want to go where the money is, I keep hopping to new teams. This usually comes with a decent pay bump, but it’s a lot of rescue operations and self-teaching.

    This doesn’t feel like a career path, and always being the junior team member sucks. I’m often studying for certs trying to meet the requirements for the job I’m already doing or being the senior dev on the team while still a Junior. I get that I’m relatively new to each team, but I’m also punching above my weight consistently.

    It feels like I’m always having to jump through hoops to get the title and pay for the level of responsibility I take on and it feels like my mixed-up background is the reason why.

    How can I pitch a 10 year career of wearing all the hats all the time to get better results? How can I avoid being on teams where all my coworkers think I’m a guru and I’m building all of the architecture, but my manager goes “gee, I don’t know if you have the years of experience to be a Senior”? I’m looking towards Architecture as a long term goal and I’m wondering if there’s a way to spin this skillset towards that goal. Can you get Architect if you aren’t a certified black belt in highly specific tools but rather a demonstrated improviser? What is a jack-of-all-trades supposed to do?

    Thanks, love the show, your advice and the fun relationship you guys bring to the conversation.

    • 31 min
    Episode 402: It's all on fire and title inflation

    Episode 402: It's all on fire and title inflation

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

    Happy Birthday Dave and congrats on the 400 episode milestone!

    Last year I was recruited away from my cushy Sr Dev role at Chill MegaCorp to an exciting technical leadership role at Fast-Paced MegaCorp. It felt like a huge level up since I had always wanted to pick up some of the softer communication and leadership skills to add to my arsenal while still working on technical problems. The 30% pay raise sealed the deal. Fast-foreward one year and I am burnt out, feeling disengaged and thinking about quitting.

    Compared to my previous role, everything here is urgent and high priority. There is little structure on my team, no planning or intake, and we just react to emails and pings from other teams about things not working. Our Sr Dev is very knowledgable but often gets short and impatient with me. My Sr Manager has said things like “sleep is for the weak” and frequently sends emails in the middle of the night. We have weekly evening releases that have gone till 4am. We are expected to always be around in case of a production incident – which happen very frequently because of the sheer complexity of everything and high dependency between internal services.

    I have considered moving to another team, but unfortunately this seems to be a company wide culture. I am considering cutting my losses with this company and moving back to an IC role with better work-life-balance. I am grateful for all the leadership skills I have picked up this past year and learned a ton in such a fast paced environment, but its been a whole year and I still haven’t gotten used to the “always on” culture and overall chaos.

    Is it normal form someone to shift between management and IC like this? What do you guys recommend?

    Hi Dave and Jamison, thank you for the show. It is the engineering podcast I look forward to most every week.

    I work at a company that, maybe like many others, has lots of title inflation. As a result, my title is much higher than it would be at a larger (and public) tech company. For example, “senior” may be one or two levels below senior elsewhere, and “staff” would be “senior” elsewhere. We also have “senior staff”, which might be “staff” elsewhere, but more likely that might just be a more senior “senior” engineer, too.

    My question is: How should I consider approaching a job search where I am knowingly (and reasonably) down-leveling myself in title? Should I include the relative level on my resume (for example, “L5”)? Should I not address it unless a recruiter or interviewer asks about it? Briefly mention the seeming down-level in a cover letter as comparable responsibilities and scope as my current role?

    I have worked hard for my promotions, because salary bands required the title change for the money I wanted, but now I am worried it will complicate applying to other companies.

    (Thank you for selecting my question!)

    • 32 min
    Episode 401: I AM the superstar and pro-rated raise

    Episode 401: I AM the superstar and pro-rated raise

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

    A listener named Metal Mario asks,

    A few weeks back in Episode 395 you talked about working with a superstar teammate. I feel like for our team, I’m the superstar.

    We’re a small software team in a large non-software company. I joined a year ago and very quickly took on a lot of responsibility. I think I’m a fantastic fit for the team, received *outstanding* feedback in my annual review as well as during the course of the year, and I get along great with my teammates. However, there are two problems.

    I joined the team on a lower salary compared to the rest of the team. I was initial ok with it because I changed to a completely new tech stack as well as a new role. Now I strongly feel like I should earn more than my colleagues. My boss hinted that he agreed in my annual review.

    I fear that by me joining the team and demanding a substantial pay raise, the cake gets smaller for the rest of the team, and that they feel like me joining the team prevented them to rising through the ranks.

    The second problem is related: a colleague of mine (mildly) complained that he lost responsibilities to me since I’ve joined the team. I talked to my boss about that, but given that things have been going very well, my boss would like me to keep doing the tasks.
    Again- I’m worried that my colleagues might get spiteful with me.

    Would it be better to take it down a notch (in order not to endanger team happiness and keep things stable for the company), or should I perform to the best of my abilities all the time?

    Impoverished By Pro-ration asks,

    Is it reasonable for a company to pro-rate raises for new employees?

    I recently received a raise that was smaller than expected as part of a promotion I got 9 months after joining the company. I joined halfway through the year and was under-leveled, so I quickly was put up for promotion, and got it! My raise was about half what I expected, and when I asked HR, they told me that the policy is to prorate raises, so because I joined halfway through the year, I only get half the raise that the promotion should come with, so instead of the 20% I was expecting to bring me up to the salary range of the job level I originally applied for, I only got 10% and am now making less than I think I should.

    Have I permanently crippled my lifetime earnings?!?

    What can I do to get the company to pay me appropriately? I understand if bonuses are pro-rotated, but why would raises also be pro-rated?

    • 30 min
    Episode 400: Underperforming intern and upskilling

    Episode 400: Underperforming intern and upskilling

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

    I’m a junior software engineer who has been placed in charge of a handful of graduates and interns who have joined my team. The project is fairly technical.

    For the first two weeks, the new starters were pair programming. That went well, and after talking to each new starter they were eager to start working individually.

    We’re one month in and I’m concerned about the performance of one of the engineers, “Morgan” (fake name). Morgan has completed a degree from a good university we often hire from but appears to lack any knowledge of software development. As a result, Morgan seems to struggle with researching and working through problems beyond following tutorials. I got the impression that while pair programming Morgan didn’t contribute much.

    Is there anything I could do to give Morgan the boost needed to start rolling? I’m sure I could spoon feed Morgan, but it would monopolize my time when I’m already spending time with the other new starters on top of my own tasks.

    I want to give Morgan a shot, but I don’t know what to do. At what point do I tell my manager about my concerns?

    Things I’ve encountered:

    When told to insert a colon to fix a syntax error, Morgan didn’t know what a colon was.
    Morgan didn’t take any subjects at university on data structures or algorithms, which made it hard to explain the tree used for caching.
    Morgan wanted to do some DevOps having done some at university. Morgan appears to have no understanding of Docker.
    Morgan said they studied React at university but has demonstrated a lack of understanding to write React code.
    The last issue Morgan worked on required them to read some source code of a library to verify its behavior. Even after explanation Morgan didn’t understand how to find the calling ancestor of a given function.
    Morgan has never heard about concurrency.

    Even all these issues in aggregate would be fine with me, but the continual resemblance and behavior of a stunned mullet isn’t encouraging. After being told to research a concept, Morgan must be told the specific Google query to type in.

    Thanks, and apologies for the essay!

    Listener Confused Cat asks,

    I spent just over four years on a team where technical growth was lacking. Recently, I transitioned to a new team within the same company, and I’m enjoying the atmosphere, the team dynamics, and the opportunity to engage in more challenging software development tasks. Fortunately, my motivation is beginning to resurface.

    However, I’ve noticed that my technical skills have become somewhat rusty. While I can still deliver systems and features, I feel like I’m falling behind compared to some of my peers. This self-awareness is causing me to doubt myself, despite receiving no negative feedback from my current team or supervisor. It’s not just imposter syndrome; I genuinely feel the need to upskill.

    How can I navigate this situation effectively? What strategies would you suggest for advancing my skills while holding a senior position and preventing feelings of inadequacy from affecting my performance?

    • 32 min
    Episode 399: Higher paid than my boss and crossing over to management

    Episode 399: Higher paid than my boss and crossing over to management

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

    Listener Jim asks,

    I am currently a senior software engineer in a well funded (but not profitable yet) startup. I am highly effective and well regarded, to the point where the tech lead also comes to me with questions and always takes my technical input onboard.
    I also get along very well with the rest of the team and with my manager.
    I am confident that I am in a good position to bargain for a decent pay bump, however there’s a chance I might be asking for pay that exceeds the salary of the tech leads or even my manager’s. Would it be a hard no from the start if that’s the case? Do you know of situations where certain people were paid higher than someone from a higher position?
    Thank you, I’m loving the show!

    I did it. I crossed over…

    I’ve been a software engineer for nearly 25 years. I worked my way from junior to senior, staff to principal, and for the last six years I’ve been a technical articect.

    I’ve been very deliberate in my caraeer path and told myself that I would always be on the tecnical side of the wall rather than the managerial side. Most of my boses over the years have been former technical folks that just seemed to have step off the technology train at some point. Maybe they couldn’t keep pace with the rapid changes in their older age, or maybe they just didn’t like IC work, who knows? But I always had this feeling about them, like “they just don’t get it anymore”, or “their technical knowledge is so outdated, how can they make good decisions”? Much like a teenager looks at their parents who stepped off the fassion train many years prior and now doesn’t want to be seen in public with them.

    Well, I just accepted a job leading a team; with headcount, and a budget, and the works. It was not the role I really wanted, but in this market, I didn’t have a ton of choices. It’s billed as sort of a hybrid Architect/Manager role, but it *feels* like I crossed a threshold. I feel like my future will be that of a retired race horse living out the last of his days if the middle-management pasture. So, 2 questions:

    What can I do to not become a hollowed out shell of myself as the technology train eventually starts to out pace me, and eventually speed away at ludicrous speed, because I’m not “doing it” every day
    Is this just the envitable for every SE? I mean, I don’t see a lot of 70 year old coders, so this is normal, right?

    • 30 min
    Episode 398: Tech lead for contractors and how to detach my ego from my work

    Episode 398: Tech lead for contractors and how to detach my ego from my work

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

    How do you mentor a junior-level contractor?

    My company has been hiring a lot of contractors lately. Sometimes they hire out a full team form the contracting shop to build a particular feature. Other times, it’s an individual developer, but with the same general mandate: implement some specific set of features from our backlog over x number of months, then move on to the next project somewhere else. Generally this happens when we have extra budget that needs to be spent for the year, etc.

    It works well enough when the contractor is experienced and able to self-direct and focus on just getting the work done; but sometimes the contractor is less-experienced and needs lots of guidance and mentorship.

    Hiring and mentoring a less-experienced full-time developer is a long term investment. Over time that person will become more productive and hopefully stay with the company long enough to provide a net benefit. But when the person is only contracted for a short time, it seems we’re effectively paying the contracting agency for the opportunity to train their employees for them.

    As a senior engineer / tech lead, should I devote the same amount of time to mentorship and growth of these contractors, or should I just manage their backlog and make sure they only get assigned tasks that are within their ability to finish before the contract runs out?

    Hello, I have a really hard time not attaching my identity to my work. I know I’m not supposed to, but i really take pride in what I do and i feel like if I don’t, my performance would take a hit. But where this really bites me is taking it really personally when things go wrong (like when a customer submits a bug report and I find that it was something I wrote, or when I take down prod and have to involve a whole bunch of C suite people to address and post mortem the issue). I understand humans make mistakes but it eats me up so much inside every time. I know all these things but I have a hard time really internalizing them especially when things go south at work. What are some practical ways I can train myself to approach things without emotion?

    • 28 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
251 Ratings

251 Ratings

Lauren1850 ,

Totally moreish

I’ve been blazing through these episodes - one after the next. It’s really unlike any other coding podcast I’ve heard. I appreciate that there is some technical talk, but the focus is really on how to deal with the day to day workload, interactions with coworkers, and how to make the best decisions for your career.

This podcast is perfect listening for walking the dogs, doing the dishes, driving, or waiting for your project to spin up. It’s light, but informative.

These guys are funny, goofy, and don’t take things too seriously. But I think they balance out those traits by giving thoughtful and fair advice to the listeners.

gus ostow ,

Good advice

They give thoughtful advice that is clearly drawn from years of experience.

I just wish they would cut to the chase more quickly because there’s a lot of dead time due to slow moving banter.

DisturbedMime ,

Relevant and Entertaining

Awesome mix of levity and poignant advice for situations we've all experienced, or have yet to experience, in the industry. That used my supply of $3 words, and I'll owe a $1 for the Oxford comma...

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