228 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 • 158 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 227: Junior expectations and manager flakiness

    Episode 227: Junior expectations and manager flakiness

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:


    Questions



    What should I expect from a junior develop, and how can I help them grow?


    A junior developer joined my team of 4 a few months ago. He has learned things at a reasonable speed but it is still hard for him to implement new features without any help or existing code to copy.


    In past jobs, I usually gave juniors simple, easy tasks, but we don’t have that simple tasks in my current job because we’re working on complicated internal systems.


    Also other junior developers spent lots of their private time learning. I don’t think this junior has spent any time learning in his private time.


    I don’t want to ask them to learn in their private time, but I just can’t help feel annoyed about the fact that he still cannot pick up a well-defined task in our backlog and complete it by himself. I think he really needs to take some time learning some basics like networking and some skills like keyboard shortcuts of text editors. I know there is lots to learn. However, sometimes I lose my patience when I have to repeat myself.


    In addition to lack of knowledge and skills, I feel that he always waits somebody to tell him what to do and explain everything to him. I tried to tell him the whole picture of the project before explain a specific task, but I couldn’t see any improvement.


    What could I do to help him (or make myself feel better)?



    I’ve worked with 3 managers in the past 2 years at my first company and all of them seem to have trouble producing results from team meetings and one on ones. More specifically, my managers have mentioned things/events/changes they would plan to do with the team or me and several weeks/months go by and the idea is never mentioned again. At times it felt like maybe it was me that was unable to produce the outcomes of said ideas or that maybe I was some sort of a lost cause. However, my most recent manager doubled the ratio of ideas:results, so I don’t think it’s just me. For my one on ones, we have a long running list of things we talk about and even the trail there doesn’t seem to amount to anything.


    How do I hold my manager accountable for things they say or plan to do? How do I bring up these conversation on one-on-ones without making it seem like I’m the one managing them?

    • 30 min
    Episode 226: Declining job offers and being the outside hire

    Episode 226: Declining job offers and being the outside hire

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:


    Questions



    How do you politely decline job offers that you never intended to accept in the first place? I’ve been trying to interview more often recently to keep my interviewing skills sharp and check how employable I am. I always struggle declining the offers politely. What usually happens is that I set high salary expectations hoping that the company refuses me, but sometimes they do match it and I end up in an even worst spot. Any tips? Should I come clear earlier in the process?



    I was recently hired as a Staff Engineer at a large tech company. After joining the company I was told I was the first outside Staff Engineer ever hired into the organization and the expectations for me were very high.
    After the first month I noticed that coworkers were acting strange around me and less responsive to my ideas. During a 1:1 one of my coworkers specifically stated that he and several others have been at the company for 5 years and were passed up for the promotion I got and were upset that an outsider was hired. Based on this they would be watching me closely. I’ve talked to management about the conversations and their feedback has been to try to “make friends”. I am the most Sr Engineer in a group of 15 engineers who work across 5 different teams. The situation is turning very toxic where the other engineers are trying to “one-up” me in effort to obtain the promotion for the next cycle.
    What do I do?

    • 31 min
    Episode 225: Stuck on the ladder and can't say no

    Episode 225: Stuck on the ladder and can't say no

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:


    Questions



    I have noticed the majority of the managers get stuck at a mid-management level and never move to C level. And, there are a few who experience astronomical growth. For example, I know a C-suite executive who has moved to his current role from a Web Developer role within 9 years and changed job only thrice. One more C-suite guy I know has gone to that position within 8 years in the same company. Unfortunately, I don’t have the rapport to ask either of these folks what I’m going to ask you, so here it goes. What makes some managers move very quickly up the management ladder, whereas the majority remain stuck in mid-management? Also, at the mid-management level, how detrimental is job-hopping to quick growth. Looking at my small sample size of 2, both have not hopped around much.



    Hi, love the show. I have a history of working as a Voice Engineer but since I got my last job I have migrated towards more Sysadmin/Devops type job. This was on purpose as I absolutely HATE the voice stuff. The problem is that I still have a bunch of people coming up and asking me to help with Voice related issues or projects. I have tried to very subtly express I am not interested but it doesn’t seem to work. I am probably also guilty because I am a yes man and want to be the nice guy so I don’t say no to these requests.


    So the question is, how do I get away from my past and stop people from coming up to me with questions about a domain I dread/hate?




    Show Notes
    https://lethain.com/career-narratives/

    • 10 min
    Episode 224: Bad review from conflicted boss and questioning my career choices

    Episode 224: Bad review from conflicted boss and questioning my career choices

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:


    Questions



    Hi Dave and Jamison, I’m in my mid twenties working at a large company with 1,000+ devs. My direct manager (let’s call him Bob) is probably in his late forties, is from a different country, and has a wife and two children who live in his home country. He currently manages ~20 devs in multiple scrums.


    Last month, I had my mid-year performance review with Bob. I am pretty sure that I’ve done a great job during the first half of the year. I made a few performance improvements, designed and partly implemented a few new systems, and even saved the company from a potential lawsuit. I think that I’m already delivering much more than the typical junior would already. Bob seems to disagree. He only gave me a mediocre review. When I pushed him for his reasoning, he seems to avoid the question and just told me to focus on the whole year review instead.


    Last week, I just came to know that Bob is filing a divorce. I would think that he is probably feeling quite depressed. Nonetheless, it bothers me to feel that my review score is somehow related to his personal affairs. He rushed all of his reviews on the last deadline though. I get the feeling that he is dispirited and didn’t focus on giving his team a thorough and honest review.


    I don’t want to bring this up to Bob’s manager as it would probably make him even more miserable. I also don’t think I can give him divorce advice. What would you do?



    Hi there. I just graduated from undergrad and will be starting my career in just a few days. A big question on my mind going in is whether software development is the right career for me. I landed here because my parents saw me tinkering with HTML as a kid and pushed me into a CS major and this job. Me personally, I had wildly varying attitudes towards programming in college. Some days I was so hungry that I threw myself into hackathons and side projects; other days I was ready to drop my CS major. All this left me unsure of where I really stand. I’m grateful to have ended up on this path, but as I think more long-term, I question whether I’m really here for the long haul. What signs could I look for to gauge my compatibility with the tech industry or help me decide whether this career is really for me?


    Either way, thanks so much for making this podcast - it’s been a great window into the world that I’m about to join.

    • 31 min
    Episode 223: Feedback rage and making up for lost time

    Episode 223: Feedback rage and making up for lost time

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:


    Questions



    Hello. Thanks for hosting such a great podcast. I recently finished binging all the previous episodes.


    I’ve recently noticed in conversations with my team, whether synchronous or asynchronous, after I propose an idea or stake out a position, I easily get defensive if a teammate tries to give feedback on my idea.


    I don’t mean to get angry, but I sometimes don’t notice until it’s too late.


    I think it has gotten to the point where my teammates might have caught on, and I don’t want this to lead to a state where they never disagree with me.


    Have you ever dealt with this, in yourself or others? How have you dealt with changing this mindset?



    My first software developer job lasted two years. I didn’t learn much.



    We deployed legacy Java apps with SCP
    We had no tests
    We didn’t have CI/CD
    We were using a beta version of an old framework which we never upgraded
    Our repos were not in sync with our production code
    A lot of commented out code, dead code over the place
    Using multiple languages across the board. We were using Java for something, Node for some, PHP for web/api, JS for client side. Basically the devs were cowboy coding to get the stuff out.


    I am three years into my current role & have already learned so much more than in my first role. I feel like my first job set me back. How do I overcome this?

    • 24 min
    Episode 222: Cowboy CTO and underpaid after promotion

    Episode 222: Cowboy CTO and underpaid after promotion

    In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:


    Questions



    Hey, long time fan of the show!


    Our current CTO came in as the result of a merger. For most of his life, he was a solo developer and owned his own company.


    The struggles we are facing now are:



    He is not responsive at all, neither via chat, nor email, nor any other communication tool.
    He often says “I’ll do it” but then takes weeks to finish
    He has thousands of unread emails in his inbox
    When he writes tickets, the details are unclear for others
    He codes way too much for a CTO, in my opinion, and his code is a bit messy compared to the other developers


    Since he is a really nice person, we all want to give him feedback that makes him understand his role better, and to avoid being a bottleneck.


    I know that changing another person is hard, but at the same time I know that he is motivated to become a good CTO.


    How do I help him?”



    Hi. I’ve only recently discovered your podcast this quarantine, and it’s been really helpful at work already. So when I was faced with this problem, I immediately thought of you!


    I have been a professional software developer for just over a year and have received great feedback from my manager and team. During my performance review, I asked what I would need to qualify for promotion. I got the news that I had already been recommended for a promotion!


    Meanwhile, a friend still in university got an entry-level job offer from my company that pays more than I would make if my promotion went through. Where I come from, there are no negotiations when companies recruit at universities, so it’s not a matter of them negotiating a better deal.


    If the promotion does not come through I have no qualms trying to negotiate. If the promotion does comes through, would I come off as ungrateful if I bring this up? Am I asking for too much by wanting to be paid more at a higher position than what a new grad would be paid at entry level? I know it’s not an ideal world and I feel greedy as I type this, but I just want to be compensated for what I think I’m worth. I also think that it also comes down to my ego at some point. SEND HALP

    • 26 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
158 Ratings

158 Ratings

L3robi ,

I am a big fan

Your discussions are always a lot of fun to listen to, and I also get useful advices, one of them the famous one, I was able to apply this year just days before the lock down and I am feeling more free with a better pay bonus! so thank you for your valuable advices, and keep up the good fun :-D

Casablanca - Morocco

Version_3 ,

I love the info they put out

As someone trying to build their soft skills, this podcast is amazingly informative while entertaining. The best part is being able to incorporate the things they discuss into my daily work interactions.

cbonaco ,

Less laughing, more talking

Less laughing at each other’s jokes, more talking about engineering

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