According to the World Economic Forum’s ‘The Future of Jobs Report’, the top skills that employers are looking for in their employees are not technical or hard skills. They are Critical thinking and problem-solving. And guess what? These have been consistent since 2016 when the first report was released.
All the industries, including the software industry, are changing rapidly with remote work / hybrid work becoming a reality and gig workers getting added to the mix. To be a successful professional and be effective at work, a developer requires technical and soft skills. Companies are also increasingly realizing that soft skills are critical for every employee at the workplace.
A developer’s work involves communicating with others, working in teams, and collaborating with teams across various locations. Soft skills are the cornerstone of all these interactions. Opportunities with client interactions also open up for those who have effective soft skills to support their technical skills.
Let us look at the 7 critical soft skills a developer should work on to have a successful career in the industry in 2022.
Communicating like a true professional is the most critical soft skill in this hybrid and remote work environment. Whether it is communicating online by writing, audio-video calling, or regular face-to-face interactions, it is a skill that is unavoidable for technologists.
Communication is most effective when it is specific, clear, without any jargon, and with correct articulation. For developers working closely with the external audience like stakeholders at the client end, it is a good idea to set the expectations and modes of updating at the onset of the project. It is useful to look for feedback cues if understanding is happening with the audience. This can be verified with open questions like “Have you any doubts before I go forward?”
Active listening is a critical part of communication. Practice active listening by not interrupting the speaker, giving feedback cues through facial expressions, and taking notes for memory retention. Written communication is critical for project status reports, email updates, and meeting summaries to teams or clients. Be concise, use bullets, and edit long email chains by summarizing to successfully convey the key message. Effective communication ensures success in daily project work and client relationships.
Often, developers’ job involves working with multiple team members. Collaborating across offshore teams and with client teams in a remote location is an added complication. According to several studies, lack of teamwork is one of the main reasons for project failures.
Understanding each other’s points of view and valuing complimentary skills leads to better teamwork and collaboration. Building one’s emotional intelligence makes one open to accepting constructive feedback, appreciating others’ ideas, and having greater empathy while listening to issues. Teamwork also involves owning up to your errors and being able to give constructive feedback to others. Making efforts in planning and delivery timelines, accounting for everyone’s limitations can keep the team spirit from turning negative. Patience and perseverance help in developing this skill.
Time Management and Organization
Projects revolve around timelines and punctuality. Delivery timelines, client deadlines, weekly update calls, and meetings occupy the developer’s work time. It is important for developers to consistently plan and tweak their schedules to manage their time every week to arrive at what works best for them and the team. It is useful to use technology to schedule the day down to the hour and activate reminders for meetings and other activities. Time management is essential for a planned day and peace of mind to work; else things can overwhelm and contribute to stress and ultimately burnout.
Creative Problem Solving
A developer’s tasks revolve around problem-solving. Finding technology solutions to business problems, fixing bugs and issues in programs, taking care of team challenges, and solving client problems are some of the issues they deal with on an everyday basis. Some problems can be directly dealt with through technology and previous learnings, while others require new and creative solutions to be effective. Developers need to think outside the box and promote radical thinking for themselves and their team members to arrive at the best solution. Most complex problems are solved by teams through brainstorming and ideation. Developers must push their boundaries of thoughts and ideas consistently to develop and nurture the skill of creative problem-solving.
Effective Conflict Resolution
Situations, where multiple people are working together, have a possibility of conflicts due to various reasons. A developer’s work situation is no different. As developers work with multi-location and diverse teams, misunderstandings are bound to arise due to lags in timelines, delays of submissions, and communication gaps. Additionally, dynamic customer needs and narrow margins of timelines flare tempers and create conflicts. Whatever the conflict, reaching a resolution that is an amicable and a win-win situation for all is the only way forward. For developers, it is essential to focus on growing emotional intelligence to develop the soft skill of conflict resolution.
Efficient Decision Making
Decision-making is a vital soft skill required for technologists. Decisions regarding one’s work, team deliverables, and affirming client requests are critical to the project and have cascading effects on the whole project and associated teams. Working out an efficient decision-making system by weighing pros and cons can be cultivated with time. In time, weighing the options for the best solution becomes quicker and reduces procrastination. It also makes the decision-making process efficient and operationally efficient for the team. The power of decision-making is with everyone; it is important to practice it repeatedly to make it efficient!
Networking in the industry helps in creating successful careers and collaborations. A developer needs this soft skill to build networks, reach out for solutions or advice and build work collaborations. As a young person in the organization, networking gives access to the tacit knowledge existing with experienced people who are keen to share their learnings. Networking in the industry keeps one aware and updated with trends and processes which are unique to new technology. The networking soft skill is essential to keep a developer current and creative in thought.
Nurturing these and more such soft skills is the sure way to success for the developer and the organization.