The Top 5 Soft Skills Every Developer Has to Have
Pure technical prowess in tech-related fields has increasingly become less valuable than it used to be, because it no longer requires formal training or years of experience to develop it.
Research from a survey of over 50,000 coders found that two out of three programmers are autodidacts, from a sample where more than 50% of the participants were under the age of 30. 
Furthermore, a study by Google shows that among the eight most important qualities of their top employees, STEM expertise was actually at the very bottom. Instead, the research found that the top characteristics of success in tech related fields are actually all soft skills. 
At this point, any ambitious developer should be asking themselves the obvious - “what soft skills do I need to reach the top?”
Aspiring coders, look no further - we’ve created a list of the 5 non-technical skills no successful developer can be without:
Empathy, simply put, is the ability to understand how others are feeling. It is perhaps the most fundamental soft skill for a developer to have - once you understand what kind of state of mind everyone else is in, you are able to react and conduct yourself in the way that is most appropriate for the situation you’re in, and this is especially important if you’re working on tasks others may struggle to grasp (and vice-versa!). Empathy fosters trust and creativity, and has a monumental positive impact on collaboration and communication.
Tip: Always try to contextualize others’ behavior. If they don’t understand something, try to explain in a way that is closer to their field. If they are emotional about something, try to understand why this is so important to them. Remember, if you are a dynamic and multi-faceted person, then so is everyone else. Find others’ strengths - just because they don’t have all your technical knowledge doesn’t mean that they can’t help you in other ways.
Interdisciplinary collaboration has always been a key component of any successful project. However, with the rising complexity of technical responsibilities, non-technical personnel will really struggle to decipher the code behind what the tech team is working on. As a result, developers’ ability to express their thoughts, motives, and work clearly and concisely while listening to and understanding others’ point of view is now more important than ever. This is a decisive factor for successful teamwork, motivation and efficiency, and a positive work environment.
Tip: Try to listen and observe before you rush to make your point. Considering only 7% of communication is verbal, there is much more going on than what others say. Learn to read others’ body language and tone of voice and it will help you communicate with them more effectively.
Programming is a language - everything from writing to debugging will be a long and detail-oriented process. Taking time to properly complete a task can be the decisive difference between a patient coder with a moderate amount of knowledge and experience and one who has more of both but rushes through his tasks.
Tip: Quality results not only from patience with your work, but also from being patient with others. Remember that people are not always the best communicators, and that if they are from another field, the work you do will seem like hieroglyphics to them. In both cases, keep composed and never lose your end goal from sight - losing your cool is never productive, whereas a calm and diligent approach will almost always lead to positive results.
4. Critical Thought
Critical thinking is the ability to follow a logical process to reach solutions, a definition which could just as easily been applied to programming. Programmers have (almost) infinite possible solutions to their tasks, so being able to formulate and follow a process in order to efficiently arrive at the most effective solution is perhaps the most important indicator of how proficient a programmer is at what they do.
Tip: Try to (even physically!) map out your processes. Thinking critically is a different procedure for everyone, so understanding how your mind works and how you reach conclusions will help you understand why you made a decision, how this fits into the bigger picture, and it will also help you explain your reasoning to others.
Before becoming passionate about coding, you were curious, and that lead you to where you are now. The moment you lose your curiosity to learn new things, discover new concepts, and develop new skills, your passion will cease, your growth will stagnate, and the dream will be over. Follow your curiosity, learn new languages, take courses, and develop yourself in areas that seem intriguing - you never know where it will take you.
Tip: Establish the fundamentals, but after that, explore coding in real case studies that interest you - this can be video games, animation, websites and apps, or data visualization. It’s not going to be easy at first, but as long as you work and develop your skills in areas you’re passionate about, you will never stop growing.
Do you have these soft skills? Are these skills important for you? What other skills do you think are important? Shoot us a message and let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org!
We know you’re all great developers, but if you want to take your skills (soft and hard) to the next level, be sure check out our Computer Science Program here at Harbour.Space. We would love to see you grow with us!
1. Coren, Michael J. “Two out of Three Developers Are Self-Taught, and Other Trends from a Survey of 56,033 Coders.” Quartz, Quartz, 30 Mar. 2016, https://qz.com/649409/two-out-of-three-developers-are-self-taught-and-ot....
2. Strauss, Valerie. “The Surprising Thing Google Learned about Its Employees - and What It Means for Today's Students.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 20 Dec. 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/12/20/the-surpr....