Top Ten Skills for Developers – sharpen Soft Skills

Wednesday, April 8, 2009 ·

Gold top 10 winner Another Great Article from James Justin for TechRepublic on “10 skills developers will need in the next five years.” There are the obvious references to tools and web technologies, but we are going to focus on the Soft Skills.







For reference here is the full list:

  1. One of the “Big Three” (.NET, Java, PHP)
  2. Rich Internet Applications (RIA’s)
  3. Web development
  4. Web services
  5. Soft Skills
  6. One dynamic and/or functional programming language
  7. Agile methodologies
  8. Domain knowledge
  9. Development “hygiene”
  10. Mobile development

Personally I would have put Soft Skills higher on the list. Only because most of you are already thinking about the first 3 or 4 on the list. Based on my examination of the industry, you can do more for your career by increasing your Soft Skills quotient, than by increasing your knowledge of .NET. This assumes you have knowledge of one of the “Big Three.”

So lets take a look at Soft Skills

Soft skills
One trend that has been going for quite some time is the increasing visibility of IT within and outside the enterprise. Developers are being brought into more and more non-development meetings and processes to provide feedback. For example, the CFO can’t change the accounting rules without working with IT to update the systems. And an operations manager can’t change a call center process without IT updating the CRM workflow. Likewise, customers often need to work directly with the development teams to make sure that their needs are met. Will every developer need to go to Toastmasters or study How to Win Friends and Influence People? No. But the developers who do will be much more valuable to their employers—and highly sought after in the job market.

Mr. Justin focuses on one single tread in Soft Skills, communicating with non-technical business managers = visibility. Very important: Communication ranks #3 (based on my research) on the soft skills list of what Dev Team Managers are looking for in their employees. BTW- #1 is Passion and #2 is understanding the Big Picture. Obviously good visibility is key to your career.

So should you go out and join Toastmasters? Well if that is your thing then go for it. If anything it’s a great networking opportunity and that alone will sharpen your Verbal communication and presentation skills, not to mention build your network.  BTW There is a technical related Toastmasters in the Twin Cities area - – Now you have no excuse.

I think for most developers that's too big of a step. So try this:

  • Be proactive - push yourself to meet face to face with your users and business managers. 
  • Before meeting, prepare what you are going to say and think about it in plain English terms.
  • Write out your list of questions
  • Think about it from their point of view. Do you know their point of view?
    • Do you know the “Problem” – see #8 Domain knowledge in the “10 skills…” article
    • Do you know the “Users Pain” the “Managers Goals.”
    • Do you know the “Big Picture.”
    See how this all fits together. Increasing your communication skills has a lot to do with understanding your audience. There is no magic here. Like writing the perfect line of code it takes time and practice. It will come, just focus your efforts.

Additional Note: Not directly related, but on a similar thread, I suggest you look at a great blog Rob points out some very important Rules when working with a client that touch on communication.  See Why Expectations Can Kill You and What You Can Do About It


Vincetastic said...
April 10, 2009 4:35 AM  

This is a really great top ten list. Soft Skills is an excellent point, thanks for all the analysis. You can post this to our site and then link back to your site. We are looking for top ten lists and our users can track back to your site. The coolest feature is you can let other people vote on the rankings of your list.

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