Twenty years ago, working in IT meant being permanently shackled to your computer. While the spirit of that hasn’t changed over the years, shrinking development teams means knowledge workers are working in a variety of positions, doing things that they typically haven’t been comfortable with in the past.
You could be a full-stack guru, a Ruby maestro, but if you neglect your soft skills when it comes to your job search — you might find that you won’t make it to the top of any hiring manager’s pile. Soft skills, as simplistic as they may seem, are crucial in both your own self-promotion and your ability to work within dev teams of any scale or scope.
Self-Management & Documentation
“Commenting is a hassle and no one reads it, so I don’t bother.”
Coders of all makes and models have their own opinions and philosophies on documentation, and a non-trivial percentage of coders are resistant, even belligerent about their documentation. Documentation, like any work habit, is either taught early on in your training or it’s painfully forced years after the fact, when bad habits have already taken hold.
But in today’s development world, you cannot function as a reliable developer without stringent and responsible habits regarding your documentation. Not many coders would brag about how well they document their programs — but they really should be.
In years past, playing loose and fast with documenting your work is something you could get away with in larger development firms — responsibility was easy to pass off, bugs were just a reality of the job, and larger companies tended to value results over methodology. As development teams shrink, a lack of familiarity with good documentation habits is poisonous to your career ambitions.
Cascade methodologies are going, Agile is on the rise – Cascade methodologies are well suited to large commits and tend to feature centralized documentation by your project manager.
Agile, which as we explored in a past article, is better suited for smaller teams, also treats changes iteratively. You don’t know who will be looking at your code, or if they’ll be reviewing a week from the day you wrote it or six years. Proper documentation thrives in an Agile environment, and is one of the main reasons it’s so effective for small devs.
Familiarity with Development Methodology
As an addendum to the above, being familiar with not only what coding methodologies are used in the greater market but also being able to make decisions based on them is an integral skill in today’s workplace.
While it seems from the above that we’re suggesting Agile is most valuable methodology to learn, that simply isn’t the case. A broad knowledge of Cascade, Agile, the various implementations of Scrum are all valuable in their relative advantages and limitations. Do you know what a sprint is? It might pay to know. Hiring managers are interested in knowing what you know, but more importantly they want to know that you can fit into their own company’s unique development model. Having a broad knowledge to draw from is one important way of demonstrating this.
Marketing Skills & Self-Promotion
Marketers are full of themselves, there’s no doubt. Selling without actually creating seems almost debasing, like you’re selling false promises or “tricking” people into wanting something they don’t need. But the heart of marketing skills are something that coders don’t always appreciate: it’s the art and science of demonstrating value.
There’s two ways that marketing skills come into play for developers: self-promotion and market awareness. Self-promotion seems like an obvious skill in landing a job, but many developers aren’t sure how to self-promote. Self-promotion being an excellent subject for a future article, we’ll leave you with a starting point. How to be a Unicorn.