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Max Ong Zong Bao
Max Ong Zong Bao

Posted on • Originally published at

Soft Skills is the Edge For Developer Career


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If you are in a technical role, you need soft skills to thrive. If you think that technical prowess can help overcome this lack of soft skills. I am afraid that you will be up for a rude awakening. While progressing in your career as an individual contributor or management, you will find that it becomes more & more an important subject. You do not have to take my word for it. Instead, you can look at this article in the Harvard Business Review that talks about Daniel Goleman's work in the area of Emotional Intelligence.

Why Learn Soft Skills?

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Having a solid foundation for soft skills allows you to be adaptable for any kind jobs in a disruptive world. Due to the Covid19 pandemic, it had forced many countries, businesses & individual onto this & adapt on a massive scale.

If you look at the world economic forum article. A premium is placed upon individuals, who can blend soft skills and technical skill. So they can create products or services that are relevant and intuitive in solving problems for society.

Therefore I believe that learning soft skill allows you to improve on your productivity as both an individual or within a team. Some of these examples are the studies on high performing teams within Google. So that Google could find or train these individuals into good managers. To improve employee retention & productivity within Google.


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As you progress beyond your entry-level job. You will find that there is an increased focus on communication skills. Be it written or verbal mode of communication. It has played a major role in your daily lives. Sometimes if there is any miscommunication, this might lead to unintended consequences for a project, team or departments or even on an organisation level. This leads to additional resources, manpower or time that you have to free up in solving the problems related to the miscommunication.

Learning to Write Well

What I had learned after tons of problems that occurs in communicating. There is always a need to be good at writing well. Especially when your company is a remote-first company like Zapier, Gitlab and Dev.To. They had produced guides on remote work and managing a remote team. This comes down to establishing habits, processes or documentation to onboard or to operate a remote team that crosses diverse geographic locations.

Negotiation Gets a Better Deal for Everyone

Another tough cookie to crack for communication is one's ability to negotiate. I can list out afew direct benefits like earning more in your job or getting a good deal when you are buying or selling things.

Knowing to negotiate helps alot whenever the situation arises like to gather the breathing room you need along with the resources & people to solve a problem or execute an initiative.

I would suggest you hop on down to the 3 part series of the Jordan Harbinger show for Alex Kouts.

Storyteller to Persuading People Towards or Run Away from an Idea

Before the first written word's ink is dried on paper. We humans use stories to convey information across the ages.

Stories allow anyone to convey information and spread through word of mouth. Therefore being a good storyteller in a more modern context is being a person who is charismatic & persuasive to bring an audience to run towards or move away from an idea. Like Steve Jobs in Apple's product launches or Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.

So I would recommend you to look at either Nancy Durate's books for storytelling or To Sell is Human to give you a good idea to start.

System Level Thinking

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When it comes to the word "productivity", the first thing that comes to my mind is the need to create or maintain systems. No, I do not mean systems like a complex machine or software systems.

Instead, I am referring to the combined effort of human capital, resources and technology. To create desirable effects like manufacturing or delivery of a service that ultimately frees yourself from work on an individual basis without alot of your manual intervention.

As a developer, we have a natural tendency to think in software systems. It can be as simple as adopting developer practices like test-driven development, design sprints, scrum or methodologies that covers system-level thinking. To allow us to do more with less with a better & faster feedback loop to reduce waste through elimination, delegation or automate tasks within the system you had built.

System-level thinking can be learned or adopted through real-life experience in working in your projects or from books like E-Myth, Boyd, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World and even The Phoenix Project.


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In this article, I had covered the importance of why you should focus on sharpening your soft skill regardless of your an individual contributor or part of management.

On the communication aspects, I had provided an overview of the areas I believe will be useful as a developer. These three skills are written communication for remote work and reduce in cost of miscommunication. The second is negotiation skills to gather resources that are favourable to you and the person you are negotiating against. The third skill is to become a storyteller to move people towards the desired outcome through your stories by word of mouth.

In section for "system-level thinking", I talk about books or perspectives on building systems. So to reduce your involvement for the system to continue to work without being a cog in the system. To build systems to leverage yourself to do more work with less.

Lastly, are you looking to specialise as a developer? If yes, I’m giving away my free ebook called "Picking Your Specialisation as a Developer". It is for anyone interested in commanding a higher salary or simply doing the work they like.

This post includes affiliate links, I may receive compensation if you purchase products or services from the different links provided in this article.


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