Forget about tech skills

6 most useful soft skills for software developers

Gabriela Motroc
soft skills
Skills concept image via Shutterstock

Software developers must indubitably have tech skills, but there is another popular set of abilities that is gaining momentum: soft skills. Technical know-how is one way of measuring how good a developer is, but soft skills are really the ones that help them receive the stamp of approval from the industry.

There are many skills that go into being a great software developer in addition to tech abilities; although a developer could be great from a technical standpoint, he could also be considered a poor professional due to a lack of skills such as empathy, humility, team spirit and the list goes on. It is easy to focus on hard skills and forget about soft skills, but the second set of abilities is the one that helps managers decide whether you are a good fit for the company or not.

In a 2014 speech to graduates of the Stanford Online High School in California, Stephen Wolfram, the creator of Mathematica software app and the CEO of Wolfram Research, said that “people who go furthest are not the ones with the best technical skills, but the ones who have the best strategy for figuring out what to do.” Developers sometimes forget that software development is a team sport, and that soft skills do count. John Z. Sonmez promotes the same idea in his book Soft Skills: The software developer’s life manual; the author claims that “for most software developers, coding is the fun part” and explains why soft skills should not be ignored.

Here are the six most useful soft skills:

SEE ALSO: Specialists vs. polyglots – What kind of software developer are you?


Putting yourself in other people’s shoes and trying to understand their product may be hard, especially if their code is not easily understandable or worse —if you have to write it from scratch. However, practicing empathy will help you get over this sort of events more easily and focus on what really matters, namely the audience which uses the product you created.


This skill should be second nature to developers because there are always things to be changed and things to be learned. Adaptability refers to a software developer’s openness to learning new skills, taking on extra responsibilities, even relocating. One of the most important aspects of adaptability is the reaction to change. Do you react positively to comments, criticism, bad news and other sorts of uncomfortable situations? If the answer is yes, you should hold on to this soft skill; it will come in handy.

Big-picture thinking

When you realize you have to write somebody else’s code from scratch or worse —your own— what do you do? Worry about the code or the person who will use the product you are creating? If you put the business proposition first, you have a soft skill that is worth keeping. Soft skills are difficult to learn, so those who care first about the product and then about the code they are writing should take pride in their not-so-common ability.

SEE ALSO: Why coding skills are not enough for a developer to get hired


Most software developers are lone wolves and they don’t mind the label as long as they can write their code without interruption. Pair programming is not something many developers like to do, but that should be perfectly fine as long as the attitude is the right one. This soft skill can be improved by offering suggestions instead of mere criticism, being more aware of opportunities and complaining less. Experience shows that those who have a positive attitude usually have colleagues that are more willing to help them.

Willingness to learn

It is common knowledge that nobody is born learned, but not many people truly understand that learning is a never-ending process. Make no mistake, there is always someone you can learn from and some abilities you can improve or adjust. What matters is your willingness to learn and accept offered guidance. Great software developers also seek out advice from their peers.

Critical thinking

Critical thinking involves assessing facts before reaching a conclusion. Software developers are sometimes faced with a handful of possible solutions, and only critical thinking will allow them to quickly test each scenario mentally before choosing the most efficient one. This soft skill is possibly the most important one because it helps developers write clean, maintainable code.

Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc was editor of and JAX Magazine. Before working at Software & Support Media Group, she studied International Communication Management at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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