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Soft skills can make or break your success as you navigate your career. What should you focus on in 2023?

As you advance in your career as a developer, you begin to realize that writing code is not the only thing you need to do daily. A good percentage of your work as a developer involves soft skills, which, if neglected, can begin to affect your career growth directly or indirectly.

Today we will be looking at a few tips around the must-have soft skills in 2023 for developers.

What Are Soft Skills?

Firstly, hard skills are basically abilities that can be measured or quantified in a way. They are job-specific and can be learned in institutions or through coursework of learning. Soft skills are less defined and are more universal, as they cut across all career paths that exist today.

So which ones are must-have?

1. Effective Communication

This is one of the most important skills to have as a developer, as a good percentage of your time as a developer is spent in meetings with your team, your superiors, users and other stakeholders.

Firstly you have to communicate clearly—this means that you have to always put yourself in the shoes of your listener, whether that’s a user, a product manager or a teammate.

You also have to be a great listener yourself. Interrupting people while they speak is not good—give them an opportunity to get their thoughts out. Show genuine appreciation for people and their work—people can always feel it when you do. These tips lead to a better working environment where everyone feels seen, heard and valued.

2. Self-Awareness

This is a very important skill to hone. It involves understanding yourself at every point in time. Working as a developer and with the ever-rapidly-growing space in tech, it is important in your day-to-day work to be very confident in expressing what you know, and very apt with expressing or communicating what you do not know yet.

It is a sign of strength to respond with, “I have no idea how this works yet.” It shows honesty and a willingness to learn. This can positively affect work culture—if everyone is honest and willing to learn what is needed for the job, work becomes more enjoyable for everyone.

3. Teamwork

You are most likely already part of a team. It could be with designers, fellow developers, marketing or product people. In order to achieve success, you have to work well with others. It is easy to get isolated as a developer, but you have to keep team goals in mind and connect with teammates regularly.

Respect each team member and their ideas, whether or not you agree with them. Create a strong sense of commitment through respect and always track team progress and review weaknesses.

Stick to meeting times, submit your updates when due, and communicate beforehand if you will not meet a deadline or attend a meeting. Make sure to value your teammates’ time, as you would want the reciprocal.

4. Time Management

Great time management skills are super important in the life of every developer, as almost every project you will work on is time-bound. One of the ways to cultivate this skill is by creating a timetable for yourself and sticking to it. Also, creating healthy breaks and having boundaries can be super helpful. You do not want to burn out, neither do you want to become unfit especially in these times when remote work is mainstream. You have to have time to eat, to exercise, to rest and to do work.

This ensures you stay healthy enough to meet deadlines and also greatly improves your project time estimation abilities, inspiring trust from teammates when you say things like, “This project will be completed in two weeks.”

5. Empathy

This simply means putting yourself in other people’s shoes. For a developer, this would mostly involve your day-to-day interactions at work. Do you remember to comment on your code, or write tests as you build? Do you remember to make sure the codebase is as readable as possible for the next person who will access it?

Practice being understanding when teammates underperform—try to find out if they are dealing with anything in their personal lives. Over time you will see that you begin to care more and more about all the stakeholders involved in your day-to-day workflow.

6. Accountability

Taking ownership of your decisions, choices and actions at every point of your journey is also another very important skill to have. Realizing that everyone makes mistakes and failure is not necessarily a bad thing will help a lot. Some of the errors you will make as a developer might be less impactful to the company or team, while some could make a huge negative impact.

You have to be able to take ownership and responsibility for the things you do not do right or tasks handed over to you that were not completed in a satisfactory manner. Always use the opportunity to learn and make a public commitment to do better as you move forward. You should also be wary of work cultures that do not leave room for people to make mistakes—it might not be a healthy environment to work in.

7. Open-Mindedness

Developers by nature are often strongly opinionated, and that trickles down to everything in their day-to-day life. Having an open mind can be a great skill to have. You can be very opinionated but still be open to new things, new ideas and a new framework of achieving your goals better and more effectively.

This mindset can also help you cultivate the spirit of healthy experimentation, where you do not easily dismiss new ideas without at least trying to see if they might be better than the current system. We can keep learning new things in our field just by welcoming and being open to new ideas.

Wrapping Up

These are a few vital soft skills that are every developer should cultivate today. We also took a look at a few practical tips for each skill so that you can start off the year being a well-rounded programmer and add even more value to your team. Happy hacking!

About the Author

Nwose Lotanna Victor

Nwose Lotanna Victor is a web technology enthusiast who documents his learning process with technical articles and tutorials. He is a freelance frontend web developer based in Lagos, Nigeria. Passionate about inclusion, community-building and movies in Africa, he enjoys learning new things and traveling.

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