Facts Food for thought Strategy

More rapport? Why Developers need non-technical skills

You might not think it, but even Developers need so-called “soft skills” to be truly suc­cess­ful (in fact they’re so essen­tial, we use “non-tech­nic­al” rather than the term “soft”).

For both office and remote roles, how you do your work and what you are like to work with are huge dif­fer­en­ti­at­ors and key to suc­cess. This is backed up by primary and sec­ond­ary feed­back from across the globe.

Let’s look at key areas where non-tech­nic­al skills can help you suc­ceed as a developer:

Competitive advantage at interview

If a recruit­er is faced with 2 developers of sim­il­ar exper­i­ence, the next fil­ter­ing cri­ter­ia will be their non-tech­nic­al skills and char­ac­ter.

How well will he fit the team? How per­son­able is he? How good is he at think­ing out­side the box and crit­ic­al think­ing? How good are they at con­vey­ing ideas to a team and trans­lat­ing user require­ments to tech­nic­al spe­cific­a­tions?

Non-tech­nic­al skills help sep­ar­ate the adequate from per­fect can­did­ates.

So where­as your tech­nic­al skills indic­ate what you do… Non-tech­nic­al skills relate to how you will do your role — what you will be like to work with.

Employ­ers are increas­ingly put­ting emphas­is on non-tech­nic­al skills in com­pet­it­ive mar­kets — whilst find­ing them in short sup­ply — as repor­ted by the Wall Street Journ­al.

Many of the lead­ing tech com­pan­ies we deal with put more emphas­is on a candidate’s approach to tasks, than their tech­nic­al know­ledge, with many want­ing and will­ing to train on the job for their com­pany/sect­or- spe­cif­ic platform/​fork.

Competitive advantage on the job

Bey­ond help­ing you land the job, non-tech­nic­al skills are actu­ally essen­tial to your suc­cess and advance­ment, once actu­ally on the job.

This is rein­forced by research by the Stan­ford Research Insti­tute Inter­na­tion­al and the Carne­gie Mel­on Found­a­tion, which found that  “75% of long-term job suc­cess depends on people skills, while only 25% on tech­nic­al know­ledge.”

Con­sider the fol­low­ing points and wheth­er they are key to top-tier per­form­ance as a developer:

  • Deliv­er­ing high-level work on time, con­sist­ently
  • Col­lab­or­at­ing on pro­jects that require tech­nic­al com­prom­ises to make dead­lines
  • Present­ing to dir­ect­ors and col­leagues
  • Per­suad­ing col­leagues to con­sider dif­fer­ent (tech­nic­al) points of view
  • Appre­ci­at­ing the end-user’s per­spect­ive from a UX and/​or design stand­point
  • Coach­ing and being coached on (non) tech­nic­al mat­ters
  • Work­ing pro­duct­ively with a vari­ety of man­agers, each with their own unique style
  • Being flex­ible enough to handle rap­idly chan­ging design require­ments, and still hit dead­lines
  • Assist­ing team mem­bers that are strug­gling
  • Tak­ing over a pro­ject before you’re told it’s in trouble

It’s not dif­fi­cult to see why man­agers and com­pany lead­ers would value the above.

Strengths or weak­nesses in these non-tech­nic­al skills can mean the dif­fer­ence between project/​team/​company suc­cess or fail­ure, and/​or mean the dif­fer­ence between rap­id pro­mo­tion, stag­na­tion or redund­ancy.

So how can your boost your chances? 
  1. A per­son­al web­site is an excel­lent way to show­case your per­son­al­ity, skills and achieve­ments pri­or to inter­view.
  2. Out­line your non-tech­nic­al skills on your CV — and high­light how these trans­lated to suc­cess (provide some met­rics).
  3. Pre­par­a­tion: exam­ine the points we provided above, and where applic­able try to provide examples of when you demon­strated these skills. If asked to give an example of good com­mu­nic­a­tion, provide an example of a time you suc­cess­fully pitched an idea intern­ally. For adapt­ab­il­ity you could per­haps dis­cuss times you’ve delivered on pro­jects des­pite dif­fi­cult team mem­bers.
  4. Com­mit to con­tinu­ous self devel­op­ment and be hon­est with your­self. Do not try to fake it. You will get found out on the job any­way. Instead, make note of the areas you lack and make a determ­ined effort to improve them!
  5. It is import­ant to note that companies/​sectors will dif­fer, and can value a dif­fer­ent mix of non-tech­nic­al skills to oth­ers. The key is to work on being as well roun­ded as pos­sible, and know your sec­tor.

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