asper developers
Magdalena Pokrzywa Published: 5 Jun 2023 7 min to read

Soft Skills For Developers: Why Can’t Software Engineers Stay Locked In Their Basements?

Before the IT industry started booming, the stereotype of the nerd programmer, emerging into the sunlight from the confines of his basement only to make himself yet another ketchup sandwich, got firmly locked into our collective consciousness.

Only a decade or so ago, it was well-understood that the more knowledgeable and less talkative a developer was, the higher the demand for their services.

(Un)fortunately for them, the expectations towards IT specialists in business have since evolved significantly. One could even say that in terms of interpersonal skills, they made a 180-degree U-turn.

Why do soft skills matter?

Soft skills are essential for any programmer, regardless of their experience level. People working in IT are now expected to show well-developed interpersonal skills, as they are the key to successful collaboration and communication with colleagues, customers, and various other stakeholders types.

From junior developer to tech leader, each experience level brings its own particular set of required competencies. We firmly believe that unless you develop all core competencies first, you won’t be able to advance to a higher career level.

No wonder Fry’s best friend was a robot.

Let us show you, based on our personal experience at Asper Brothers, what those distinct qualities mean in practice and how they translate to developer seniority levels exactly.

We have divided the soft competency matrix for developers into four layers: junior, regular, senior, and tech lead. Each successive level includes all traits from the previous, plus extra ones.


Soft skills of a Junior Developer

At the junior level, interpersonal skills are fundamental to a programmer’s success. They are required if you want to advance your career to higher levels, be it as a manager or an expert.

The following competencies are intertwined; acquiring additional skills is only possible after learning the basics.

# Self-learning

One of the most critical skills in a Junior developer’s toolbox is knowing how to learn on their own. If well-developed, independence will bear fruit at subsequent career stages, allowing for a rapid acquisition of new technologies and frameworks.

In general, strategic and active learning is one of the most vital competencies for the future. It might not seem like much – after all, most developers have seen their share of online courses and read thousands of pages of documentation – but in actuality, it’s quite an art. When left to their own devices, plenty of people struggle with learning effectively.

The ability to learn on your own is the mastery of independently acquiring new skills and knowledge without relying on external guidance or instruction. This could include researching, using online resources, watching tutorials, or studying textbooks. But it also involves self-reflecting on your progress, knowing what to focus on, and effectively utilizing time and resources. This type of self-directed learning is essential in a landscape dominated by readily-available information and constantly emerging technologies.


# Communication

Beginner programmers must demonstrate strong verbal and written communication skills, as they are often required to present complex technical concepts to laypeople. Such skill involves knowing how to ask relevant questions and when and where to seek help.

Excellent communication is one of our five company values because we can’t imagine a situation in which a client (who is seldom well-versed in technology) doesn’t understand all the intricacies of a project. Boiling down the concept of what they do to its essence is a task (and a test) for a good developer.


# Interpersonal skills

Every IT professional should know how to work as part of a team, and this is especially important in the early stages when you still have more to learn than to teach others. Collaboration is the kind of skill we often develop as early as in school, but transitioning to a work environment can be challenging.


# Critical thinking

A programmer’s career also brings a considerable amount of criticism and feedback. They must know how to approach it constructively, extract as much information as possible, and apply it to improve their work.

You should learn how to take emotions out of the equation and not treat professional criticism as a reflection of your personal worth. As a Junior, a developer learns how to handle and respond to feedback, which they can later apply when learning how to pass it on to others.


# Problem-solving

The next skill on our list is problem-solving, which is the ability to approach problems creatively and arrive at solutions by means that can sometimes be non-orthodox. Although being able to work hard until the problem is solved is part of it, self-development when lacking appropriate skills might also be required.


# Self-awareness

The path of a Junior will culminate in acquiring a considerable level of self-awareness, which in this case is best understood as possessing a firm grasp of own strengths and weaknesses.

This skill is incredibly beneficial during project work, as it allows for realistically estimating where work can benefit from your input and when it’s best to leave it to your colleagues. This way, you can bring the most value to the project while ensuring you won’t slow it down.

We often observe that in the labor market, there are many professionals who title themselves mid- or even senior-level with minimal work experience. No candidate should be disqualified from the recruitment process based solely on the number of years of work experience, but on the other hand — what is the chance of developing all the above competencies if they’ve been on the job market only for three years? We can certainly assume that this person has not developed enough self-awareness.


Soft skills of a Regular Developer

With the basics gained at the junior level, a regular developer should be additionally characterized by responsibility and emotional intelligence.

# Accountability

An experienced developer should take responsibility for their decisions and know how to demonstrate the reasoning behind them. Moreover, they must know when to take responsibility for their part of the work on the project.

At this stage, the developer works independently. Developing this trait further, a developer should always finish their tasks on time or inform the team when they’re having issues they cannot resolve on their own without causing delays. Additionally, this skill means being honest about made mistakes, taking responsibility for them by suggesting possible solutions, and participating in solving them.


# Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is otherwise known as emotional balancing. A programmer should be able to adjust their emotions to the situation at hand and be professional when dealing with other people.

During a difficult meeting, which does occasionally happen in any setting, it is imperative to keep one’s emotions in check and not get carried away with anger, frustration, or grief when talking to a demanding client.

Any developer with well-developed emotional intelligence is able to keep their cool when talking to clients. They’re fully aware that business is what their day-to-day work depends on.


# Time management

It is also essential to consider whether a developer can manage their time. Time management is the ability to prioritize and oversee one’s work time to ensure continuity of work on a project.


Soft skills of a Senior Developer

What more could you wish for from a programmer? It may seem that all the most vital qualities have already been listed, and we now have the perfect developer materializing in front of us. Actually, this is far from the truth.

At the senior level, developers should be able to take a step back and consider the bigger picture. Understanding the impact their decisions have on the organization and being able to effectively communicate their ideas to stakeholders and other decision-makers is crucial.

# Attention to detail

Because senior developers are usually in charge of code review, it is imperative that they are meticulous about their code — to carefully read and analyze it, check for errors, and test before deployment. The programmer should also carefully follow all programming standards, including using proper variable names, identifiers, and comments.


# The ability to lead a small group of developers

Since their position requires a great deal of knowledge and experience, a senior developer should be able to effectively manage their team, which means delegating their tasks and optimizing their workflow.

As a leader, the senior developer helps create and properly deliver projects, monitors the progress of the work, and ensures that it gets delivered on time. When assembling a team, senior developers must ensure that all group members possess the knowledge required to get the best results.

The leader must also know how to eliminate potential problems, resolve in-group conflicts, and mentor and guide junior developers.


Soft skills of a Technical Lead

Finally, technical leaders must possess an even broader set of interpersonal skills, which also strongly depends on how the role is defined at the organizational level. Some such positions will be firmly rooted in a technical framework, others in people management, and some will mix the two.

In general, a tech lead should be able to guide teams, inspire collaboration, and motivate team members to realize their full potential.

# The ability to manage project stakeholders

The ability to manage project stakeholders is a trait that clearly distinguishes a senior developer from a tech lead material. Technical leaders should be able to build relationships with stakeholders and effectively communicate their organization’s vision and goals.

In addition, they should be able to evaluate their team’s performance and make decisions that will benefit the entire organization.


Comparison table: soft skills by developer experience level

Because we firmly believe that the competencies we’ve mentioned are universal and standard for many dev shops and start-ups, we collected them in the form of a table, so you can easily refer to them in the future.


So how about that basement?

Interpersonal skills are essential for any programmer, regardless of experience level. By mastering them, developers can become more effective and truly successful in their roles.

It seems almost impossible for a programmer to be solely concerned with coding and not have to participate in the life of the company and team. Have you ever looked at soft skills this way?

Now they seem insanely important, perhaps as important as technical skills, and are usually pushed aside or checked “on a gut feeling” in the hiring process.

It’s often assumed that if a programmer has experience working in a group setting, they have developed the ability to collaborate. Nothing could be farther from the truth.


By Magdalena Pokrzywa.


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Brushing up on the importance of soft skills in IT? Effective leadership requires a unique blend of technical knowledge and interpersonal acumen, which can often take time and experience to fully develop. With our expertise, we’re here to provide you with personalized guidance, practical solutions, and actionable strategies.



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