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Software Engineering Soft Skills – 6 Focus Areas That You Need

Software engineering soft skills are non-technical skills used to facilitate collaboration, communication, problem-solving, and decision-making in software development. These skills are important because they enable software engineers to work effectively with diverse teams, manage projects, and understand the needs of users and stakeholders.

Improving one’s soft skills can significantly enhance career success by improving the ability to lead, communicate effectively, and deliver valuable solutions. This article will provide practical guidance on how to improve your software engineering soft skills, including techniques for building collaboration, communication, and teamwork skills. By the end, you will be better equipped to navigate complex software projects and contribute to building high-functioning development teams.

Why Soft Skills Matter in Software Engineering

In software engineering, it’s easy to focus solely on technical skills and ignore the importance of soft skills. Social media certainly doesn’t help us any with this. However, soft skills play a crucial role in software development. Soft skills refer to interpersonal skills that help individuals communicate, collaborate, and work well with others.

There are different kinds of soft skills in software engineering, and I often just like to think of these as people skills. As funny as it might sound, these are just the skills that make working with someone enjoyable and that you can trust them fully in the work you’re doing with them. I’ll share some examples, but they’re certainly not limited to these.

You can follow along with this video for some thoughts on non-technical software engineering skills:


Effective communication is essential for software developers since they must often interact with other team members and stakeholders. This includes communicating technical information to non-technical stakeholders, such as product managers or customers. And to be clear, that’s not to say that these individuals aren’t ever technical, it’s just that they likely won’t have the same technical depth as you.

To be successful in software development, it’s crucial to be able to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing. We spend so much of our time:

  • Reading and writing code

  • Exchanging messages on internal chat

  • Reading and writing emails

  • Reviewing code and leaving comments

  • Discussing designs and writing design documents

The list goes on! These are all regularly occurring things for software engineers.

Teamwork & Collaboration

Teamwork is another critical soft skill in software engineering. Many software projects require the collaboration of teams with different areas of expertise. In fact, I think it’s extremely rare from my own professional experience that you’re ever working on stuff completely in isolation. Even if you’re the only software engineer on a project, you still need to collaborate with stakeholders at some point!

Effective teamwork requires clear communication, trust, and the ability to handle conflicts constructively. If you don’t have experience working in teams then it’s a skill I’d suggest building up. You can consider collaborating online with other developers, team sports, school projects, etc… Find opportunities where you can consciously put effort into getting better at team work.


Adaptability is also a vital soft skill in software development. This refers to the ability to embrace changes and adapt to new situations. Software development projects are rarely stagnant, so developers need to be ready to change direction when necessary. Being adaptable allows developers to handle changing requirements or unforeseen roadblocks effectively.

The only thing certain is that the plans will change.

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Ways to Improve Your Software Engineering Soft Skills

Improving soft skills is an ongoing process that requires intentionality and dedication.

Here are six ways to improve your soft skills:

1. Building Self-Awareness Through Feedback and Assessment

Types of feedback and assessments can be useful tools to build self-awareness. Feedback from mentors, peers, and even co-workers can help you understand your strengths and weaknesses. Assessments such as DISC or Myers-Briggs can also provide insight into your personality type and how to communicate effectively with others. Once you understand your soft skill strengths and weaknesses, you can create an actionable plan to improve them.

2. Communicating Effectively with Team Members and Stakeholders

Clear and effective communication is crucial for success in software development. Effective communication requires active listening and a clear understanding of the message being conveyed. Tips for clear and concise communication include:

  • Breaking down complex information into small, digestible pieces

  • Ensuring the message is appropriate for the recipient’s level of technical expertise

  • Choosing the appropriate method of communication.

3. Developing Active Listening Skills

Active listening is an essential part of effective communication. It involves hearing and understanding the message being conveyed. Active listening involves making eye contact, clarifying the message, summarizing what was said, and providing feedback.

Do you find yourself just waiting for an opening to share your thoughts? If so, you’re likely not actively listening. You’ve probably encountered other people doing this when you interact with them. Sometimes it’s very obvious, and other times it’s subtle. But when you catch on, you really feel like there’s no point in sharing your perspective because nobody is listening.

Practicing active listening skills can lead to better communication and clearer understanding of software development challenges and solutions. Try it in your next one on one or when you’re meeting with a colleague next. If you find it difficult, try making a mental note to pause for a full second or two before replying.

4. Building Empathy with Users and Customers

Empathy is the ability to understand and feel the emotions of others. Building empathy with users and customers can help software developers understand their needs better, which can lead to more effective solutions. Ways to build empathy include user research, customer feedback, and observing customer behavior. It’s important to balance empathy with business needs to ensure the software development solution meets the business requirements.

5. Building Effective Collaboration Through Teamwork

Effective teamwork is vital to the success of software development projects. Creating a collaborative culture through open communication, sharing ideas, and constructive feedback can lead to better outcomes. Tips for effective collaboration include setting clear expectations, embracing diversity, and providing opportunities for team members to develop trust and respect for each other.

You can lean into this “yes and” strategy that I discuss in this video to put a more positive spin on a lot of your collaborative efforts with other software engineers:

6. Demonstrating Flexibility and Adaptability

Flexibility and adaptability are critical in fast-paced software development projects. Being open to changing priorities and adjusting to new requirements can lead to improved outcomes. Tips for developing flexibility and adaptability include being open to feedback and constructive criticism and accepting that change is inevitable. Balancing flexibility and adaptability with deadlines and business needs is essential to achieving success in software development projects.

Common Challenges Improving Software Engineering Soft Skills

Improving software engineering soft skills can be a challenge, but some common barriers can make it even more challenging. Recognizing these barriers and implementing strategies to address them can help you overcome them and improve your soft skills.

Lack of Self Awareness

One common barrier is the lack of self-awareness. Without recognizing your soft skill strengths and weaknesses, it can be challenging to know where to focus your efforts. You might think you’re communicating clearly when you’re not, or the opposite — you think you’re doing a very poor job but your messaging comes across very cleary. I often find it’s the former though, which can create friction with others.

Seek out feedback from mentors, peers, and colleagues to gain a greater understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Utilize assessments to gain additional insights in personality type and communication style. Once you have a clear understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, you can develop and implement an actionable plan to improve them.

You might even be someone in a more senior position being asked for feedback! Speaking of self-awareness, consider the topics covered in this video to improve feedback opportunities:

Lack of Support and Resources

Another common barrier is the lack of support and resources. It can be challenging to gain access to resources or support systems to help you improve soft skills such as communication, teamwork, or empathy.

However, there are many resources available if you go looking! They just might not feel like they’re in plain sight:

  • Online, such as blogs, tutorials, and webinars.

  • Seek out a mentor or a peer who can provide guidance and support on improving specific soft skills

  • Finding a colleague you’ve built trust with and getting peer feedback

  • Asking your manager to help go through your software engineering soft skill set with you

Finding something to start with is certainly better than inaction!

Improper Time Management

Time management can be another challenge when improving your soft skills. Juggling work, personal life, and improving your soft skills can be daunting. Consider scheduling specific times each week to focus on improving your soft skills. This could be done through online classes, reading articles, or working with a mentor. The ability to prioritize and manage the development of soft skills in software engineering can lead to lasting improvements.

Fear and Self-Doubt

Finally, overcoming self-doubt and fear of failure can often be a significant barrier to improving your soft skills. Remember that much of your growth will happen through trial and error, and it’s okay to make mistakes. Set goals for yourself and celebrate your successes. Don’t shy away from new experiences that force you out of your comfort zone. Embracing challenges can help you grow and develop new soft skills.

In summary, recognizing the common barriers to improving soft skills and implementing strategies to overcome them can help you become a more well-rounded software developer with more effective communication, better teamwork, and greater adaptability. Improve your soft skills to excel in the software development industry.

Wrapping Up Software Engineering Soft Skills

As software engineering grows in complexity, innovative solutions can only be achieved through collaboration, creativity, and vision. All of which are unreachable without effective communication. In addition, software developers are always interacting with various team members, including end-users, QA teams, product owners, and fellow engineers.

Developing project deliverables from highly technical code to user stories and communicating what is being done to both technical and non-technical members of the project teams requires software engineering soft skills. Improving these skills could help budding or experienced engineers generate better solutions for a broader range of issues. Improving soft skills requires ongoing self-examination and continuous effort, akin to technical skill growth.

As a software engineer, you should contemplate and reflect on how you can better improve your soft skills with users, customers, and team members. Consequently, your growth in these skills can not only lead to a successful career but also help you advance your skills further! If you’re interested in more learning opportunities, subscribe to my free weekly newsletter and check out my YouTube channel!

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