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For the majority of people planning a career in software development, it's all about hard skills. It's natural because the technology field is dynamic and it's constantly changing with new frameworks emerging while others become obsolete. Usually, the learning path starts with diving into the basics of computer science, attending web-development courses, and acquiring practice through participation in hackathons, and technical meetups to keep the knowledge relevant.
While these activities are essential to be a good developer, it's only half of the job. Previously, the development process was rather linear that's why the hard skills were given a higher priority. But there are always people behind the great products. This idea called for changes in the used methodologies and gave birth to Agile, the philosophy that transformed the software engineering industry having the massive spread through the last years. Almost 71% of companies adopted the methods offered by this methodology and caused high interest in employees' soft skills.
Agile philosophy always puts people over the processes, thus more and more companies nowadays want to hire specialists with strong soft skills, because they are much harder to develop than closing some technical gaps that come with the experience.
So here we go with the top 5 soft skills that are critical for a developer working in Agile environments:
1. Efficient Communication
Despite the fact that the majority of time developers spend on coding, they also need to communicate a lot. They communicate with co-workers and tech leads to find the best solution to a problem, with a product owner or project management to report the progress and for sure clients to demo the work done, or discuss new technical tasks or project details. Sometimes, the information to deliver is not pleasant, when some request is not achievable from the technical point of view, or you need to defend your point of view in the argument why your solution is better than the colleagues one. So, you will need to know how to learn the basics of nonviolent communication and other strategies to make communication effective.
Development work may be unpredictable, because the changes of project scope, or technology
stack, are inevitable. Especially in the Agile environments where continuous delivery and improvements are thriving. There may be many reasons for them and sometimes they are impossible to predict when a force majeure happens, or a business sets up new requirements. Being able to quickly adapt to these changes upskill, and learning how to work with the new technology stack is important for any developer. It's all about embracing agility in practice.
3. Conflict Management
Agile is full of communication and team events where sometimes conflicts are not inevitable. Let's take retrospective sessions where the team is discussing the previous iteration period, be it a sprint or the whole project, and share the views on what was good, what they loved, and what went wrong and could have been done better.
The second part is a tricky one, as it may be hard to explain everything keeping emotions under control, thus there's a high risk of conflicts. They may cause disruption of a friendly atmosphere in the team, and personal tensions negatively impact productivity and project quality. That's why knowing how to turn them into constructive discussions and striving to find win-win situations are vital. Even if you are not in the leading position it's equally beneficial for your growth as a specialist.
In a dynamic environment, changing tasks and priorities, it's easy for developers to become demotivated when they just follow the instructions. Proactiveness here can help to take more control over your work. Developing this skill is critical for career advancement, as the higher the position and the more responsibility it bears, the closer attention is dedicated to the assessment of the candidate's proactiveness. It starts small with being not afraid to clarify why a task should be done this way, offering your ideas on how to improve a certain solution, and enhancing your knowledge by taking on completely new tasks. It's also about sharing concerns and raising red flags that may lead to potential risks on the project.
The delivery of a product is only possible with united efforts, where the participation of every individual as well as their interaction with one another plays a huge role and helps to turn all great ideas into practice. So being a team player is probably the first soft skill for a developer. Supporting team members, giving a helpful hand, and working in one direction that are core pillars of collaboration help to achieve the desired results faster.
Performing a self-assessment or asking your direct managers or HR specialists for feedback on the soft skills is the first step to realize your strong and weak points. It helps to outline the development plan and seek ways to improve them. It may include reading professional books and articles, attending workshops, and volunteering to take tasks that will help implement the learned techniques in practice.
Putting the efforts in this direction will be beneficial especially now when the web-development industry is undergoing changes. The tendency of automation and enhancement of the development processes with Artificial Intelligence and smart algorithms that will make code writing easier will transform web development. Thus, the importance of soft skills, interpersonal connections, and the ability to work in a team will become even more important.