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What are some important soft skills one should work on to do great in tech ?

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Anonymous User at Taro Communitya year ago

I work as an E4/L4 equivalent Software Engineer at a fairly big tech company (5k+ employees).
My org's Senior Director is interested in helping engineers in his team develop good soft skills which align with one's career aspirations.

I have my 1st recurring 1:1 with him soon where we'll be brainstorming over which skills I can work on one by one. I want to go in this meeting with some ideas.

Personally, at this stage of my career, I haven't thought about whether I would like to stay in IC role or get into management some years down the line. So for now, I want to work on the soft skills which would generically provide best returns in future in the tech industry.

The ones which come to my mind are -
- Presentation Skills
- Leadership Skills
- Conducting meetings well with a large audience
- Decision Making

Can you please share the right skills to work on from your side ?
Also any pointers on action items I can take for each skill you recommend (or for above mentioned skills) will be of great help too. Thanks.

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Discussion

(2 comments)
  • 5

    Such a great question!! It's amazing that your director is trying to focus on area, because it's soft skills are often separates great engineers from the average (and you are on Taro to learn about it!!)

    Personally, at this stage of my career, I haven't thought about whether I would like to stay in IC role or get into management some years down the line.

    Great! There are many resources and videos on Taro (like this recent one) about this, but if there's one thing most engineers gets wrong about IC vs Management track is that they think only the management track requires you to work with people, or one requires better soft skills than the other. I believe this to be very wrong. High level IC (Senior+) and managers really both rely on influence on their jobs done, so learning soft skills is a great to level up your game no matter which path you end up taking.

    The ones which come to my mind are -
    - Presentation Skills
    - Leadership Skills
    - Conducting meetings well with a large audience
    - Decision Making

    These (though "leadership skills" and "decision making" might be a little too generic to categorize as skills) are definitely useful skills to have. That being said, I don't think these skills determine your fundamental competency as an engineer. For example, presentation skills are really useful, especially if you are demo'ing your work or need to present at conferences. Good presentation help you shine when you've already all the ground work. However, these events happen so infrequently in your job as a SWE, that the added benefit doesn't really make a difference in your day-to-day and in general during your performance. In the case of Amazon, they are infamous for ditching powerpoint presentations at all levels of company in favor of written documents - and I would recommend getting better at writing clearly and concisely if this is more along the line you would like to pursue.

    Having said that, I think there's one skill that trumps them all - and that's relationship building. Alex and Rahul did a great talk on this, and paying attention to do the small things to build deep, lasting working relationships will pay dividends the more how senior you go. It will help you deliver features faster. Make better decisions as a team. Have other people who wants to be lead by you and/or wants to help you succeed.

  • 0
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a year ago

    Here are 2 fantastic threads filled with resources I think would be helpful for you:

    Since you're the equivalent of an L4, I recommend this thread around what a strong senior engineer looks like.

    I'm glad your org's senior director has such a large interest in the growth of their engineers - That's awesome!