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Soft Skills: The Software Developer’s Life Manual

Soft Skills CoverSoft Skills are extremely important for developers. Ever since Brian Prince created a Soft Skills series and gave similar talks at conferences, I’ve been made aware of the term “Soft Skills” and why they are important for developers. Too many technologists focus only on coding skills and not on the other things that you need to know in order to advance your career in companies that are staffed by (believe it or not) human beings.

I even cover a few soft skills that you need in order to be considered a “professional” in my last podcast, because I think they are that important. So, when I heard John Sonmez talk on the Entreprogrammers podcast about this book, I knew I had to check it out.

The book is called Soft Skills: The software developer’s life manual, and it is a great addition to every technical person’s library. Even those who are non-technical could get a lot out of the book, but it does have a target audience of technical individuals.

Soft Skills is written so that it can be read either in one sitting or as a guide to be consulted in times of need. Even if you feel like you “know” a topic, I would still recommend reading the section, because John has such an interesting perspective on each area.

The sections cover Career, Marketing Yourself, Learning, Productivity, Financial, Fitness, and Spirit. No, I didn’t change topics; John does cover money and well-being (mental, physical, and spiritual) in this book. Developers and technical people often live very sedentary lifestyles and build up their minds at the expense of their bodies. John sees no such dichotomy.

I first became familiar with the author from his Simple Programmer blog, his Pluralsight courses, and then from his podcasts and guest podcast appearances. I am a customer of his “How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer” course and this book continues the quality material that he is known for producing. For those who are also customers of that course, there is a little bit of overlap between the course and this book, but nothing that should keep you from buying and reading this book.

Lastly, this book is a great investment. With so many technical books threatening to be out of date before they are finished printing, John Sonmez has authored an instant classic that will be valuable for years to come. Just like Clean Code, The Pragmatic Programmer, and Code Complete, this book is one that you can read and reread in order to continually improve as a person in the workforce.

I highly recommend this book.

Winners and Losers

Gold Trophy, labeled for reuse from WikipediaI was listening to James Altucher’s interview with Shane Snow this morning and some of their discussion reminded me of something that Ron Carter (former podcast guest) is fond of saying. It is a quote that I try to remember and live by, so I thought that I’d share it here.

Winners take the blame when something goes wrong and give (or share) credit when things go right. Losers look to assign blame when things go wrong and hog the credit when things go right.

That’s applicable in so many areas of life. Think about the quarterback who goes before the press after a loss and says that he made the wrong read or that he has to play better when the real problem was that his receiver ran the wrong route or his offensive line was a sieve. However, on victory day that same quarterback is praising the offensive line’s protection and the play calling and the receivers’ exceptional skill.

That is the same model that we should seek to have. Don’t worry that you aren’t going to get your proper credit. If you did a great job, your teammates will know your role. And they won’t forget that you helped them shine, too. More than that, though, they’ll respect you for not throwing them under the bus when things go wrong.

This isn’t just about success and failure in a team environment. When a loser fails on solo endeavors, he’ll look to blame society, his equipment, the government, his family, his parents, whatever. Anything but turning the gaze inward and looking to see how the failure can be an opportunity to learn and grow and improve.

Winners take responsibility. Winners share credit. Winners learn from mistakes. Be a winner.

On Helping Other People

Life PreserverA very common objection that I hear that keeps people from teaching others is that the person feels that they aren’t “expert” enough to teach someone else. Any while I don’t doubt that the person lacks the credentials to be an “expert”, they do have some life experience to share.

The way I heard it described the other day on The Podcast Answer Man (link to episode) was that it is more about where each person is in their life. As an adult, I don’t see a 6th grader as having a wealth of knowledge. However, to a 4th grader, the 6th grader has a lot of valuable answers and experience to share.

All of you have at least a “6th grade level knowledge” about something. Go out and be a hero to someone who is at that 5th grade level or below. As long as you are honest about where you’re at and what your story is, you aren’t a fraud or a phony. Everyone is a beginner at some point. There is nothing wrong with an “advanced beginner” or higher turning around and helping those on the trail behind them.

Excuses are a crutch. If you feel compelled to help others, just do it. Start a blog, start a podcast, speak at user groups… whatever gets you excited. Your content won’t be for everyone, but – NEWS FLASH – no content pleases everyone. If someone is too advanced for your content, then they aren’t in your core audience. As long as you didn’t promise an advanced session, don’t worry about it.

Now go create!