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What Skills Outside of a Programming Language Do Developers Need to Succeed?

Communication, time management and collaboration are some of the soft skills required.

Bob Leibholz

By Bob Leibholz

As SVP of Business Development, Bob Leibholz uses his expertise to create proactive expansion and development plans to accelerate key company growth.

10 min read

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Being a software engineer isn’t just about writing code. What soft skills your developers need to be the best.

You’ve probably hired the best developers your company can afford. You might even have teams that are dedicated to specific projects or certain languages. Maybe you’ve hired developers for Java, JavaScript, .NET, C++, and Python. Those developers have already started building exactly what your company needs to accelerate your digital transformation and roll out scalable applications and services.

But something isn’t quite right. Sure, those engineers know their chosen language as if they’d been writing in it since birth, but you might have found them to be lacking in skills necessary to be the most effective developers they can be.

What can you do? You hire engineers that are more than just a one-trick pony. Being an effective developer requires one to be the sum total of several important skills.

Let’s take a look at some of the skills you should either look for in those new engineers or you should encourage. 


This is a big one, and it manifests itself in so many ways. First and foremost, your developers need to be able to communicate effectively with clients. If you have developers who can’t convey to clients what it is they are doing and how they perceive the vision of the project, those developers will struggle mightily. 

But it’s not just about the clients. Your developers also have to communicate with other departments in the company. They need to be able to exchange ideas with operations, admins, security engineers, management, CEOs, and HR professionals. If they are incapable of communicating on such levels, they’ll be working in silos, which isn’t going to do your company any good. This is especially true if your company plans on adopting DevOps in the near future.

Time Management

This can become problematic. Developers are well known for having laser-like focus, which helps them write such incredible code. The problem is, that focus can become rather singular. It’s not unheard of that a developer spends hours on a single line of code or trying to resolve a single bug.

When you need developers to be able to work efficiently, you need to ensure they have effective time management skills. This might mean they need to work with a calendar or time-tracking software to keep them on the right path with their projects. 

Without the ability to properly manage their time, developers can get sucked into a vortex of single-mindedness that isn’t quite conducive to getting work done. If you find you have developers that aren’t good with time, you might find it necessary to have them work with another developer (or a manager) to help them improve on their ability to keep track of time.

Independent Learning 

One would like to think most developers are curious by nature. After all, a certain level of curiosity had to have brought them into the world of computers and tech in the first place, right? That might be the case with many developers, but it’s certainly not guaranteed. 

If you find your developers aren’t going out of their way to learn new things (without your prodding), you should step in and make sure they understand the importance of taking the initiative on learning new things. After all, every new skill your developers learn will directly (or indirectly) and positively impact your company.


It should go without saying that your developers must be able to collaborate. Unless you’ve hired a team of one, your software engineers must work with one another to complete a project. And it goes beyond working with other engineers. Your developers must be able to work with those in operations, UX, security, networking, administration, PR, marketing, and even end users. 

If your developers can’t collaborate effectively, you can be certain the projects they work on will meet several roadblocks along the way. 


This one is tricky, but it should speak to company policy in the modern world. In the past, developers were notorious for not being willing to include others. Women and minorities were often perceived as less skilled and were therefore left out. That kind of behavior doesn’t fly today.

Your developers must not only be willing to work with others, but they must also accept them as peers and equals. If you hire developers who aren’t inclusive, you’ll have trouble retaining talent. It really does boil down to that. Your work environment needs to be accepting and comfortable for all. 

This should be considered an absolute must.


Not everyone works at the same pace. You might have developers who can crank out perfect code with an unheard-of speed. You’ll also have those who are slower. Those who work at a blistering pace must know how to be patient with those who don’t. Impatient developers can become a problem in the workplace. They’ll take control of situations they shouldn’t and they’ll make demands they’re not in a position to make.

You want to be certain that all of your developers are capable of being patient at all times.


It’s not all about ones and zeros, and anyone who says that creativity doesn’t play a role in software development has no idea what they are talking about. You need developers who can be creative and come up with outside-of-the-box solutions to overcome the myriad problems they face. 

A healthy level of creativity will inspire your developers to create on a level you might never have thought possible.


Ego can be an ugly thing. And within the world of developers, ego tends to run rampant. If you find one (or more) of your developers displaying any signs of exaggerated ego, it’s time to put them in check. Such behavior can lead to resentment and disdain within a team, which is counterproductive (to say the least). 

You want to hire developers with a sense of humility, who understand that it takes an entire team to build an app or service worth deploying.

UX Design

Not every developer works directly with UX (User Experience), but every developer should understand the concept and what goes into creating a quality experience for the end user. Developers who don’t get this could wind up working against those who actually are employed to design UX and UI elements for a piece of software. 

Developers don’t have to be designers, but they do have to be able to effectively communicate with UX designers and be able to implement those things the designers require for an application frontend.


There will be times when your developers will have to present project details and updates to others (higher-ups, clients, and customers). If they can’t effectively convey these ideas and details to an audience, the project can meet roadblocks. 

This can become crucial if your developers have to convince stakeholders to buy in on a project. You don’t want to have developers incapable of professional presentations showing off a team’s work to those who might hold the purse strings or prospective clients who will be using the fruit of the team’s labor.


Being a good developer is the sum total of several skills. Having well-rounded software engineers will not only make your teams more effective but your business more profitable. If you find some of your team members displaying brilliant programming skills, but limited tangibles, it’s time to either put them on the education fast track or hire new developers.

Bob Leibholz

By Bob Leibholz

As SVP of Business Development, Bob Leibholz helps BairesDev create proactive development plans. With more than 20 years of proven leadership and expansion experience, Bob spearheads many of the company's highly successful key growth initiatives and international plans.

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