5 soft skills engineers must build

Jun 07, 2019
hackajob Staff

At hackajob, we champion the idea of skills over CV’s. But when it comes to skill set, we don’t solely mean all-things technical. In fact, we believe that certain soft skills can be just as important as how well you write a piece of code.

Look at any job description (technical or otherwise) and it’ll probably include some kind of soft skills under the ‘required’ section. As technology advances and AI, in particular, becomes more prominent, skills such as leadership, teamwork and effective communication are more important than ever before. Engineers now need to take into consideration the idea of developing soft skills, in order to be hired at a new company. In fact, a good, varied mix of both technical and soft skills is what will make a difference when joining a new team.

We spoke to our in-house experts to understand exactly which soft skills engineers should consider building to ace that all-important interview and work well in a team. Here are their top 5:

1. Teamwork/collaboration

As an engineer, you’re likely to end up working with lots of people from different departments. This means working with a large variety of characters and personalities, at different levels of the chain of command. Since engineers almost never work alone, teamwork is an essential part of succeeding on individual projects, as well as overall careers. In fact, teamwork not only leads to better relationships with colleagues but also greater collaboration and innovation as a whole. The best ideas come from groups rather than individuals, so collaboration is an essential skill to master as an engineer.

As an engineer, there are several ways that you can improve your teamwork and collaboration abilities. Paired programming and team-wide hackathons are a brilliant way to get connected with different members of the tech team, but it’s important to branch out and speak with wider members of the company. You could do this via team building activities and pick specific exercises for different scenarios that you feel need covering. As an example, does your wider team need to become more familiar with each other or recover from a cross-team conflict?

If the above examples don’t seem necessary for you or your company just now, another great option is to round up the team or someone you maybe haven’t interacted with before, and every so often go and grab either a coffee together or pick-up some sweet treats and encourage that kind of sharing and bonding in a more informal setting.

2. Communication

It can be easy to underestimate the importance of building good communication skills. Whilst technical skills are incredibly important, it’s also key to be a good listener in a profession where clarity and understanding are essential components of finishing up team-led projects.

Work on your communication skills by setting a tone amongst your team. How often should the team get together? Is it okay to contact someone after hours? By completing this task, you’re encouraging people to stay on the same page as you and communication should flow effectively. By collaborating together, you’ll be able to foster a positive environment with your fellow engineers.

3. Time management/organisation

Time management is probably the most critical skill that any engineer should learn. Allowing your working time to become much more productive, by utilising your time effectively, you’ll be able to power through your tasks and get more done. Organise your work life by having a calendar, team meetings and regular sprints.

The key to successful time management? Assessing how you work best and measuring the different aspects of your work as accurately as you can. Try and get into the habit of taking onboard your sprint activity, then slotting in tasks and deadlines into your calendar. This will also help you to satisfy any clients who may want time estimates for work being completed.

4. Leadership

Expertise is obviously an important attribute for any engineer to have, but once you climb the career ladder and become a team lead as an example, you’ll need to manage and motivate engineers. This means managing your own workload, but also delegating tasks, guiding people and coordinating different projects. In order to become a good leader, you’ll want to master as many ‘soft’ skills as you can.

One of the biggest leadership skills to master? The ability to take challenges head-on whilst creating trust and motivating your wider team.

To be a good leader, you’ll need to start thinking about the wider business. We’re talking financial constraints, office politics, monthly results and the general organisational culture. Take time to understand the utmost business metrics of the company, as well as the pain points within your department.

Learn to establish a ‘solutions mindset’ where you focus on objectives rather than problems. By concentrating on achieving an outcome rather than complaining about any hurdles you may encounter on the way, you’ll build positive connections with those on the tech team and beyond.

5. Adaptability

Last but not least, adaptability is a quality skill for engineers to learn. Having the ability to modify and adjust to different scenarios, the idea of adaptability also means being able to identify solutions to unforeseen problems and making the necessary modifications to be able to adapt quickly to a new environment. Adaptability is especially important for anyone working in the tech industry, given how much it constantly changes and adapts.

There are a number of ways to work on your adaptability skills. Make sure to get into the habit of looking for several solutions to a certain problem, or paths to a certain goal. Talk to other engineers and see how they’ve learned to adapt themselves; hackathons are a great place to do this. Learn to use your creativity in various projects and don’t forget to put yourself in fast-paced situations in order to get used to adapting culture, strategies and projects.

As an engineer, working on these 5 soft skills will set you apart from other team members and will help you develop your work and more. Helping to make you a valuable employee and a great leader, learning these 5 skills will help you to advance your personal career. Want to find out more about how to perform to your best ability at work? Read our article on how to engineer your career.