Exceptional communication skills might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of software engineers. The landscape of software development, however, is evolving.
6 Communication Skills for Developers
- Active listening
- Verbal communication
- The ability to translate jargon into user-friendly terms
- Presentation skills
- Soft skills such as empathy, a positive attitude, humility and the ability to collaborate
- The ability to accept feedback
Developers who can convey their ideas clearly and collaborate seamlessly play a major role in achieving smoother project workflows, better code quality, stronger teams and ultimately higher ROI.
Communication skills are the most crucial skill employers seek in new hires, according to a National Association of Colleges and Employers report. More and more companies are realizing that developers with poor communication skills will eventually be replaced by ChatGPT’s capabilities to write code.
As a result, they are hiring software engineers with outstanding communication skills who can write code and also understand what the clients want, consult with them adequately, break their business needs into smaller milestones, explain concisely what and why they have accomplished and much more.
6 Communication Skills Developers Need
My experience working at a bespoke software development company shows that outstanding communication is composed of many other soft skills developers must have. If they work on these interpersonal skills, they will naturally become great communicators as well. Below are a few that I find most important. It’s what we look for in new hires and what we encourage employees to constantly improve.
Developers should listen to colleagues and clients actively to fully understand their needs and requirements. That skill helps to read between the lines, especially when the project is complex. More often than not, clients come to us to solve one problem. But after digging a bit deeper into their business case and listening carefully to their true pains, we discover that the actual problem is somewhere else. So, active listening helps prevent misunderstandings and ensures that the final product aligns with the desired outcome.
In addition to listening and understanding what others have in mind, you need the ability to express what you have in mind with words. Effective verbal communication is necessary to articulate your ideas, provide updates and answer questions clearly and confidently. In fact, much of your work involves explaining your ideas successfully and discussing solutions with colleagues and clients. When you’ve mastered expressing yourself verbally, you feel, sound and look more confident. That boosts your persuasion skills, too.
Technical jargon translation
Developers often work with non-technical stakeholders who may not be familiar with technical jargon. The ability to translate complex technical concepts into business terms is invaluable. In fact, this is one of the most desired skills among software engineers. After all, technology is here to serve us and we use it to solve real-life problems. When speaking to clients and writing documentation, code and emails, we must be able to explain those technical terms in human, real-life language.
To be able to present effectively, you need to be able to speak with confidence and conviction. For senior developers or those in leadership roles, the ability to give effective presentations to technical and non-technical audiences is important for conveying complex ideas and project updates.
Empathy and other soft skills
The soft skills of empathy, a positive attitude, humility and the ability to collaborate are of tremendous importance when working closely with designers, project managers, quality assurance teams, other developers and clients. They help build a positive and transparent working environment where everyone feels comfortable to share their ideas and concerns, give and receive feedback and brainstorm solutions. It’s also how you resolve conflicts quickly and constructively.
An aggressive or negative attitude only causes more conflicts and prolongs finding the best solution. If you criticize or attack a person responsible for a code error, for example, you risk shutting down any open-mindedness. This eliminates any chance of working together to find a collaborative solution that moves the project forward.
Practice your ability to give and receive constructive feedback from others. A culture of feedback helps improve the quality of code and the working environment as a whole and fosters continuous improvement. It’s a fast lane for learning your strengths and weaknesses and helping others get better at their work and relationships.
4 Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills
Improving communication skills is a joint effort between employees and their employers. While each of us is responsible for growing both as a person and as a professional, it’s important for companies to provide a healthy environment that fosters growth in any aspect. Here are just a few ways technical people can improve their communication skills.
Networking is one of the best ways to practice any interpersonal skill. You get to meet new people, exchange ideas, get involved in constructive discussions, learn to express yourself and observe how others behave and react to what you are saying. Growing your network and making connections also boosts your confidence.
For many, networking may mean getting out of your comfort zone. But if you are persistent enough, you will eventually notice how comfortable you begin to feel. You may even notice how differently you speak during meetings with clients and teammates.
Socialize with colleagues
Participating in activities with your colleagues outside of work will help you get to know them better and become more synchronized as a team. Again, that will boost the overall productivity, morale and confidence within the team and will inevitably improve the way you communicate with stakeholders.
What’s more, socializing with your teammates will make you more empathetic and collaborative as you get to know them better. You can easily test how your positive attitude affects others and how it fosters open communication and freedom to give and receive constructive feedback.
This may sound like a huge challenge, but it’s one of the best and fastest ways to polish your communication skills. You get to present in front of an audience, verbally express your knowledge, answer questions, practice your body language and so much more. You get to overcome the fear of speaking in front of any audience, and more importantly, you build confidence while you teach others.
At first, you may start small by organizing internal workshops, presentations and training sessions in your company and to your colleagues. Then, you may get involved in a webinar, speak at a conference and eventually start teaching courses at universities. My colleagues who teach at universities are some of the best communicators in our company and have gained our clients’ trust.
Take a Class
You can always enroll in courses about confidence and body language, public speaking, improv theater, debates and whatnot. But keep in mind that the moment you finish the course, you must continue practicing in order to strengthen these new skills.
As mentioned above, practicing is at the bottom of it all. Use any chance you have to interact with people and test the outcomes when you act and speak in a certain way. After all, you may be a great software engineer with innovative ideas and approaches, but the only way to prove that is to communicate those ideas with equal skill.