Solid communication skills might not be the first attribute that comes to mind when you think of what makes a great software engineer However, clear and concise communication is fundamental to your success as a developer.
In this article, we’ll show you exactly why developing great communication skills should be one of your top priorities. We’ll also share a few handpicked tips to help both senior and semi-senior developers improve their communication skills and, most importantly, become better software engineers.
Your code isn’t everything: Understanding the importance of communication skills
As software engineers, getting lost in code might seem like a solitary process. But the reality is that your role is extremely collaborative and highly dependent on communication skills
As a senior developer working remotely, chances are you spend a lot of time on email, IM, and in meetings. That’s because, in most cases, you’re working on projects designed to solve problems and drive value for somebody else. And doing that requires much more than just coding knowledge; more than anything, it requires rock-solid communication skills.
While many developers might choose to code under the spell of headphones, it is important to remember that your role is extremely collaborative. If you’re working as a member of a dev team, for example, communication skills are key to being able to work together with your team members, discuss ideas and opinions, as well as give/receive feedback regarding a particular project. Your communication skills are also key to working with your clients, understanding their needs, and developing solutions tailored to them.
In order to create solutions that drive value for your end-users, you first need to understand the problems they are trying to overcome. Having solid communication skills is key to being able to emphasize with the end-users of your software and understand their needs, long before you start punching out code.
Keep in mind, however, that effective communication skills aren’t just important in the early stages of a project; they also play a vital role in software implementation. As engineers, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that once we’ve developed a piece of software, we need to be able to explain it’s value to our co-workers or clients, who often come from a non-tech background. Strong communication skills are vital when explaining what we’ve engineered, what problems our developments solve, and how to implement them effectively.
Tips for effective communication in software development
Keep it short and sweet
Unfortunately, many people mistake having good communication skills for being wordy and over-explanatory. The best communication, however, is short, simple, and direct.
Nothing is more frustrating than deciphering essay-length emails or attending a ZOOM meeting about something that could have been solved over IM. Get into the habit of sending short, direct emails and avoid calls/meetings unless they’re absolutely necessary. Not only will you be saving time, but you’ll also be respecting the time constraints of the people you work with. Brevity is key to developing great communication skills.
Ask questions and request feedback
Assumptions are the mother of all mistakes. Unfortunately, as software engineers, it's easy to fall into the trap of assuming our coworkers or clients think the way we do. Luckily, falling out of the habit of assuming is easy; all you need to do is ask for input or feedback. Not only will you save yourself a lot of time by addressing potential problems early, but you’ll simultaneously be honing your communication skills as well.
Next time you present a piece of software to a client, for example, provide them with personalized instructions based on what you know to be their biggest priorities and challenges. Then, ask them if your instructions helped, and adjust your approach next time around.
Also, remember that when in doubt, always ask questions. Asking team mates or clients for clarification doesn’t undermine your value as a developer; it directly strengthens your communication skills.
Remember to listen!
Communication isn’t just about expressing yourself. One of the main requirements of effective communication skills is being an active listener. After all, you can’t expect to truly understand the needs and concerns of the people you work with if you’re not hearing what they are saying.
Some great techniques to help you become a better listener (and, in turn, develop better communication skills) are not interrupting people when they speak to you and rephrasing what they’ve said to ensure you’re on the same page.
Remember, software development is a collaborative role that calls for a lot more than just great code. Any developer looking to fast-track their career and find the best remote developing jobs needs to be a great listener, a strong collaborator, and count with solid communication skills.