The typical developer, a reclusive, individual living in a basement, typing code feverishly between walls of littered fast food containers – it’s a stereotype that has been perpetuated by popular culture. Yet, today we understand that nothing can be further from the truth. The developers of the digital age are well-rounded individuals who work in fast-paced environments in which exciting innovations are born. Software developers need communication skills in order to establish themselves as valuable team players and essential parts of highly functional workforces.
Direct client communication
The era in which developers were desk-bound and confined to their offices while client services handled all the people-related matters, is long gone. Today, developers are often called upon to communicate directly with clients. This makes it essential for devs to be able to communicate technical concepts to non-technical people. Essentially, if a dev is playing a pivotal role in solving a client’s problem using technology, then who better to ask about the final result than the dev himself/herself?
This is why, even in agency environments, devs are often called into client-facing meetings and expected to be able to give input in a way that is practical and relatable. For some, becoming a good communicator in this sense is a big challenge, but the most senior developers understand that mastering this skill will set them apart as trusted, knowledgeable sources of information in the workplace.
Good leaders are effective communicators
As Amy McCabe asserts, software developers need communication skills if they aspire to be future leaders in their own right. Today’s devs are strong climbers of the proverbial career ladder, proving that they have technical ability as well as the “soft skills” that are required to manage people. Leading a team, making tough decisions, inculcating a work culture of openness and responsibility – all these goals require devs to step away from the code and focus on developing people. Delegation as a leader is essential to getting the job done, and to delegate effectively, you need to be able to communicate tasks and goals in a clear, concise manner.
Of course not all software developers have high aspirations to become leaders, but those who do, will need to invest in becoming good speakers, good listeners and good writers. As Jon Cairns puts it: “If you possess the ability to work well with others, to be able to lead and to follow when required and to communicate your ideas clearly and empathetically, then you possess something that is far more valuable than programming knowledge or experience.”
Approachability goes a long way
There’s nothing worse than working with someone who comes to work every morning with a dark cloud hanging over their heads and a huge “leave me alone” sign emblazoned on their foreheads in invisible ink. This is true for employees across the board. Cronofy makes this point very succinctly: “If you can establish a rapport with people, they’re more likely to work with you and not against you.” It’s really that simple.
Because of the prevailing stereotypes and old-school misconceptions, devs are often regarded as being intimidating and unapproachable. It’s important that the myth of the “loner genius nerd” is unravelled so that the industry becomes a more attractive prospect for a wider group of people. Approachability will go a long way in shifting that mindset. According to Claire Cain Miller puts it: “The loner stereotype can deter talented people from the industry — not just women, but anyone who thinks that sounds like an unattractive job description.” Approachability begins with taking out your headphones, asking a colleague about their interests or patiently running through a complex concept with a client one more time. Simple but powerful.
Software developers need communication skills because in many senses, the coding world is shifting away from being about humans communicating with machines, towards humans communicating with humans via machines. In today’s workplace, skills like empathy, demonstrating respect and listening are characterised by emotional intelligence, which is just as important as one’s IQ.
When we talk about communication skills, we’re referring to verbal kinds of communication, like doing a presentation or giving a talk, as well as non-verbal communication like body language and something as simple as sending an email response. Good people skills require qualities like patience, compassion and open-mindedness. As always, practice makes perfect.
At Hyperiondev, our mentors are friendly, approachable and helpful. Allow us to guide you towards building a successful career in coding as we demonstrate just how important effective communication is in the digital age. Schedule a call with us – we’d love to meet you.