Soft Skills Engineering

Jamison Dance and Dave Smith

It takes more than great code to be a great engineer. Soft Skills Engineering is a weekly advice podcast for software developers about the non-technical stuff that goes into being a great software developer.

All Episodes

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Starting to work on a team that is split across time zones. With a majority of the company based in one time zone and a handful spread in others. I want to emphasis the importance of asynchronous communication. I have found Slack to begin to feel like I need to respond ASAP instead of when it is convenient. If we were to say slack is used for asynchronous communication, is asking the team to use signal or even text appropriate for a quicker response? What is a good way to reach out to team members in cases where a response is needed more immediately? After about 1 year at my developer job, I was moved to work for a client company helping them launch a new product. This other client had different plans, it turns out, and now I’m just testing their API for them. That’s fine but I never get questions answered and I hate my job with my client and hate my job with this company that sells me like a cheap piece of meat. I want to quit, I will quit, but I have a lot to say about why I’m quitting. How can I NOT be nice about quitting and the reasons I’m quitting, and still feel comfortable showing my face in the industry again? I haven’t quit a job before, and this is my first job in the tech industry. Searching how to quit a job always comes with “remain light and positive.

Nov 29

32 min 59 sec

This is a rerun of episode 220. In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Hello, I know you said you don’t read the compliments on air most of the time but this podcast is great. I just found it a few weeks ago and I love the positive fun approach to question answering. It has really made me think about software engineering outside of the ““make code do thing”” box. Anyway, the question: I have been at the same company for 4 years. It is my first job out of college. I have ended up working in so many different languages and frameworks I don’t remember them all. I guess that’s just how things go. Recently I have been selected to take on a scrum master role and I feel I am quickly being groomed for management. That was never really my goal. I wanted to build a depth of knowledge and always have my hands on code. Will taking on these kind of roles hurt my chances at future technical roles? Am I dooming myself to managing spreadsheets and Jira tickets until I retire? Will I only communicate in Dilbert references? My teammate frequently gives status updates or fields follow up questions about work that was mostly done by someone else. I am pretty sure they do this to be helpful not to claim credit for all the work. I just wish I could speak up about the work I contributed primarily to before they do so on my behalf. I wish it didn’t bother me since we are one team and I would rather focus on the progress of the team rather than receiving credit. How should I respond to these situations in a way that allows me to not get bothered emotionally and also do what’s best for the team?

Nov 22

33 min 38 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Many engineers want to go into product management, but I’m the reverse - a product manager who wants to move into engineering. What advice would you give to someone pursuing this path? How would you recommend I spend my time while jobfinding? What type of job should I be looking for? I have a computer science degree but I’ve worked as a PM for 10 years, so… it’s been a while. I’ve pursued various side projects over the years and have a basic working knowledge of lots of things (e.g. android, ios, react, python, computer vision, firebase/serverless functions, databases, algorithms/data structures) but not much depth in any area. I know one option is to convert at the company you’re already at. Take that off the table for a moment and say it has to be at a new company. I recently just quit my first tech job for higher pay at another company. Upon turning in my two weeks notice, my boss coxed me into agreeing to work as a contractor to finish a project I’ve been working on. His argument is that no one else on the team has been involved in my project, is familiar with the tech stack, and has any time to help anyway. I’m finding I don’t have time after the 40 hours I’m putting in at the new job but don’t quite know how to sever ties. I feel like I’m the bad guy. Family and friends all say that It’s not my problem and I should move on… being familiar with the project and company, I can’t help but feel differently. How can I sever ties and get over the feeling of being the bad guy, especially after kind of leading on my employer about contract work the last two weeks, or how can I convince family and friends that this is something I should do to avoid burning a professional bridge.

Nov 15

35 min 27 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions My company recently had a kerfuffle where some teams felt that reviewing a PR in less than 3 weeks was an unreasonable ask. As such, the company is trying to come up with guidelines for cross-team asks. The current proposal is for work of 1-2 hours they will commit to an SLA of 6 months. I feel this is a polite way of saying no to any request. Are there any ways we could come a more reasonable agreement on this? Hi, my laptop has died after upgrading to MacOS Monterrey and I’ve been given a 2017 Macbook with poor specs as a replacement due to no fault of my own. I’m at a startup of around 100 employees and I don’t think we’ve got a mature set up in terms of getting replacement machines. I’m a Senior Engineer and need a speedy laptop for my intense role. It’d be faster for me to use my personal MacBook than using the replacement, but I don’t think that would be allowed. How would you suggest I go about requesting a replacement MacBook with specs that fit my role? Do companies have budgets set aside for these expenses? Thanks

Nov 8

33 min 35 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Hi guys, I’ve been listening for a few months now and am dissatisfied with my current work, where I’ve been for a year. I come from a research background, and now doing an engineering job at a B2B SaaS company is leaving me wanting a change. Moving between teams is not an option, so I plan to move companies early next year. My problem is that I don’t know whether to look for another large or mid-size company (I’m finishing final rounds at Facebook and Palantir), or go to a startup where it is likely to be more interesting (I have an offer to be the lead engineer at a very small startup, where there are already 5 developers). I have one year of industry experience. If I go to the startup, will it negatively impact my career in the future if/when I want to move elsewhere? Would it be easier to move elsewhere, and get a better offer or a higher position, if I work at Facebook or Palantir instead of this startup? Also, while I prefer research, I’m not in the position to go back to grad school and finish my PhD (I finished my MS and left to work) for monetary reasons, so I need to move to another engineering position. I’ve often heard of senior employees “negotiating their exit” instead of resigning/quitting, with rumors of large negotiated payouts. I assume that’s just a select group of people who can, but I’ve never seen much written on that. What is the situation where you can do this? How do you set yourself up for being able to get a payout like this?

Nov 1

28 min 43 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions I’m a developer responsible for hiring other developers for my company. I’m comfortable interviewing and I feel like I can get a good grasp on whether the interviewee is technically competent. My boss wants us to give a take-home technical test to people after the first interview if we’re happy with how they interviewed and want to proceed further. The current technical test is time-boxed and is designed to represent the work they would do at our company. I worry that we ask for too many requirements within the current time constraint of 2 hours, but asking for more time will put people off completely. What can we do to make sure the technical test is fair and a good experience for candidates? Hello Dave and Jamison, I am a team lead at a rapidly expanding company. We have been trying to fill open head counts (>4) for over a year now, and our team is also handed some very important and promising projects, and because of that, even more open reqs for our team. Recently in our 1:1, I was pressing my manager to fill the openings ASAP but he told me our company recruiters are so busy that our team don’t have any dedicated recruiters, and my manager have been sourcing candidates himself for almost a year now. I was surprised by that and offered to help. I had read some materials from the recruiting team, got the tools set up and ready to cold email people I found on LinkedIn. My question is, how do I approach them in an authentic manner? I am proud of my company and our products, but how do I reach out to them without letting them know my primary motivation is get more team members to do the work so I can get more sleep? On the other side of the table, I feel those recruiting emails are cold and a waste of my time. So looking at the funnel I built, I don’t know if I can bring myself to start spamming others’ inbox.

Oct 25

34 min 9 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions I’m a technical lead and I’m planning to take the usual advice and quit my job. The catch is, I have a not-yet-vested interest in staying until the new year. My manager mentioned in passing that he’s doing resource planning for my team for next year. Should I indicate that I’ll be looking for work in the new year? I feel like I have a guarded relationship with my manager, so I don’t feel like it’s a safe space to say just anything. But I know it would be helpful for him to know that I’m leaving. I work at a consulting company and I’ve been outsourced to one of the biggest banks to work on their iOS application. My problem is every time I propose a solution, it bounces back and is never accepted. In my opinion our way of doing things is wrong and I lost motivation and enthusiasm to work on the project. I shared my concerns and thoughts and always got the pat on my back but never found a solution. In these kind of situations, how do you motivate yourself to keep going? Should I look at it as improving my people management skills or should I quit? Thank you both of you. I don’t feel alone when I listen your podcast and I’m simply thankful your existence.

Oct 18

25 min 1 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Listener Anonomomonous asks, How do you influence people and change minds? I work on a team where things often happen by inertia. I have a lot of ideas about how to improve our process, scope our work better, collaborate more effectively etc. I’m comfortable with sharing my concerns and suggestions with my manager and the rest of the team but the opinion of any single developer is usually politely noted and ignored. As an individual contributor, what’s the best way to influence the rest of your team and your manager without being the overly critical toxic person who tries to shut down every idea? For those who work in a “flat” hierarchy structure, is it unreasonable to ask for a 30~35% pay raise? Normally that would sound like an absurd ask. However, given the fact that everyone is considered an “engineer”, the higher compensation that comes with a promotion isn’t available any other way than explicitly asking for it (as far as I know). Not looking to jab an employer for more money, especially since I like my current one, but since what I’m doing on a daily basis sounds an awful lot like the senior engineer positions I hear about, I naturally would like my pay to reflect what I do. What do you suggest?

Oct 11

25 min 8 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions A few years ago my team chose a niche SPA framework (Aurelia) for the front-end of a large multi-year new product development. The team started a new product in the same family. I chose to continue using Aurelia. However, some of the developers on the team have suggested using React - newer framework, easier to hire/retain for, etc. I personally feel that focusing on solid foundational css/html/javascript skills is more important than the actual front-end framework used, but perhaps they have a good point when it comes to retention and hiring. What do you think?

Sep 27

30 min 29 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Listener Lisa asks, Hi Dave and Jamison! How do you answer the statement “You’re very quiet. Like really quiet”? Me? I tend to give a small smile or recently, I said “I know.” I’m a software developer in a large defense company and I’m on my third and final year of my rotational program. I just rotated back to the same area as my first rotation, so I know a couple of folks. However, I’m not SUPER close to these people. My team is fairly new, but most of the members started at the same time, unlike me, who started just three weeks ago. I want to try to know people and get close to them, but at the same time I know my energy lowers after a couple interactions. I have always been known to be quiet, but I don’t want to be known as the odd developer out on my team. The team seems to already know and like each other. I still talk, but only when I have things to say. I tend to stick to doing actually work, while others walk around and talk to people. Especially in the environment I work in, I assumed that we should limit ourselves to mostly chargeable time because we would have to make up the time we spent talking about unrelated work topics. It also doesn’t help that most of my team sit around each other, while I’m in a separate area. I think it would just be awkward for me to stand over their area just to talk, then having to make up that time later on. Should I just accept that I’m mostly an introvert even though I want to belong/to be part of the team? I feel like I want to talk to everyone, but at the same time I sometimes can’t relate to what they’re talking about or I’m just not interested in some of their topics. Aside: I feel like there’s a lot of extroverted developers here and it’s different from what I’m used to. Hiya! I haven’t listened too all your episodes, but out of the ones I’ve heard, it seems like you both suggest quitting our jobs. How many jobs have you quit? My dad had told me a couple years ago (when I was looking for a job) is that if you quit too many times, potential employers would think that you aren’t committed or are only looking to get more money. Is this the case? Will companies think that if I quit multiple times?

Sep 13

31 min 19 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions What should I expect from a junior develop, and how can I help them grow? A junior developer joined my team of 4 a few months ago. He has learned things at a reasonable speed but it is still hard for him to implement new features without any help or existing code to copy. In past jobs, I usually gave juniors simple, easy tasks, but we don’t have that simple tasks in my current job because we’re working on complicated internal systems. Also other junior developers spent lots of their private time learning. I don’t think this junior has spent any time learning in his private time. I don’t want to ask them to learn in their private time, but I just can’t help feel annoyed about the fact that he still cannot pick up a well-defined task in our backlog and complete it by himself. I think he really needs to take some time learning some basics like networking and some skills like keyboard shortcuts of text editors. I know there is lots to learn. However, sometimes I lose my patience when I have to repeat myself. In addition to lack of knowledge and skills, I feel that he always waits somebody to tell him what to do and explain everything to him. I tried to tell him the whole picture of the project before explain a specific task, but I couldn’t see any improvement. What could I do to help him (or make myself feel better)? I’ve worked with 3 managers in the past 2 years at my first company and all of them seem to have trouble producing results from team meetings and one on ones. More specifically, my managers have mentioned things/events/changes they would plan to do with the team or me and several weeks/months go by and the idea is never mentioned again. At times it felt like maybe it was me that was unable to produce the outcomes of said ideas or that maybe I was some sort of a lost cause. However, my most recent manager doubled the ratio of ideas:results, so I don’t think it’s just me. For my one on ones, we have a long running list of things we talk about and even the trail there doesn’t seem to amount to anything. How do I hold my manager accountable for things they say or plan to do? How do I bring up these conversation on one-on-ones without making it seem like I’m the one managing them?

Sep 7

30 min 58 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions How should I deal with the product I am building being called “the worst tool in the domain I’ve ever used”? The product I’m working on is quite old, has many customers, but by no means is a product everyone loves or even talks about. Most of the public feedback I see is negative, with very little praise or even good words about it. Lately, it’s been straining me and affecting my motivation to work on this product, even though otherwise I like working on it, with the great team, good tech stack and so on. Thanks! Hi! I miss going to the gym (because of lockdown) and listening to your podcast while I do cardio! My question: I’m a freelance developer working remotely in a team of other freelancers. This is my first full remote and freelance job setup. Recently, I’ve been feeling like the other developers are “just letting the meter run”, as it takes them a long time to complete tasks (without writing unit tests or documentation), the tickets they work on don’t pass initial QA, they log in late in the day and disappear in the afternoon usually without leaving a slack message or status. Is it understandable to think so negatively about them all the time should I just mind my own business and just manage my feelings? Help appreciated - I have been thinking of leaving this project because of them, which is unfortunate because the company and their product are interesting. Thanks!

Aug 30

27 min 29 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions I have a question about ‘title inflation’, where you get promoted faster than your experience would normally suggest for that specific title. If I’ve been a ‘Senior Software Engineer’ for all of a year, and am now getting recruiting offers for Director and VP of Engineering jobs, is it worth interviewing and seeing where it goes? I don’t really see myself at that level, but I… might be able to level up to it quickly! Should I take a remote work offer or find a new job in a new place? I am moving to another country with my husband in 2 months. I am the only frontend developer in the team and my company has been having difficulty hiring people, so my boss asked me if I could work for the company as a remote employee. I am reluctant to the offer because my plan has always been to find a new job so that I can blend in with the local community. Not to mention the 12-hour time difference and lack of new challenges. Sadly, I find it difficult to reject him and leave my colleagues behind. What is a better action to take?

Aug 23

22 min

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions I work for an all-remote company and I’m about to get promoted. The company says they target a salary increase of 5-10%. Assuming they come to me with an offer on the low-end (5-6%), what’s the best way to go about negotiating a higher raise during promotion? I want to stay at the company and also want the shiny new SENIOR job title, so I feel like I don’t have much leverage in this situation. Any advice is appreciated! Rachel asks, Live coding makes me choke. As soon as someone else is watching, my brain immediately goes to mush and I’m like a chicken with my head cut off. Actually recently I learned it’s not just live coding – it extends to live spreadsheet-making and live cooking as well! I guess I’m not into performing? Anyway, this has come up because it’s impacting my career in real ways. For interviews I offer to do takehomes, which I’m great at, but sometimes I’m told live coding is the standard they apply to all applicants. What’s a non-live coder to do? Show Notes Consumer price index: https://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm @Channel Twitter account: https://twitter.com/Channel https://interviewing.io/

Aug 16

28 min 41 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Should I change tech stacks every few years in order to not get pigeonholed? Is it a good idea to stick with a tech stack for as long as I can or should I follow the market trend and try to learn another promising tech and then try switching into that? Would you advise me to be more of a specialist or a generalist early in my career, and what about later when I’m more experienced? I’m a full-stack web developer who’s just starting out my first job (if that matters) I love this show so much, I’m even trying your goto advice - quitting my job! But not untill I’ve got another lined up so shhh about it already. In the mean time, I work for a huge agency as a senior(ish) developer and have recently started work with a new team. However, they have issues: no one turns on their camera for video calls, which I’m ok with, but it makes the next bit worse somehow - most say the absolute minimum in response to any questions and offer no opionions / thoughts / ideas. It makes things like sprint retro meetings very awkward. We have a scrum master running our meetings who is clearly struggling to engage the team, I try to hold off to let any of the others answer questions but I always seem to end up picking up the slack. I’ve even started timing how long I’ll let the slience endure before jumping in to answer, I’m now waiting 15 seconds. Have you come accross this before? How can I get people to engage more?

Jul 26

25 min 9 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions I have a weekly one-on-one with my manager. What should I talk about in them? Things like feedback and career goals become old and repetitive real soon, and I end up discussing current work items. I understand that a one-on-one is my time to ask questions and don’t want it to be a longer daily-standup. My front-end team mates are in a power struggle with my back-end team mates and my design team mates. They’re intentionally making technical decisions that artificially constrain the choices of other teams. For example, design wants a certain interaction for a new feature, and my team says “nope, it can’t work that way, cause the components we built don’t allow that”. Or, they make tickets for the back-end team as in “endpoints have to work this or that way, because our components assume that structure”. This often seems detrimental and confusing to other teams. When I push back against my team they are angry. When I defend my team other people are angry. When I try to strike a compromise I feel gross because I usually think my team is wrong. I’ve tried talking with other teams and managers about the problem. I feel gross about that too because I don’t want to point fingers or throw my team mates under the bus. Where should I even start?

Jul 19

32 min 16 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Hi Mr.Smith and Mr.Dance, I’m a software engineer at a big software company. I recently learned to self-evaluate and found that I’m really bad at being finger pointed. I am normally an easy-going team player with an open mind. I accept that I can be flawed sometimes, and I would never blame anyone. But whenever someone points their finger at me and says “this bug is caused by YOU!” or more commonly “this bug is caused by YOUR systems!” (sometimes with facepalm emojis or this emoji 🤷), I suddenly become super defensive and frantically try to find counter evidence to prove that it is indeed THEIR system that is at fault, or at least some OTHER systems that is at fault, but definitely NOT MINE. After I cool down for a few days, I regain my composure and realize that what I have done was wrong and not useful to the discussion. This is specifically in the context of informal issue debugging between teams, not strictly a blameless postmortem meeting. I think blaming others is not a good behavior and makes the workplace toxic and unproductive. I would like to improve myself (and others). Any suggestions and recommendations? First of all I have to say a big THANK YOU to the work you’ve been developing, it’s helping me a lot to set my expectations and pave my career path. So, to the question… I’m currently working for a large Brazilian fintech and I’m starting to get a little bit annoyed by the lack of acknowledgement. I’ve already made it clear to my managers a couple of times and I always received great feedbacks and always performed “above the expectations” for my level. But in the last 1:1 we had I was a little bit more insistent about it and the explanation they gave me was “we know that our developers are above the average, we know that a Junior here can easily get Mid-level or even Senior in other companies, but we want to be a tech reference in the country and we don’t want to spoil the devs by promoting them a couple of times in the same year”. I understand this ambition but it got me a little bit frustrated. Of course I don’t want to be a mercenary nor a mediocre developer, but if this is the objective they’re aiming they should at least pay a competitive salary. This conversation really demotivated me, it seems to me they just want a high specialized work-force for a cheap price. I really appreciate everything I’m able to learn inside the company, for sure everyone is above average and being there is like being in school and it’s been really cool. But I’m starting to question if this “trade-off” of low pay and high learning makes sense once you’re already in the Mid-level corporate world. I’m pretty sure I can double my salary in the next month if I wanted to - a couple o recruiters contacted me in linkedin and I also made some interviews -, but this “tech reference and always learning” thing keeps bothering me and I wonder how much of it really makes a difference in the long run.

Jul 12

29 min 11 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions I’m feeling bored and disengaged with my job lately, but I’m pretty sure it’s one of the best jobs I can find: my manager and teammate are great, my compensation is very high for my area, worklife balance/benefits etc are excellent, and the mission and product the company make are awesome and help the world! On top of all that I think the work is technically interesting! But still I’m bored and disengaged :( I can’t tell if I’m just burned out from the pandemic and this is how it’s manifesting, or if I just have a serious case of “the grass is always greener” and now that I’ve been on this team for 2 years I’m ready just for a change of scenery. I want to fall back in love with this job, but how can I do that? Do you have any advice? Changing teams isn’t a great fit as this is a small office for the company in a ““satellite”” site, with only one other team that I’m not super interested in. I could of course take the patented advice and find a new job that might be equally great, but what else can I do? Listener Very Verbose asks, Love the show! I’m rapidly working my way through the backlog and dread the day that I reach the end and have to wait a whole week for the next one! :) Whenever I write a message to a coworker I tend to start with a huge wall of text, then revise it down to something smaller and hit send. I do this with emails, slack messages, code review feedback, you name it. Even this question I’ve re-written a few times! I feel like I’m over-thinking things, and trying to make sure there is no misunderstanding in what I’ve written. For example, a relatively small piece of feedback for a code review might be re-written many times, because I’m concerned that I will come across as overly negative or condescending if I just send through my first draft. Often, the feedback is positive and they agree with the points that I’ve raised. But they’re only seeing 2 points, when I probably started with 10 and deleted 8 of them that I later deemed to be ‘too nitpicky’ before sending it through! Naturally, all of this takes time and I’m often wasting more than 20 mins, only to end up sending 2-3 sentences at the end of it. Do you have any tips for helping me get to the point, so that I can be more productive and move on with other work? Do I just need to care less about what they think of me? Should I just skim over the code, say “LGTM”, and suppress the fear that I may have just approved a critical bug to go to production? Appreciate any advice you can give. Unfortunately, I don’t think inventing a time machine to go back 18 minutes after spending 20 minutes writing a message is a reasonable option :) It would take me several decades to be happy with the time machine before I turn it on!

Jul 5

28 min 35 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Hello!! This is maybe the opposite of a problem, but I’ve found myself stuck - how do you navigate too much interest from outside parties? I work in a pretty niche subsection of software dev, so I field a lot of job offers/recruitment when people start to put together a new team. These are usually coming from managers/people I would be working with directly (and admire!) rather than recruiters. Generally the opportunities are something I could see myself doing one day, but I’m perfectly content in my role as-is for the time being. Where’s the line between expressing interest in future opportunities (emphasis on future) without stringing people along? How many “catch up” conversations are reasonable before it shifts from maintaining a relationship to active recruiting? Apologies if this comes across as a humble brag but I’m getting overwhelmed. Love the show, you rock 🤘 I recently started a new position at a startup after being recruited by one of their senior leaders. Being a startup the company has had its ups and downs, including some layoffs within the last year. I am really loving the company so far, the people, the culture. They really seem to care about correcting past mistakes and listening to feedback from everyone. There is still a good amount of turnover among engineers and engineering managers. I’m sure some turnover is normal especially at startup. But at what point does it really become something I need to be concerned about? What questions should/can I ask to help me get a better picture of what is going on? Is there anything specific I should look out for that might be my cue to start creating a backup plan?

Jun 14

19 min 49 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Hello, I have been working as a software developer for 10+ years now and recently took a job at a non-technical company. I was recruited to craft a web app for this company and thought they had an idea of what it means and the changes it may require. I am the only developer on the project. I feel like, either I’m not communicating well/at all, or they just simply don’t care about the work they recruited me for. I don’t have a good work/life balance since I’m always anxious when I receive an email from the company fearing someone will complain about the quality of my software. I feel isolated and unable to show how my work positively impacts the company Since I know my work is not perfect, I feel like I should not complain at all and just make my software bug-free. I’m doubting my abilities and starting to think I actually don’t know anything about Software Engineering. Because the company is non-technical, do I have the right to say that my work is that essential? What should I do so I don’t feel like crap every morning before going to work? In your last episode, you brought up a listener question about a developer of eight years accepting a senior developer position. I’m in a similar boat, but with far less experience. How much less? Well I’ve worked as a developer only for THREE. This is by no means a flex, but I’m kind of worried that I’m in over my head. There was little due diligence on my new supervisor’s side, so my trepidation is that I’ll be two/three months into my new job and they’ll look at my perf and see “this kid is not a senior at all”. I know, the classic imposter syndrome. I’ve been straight forward with my new supervisor about my experience level—or lack thereof—and they seemed not too worried about it. Do you guys have any advice for me going into this? What can I do to maximise this opportunity I’ve been given this early in my career? Love the show!

Jun 7

24 min 3 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Hey guys! I’m a long-time listener and like many of your other listeners have listened to each episode! Until now I didn’t have anything to ask, however, I have a story to tell and I was hoping for your opinions on this. Someone I know is a somewhat junior dev, they left their first job for a new job that had better pay. They were pretty good at negotiating a good salary, while still being transparent about their work history. But a few months ago management said they were underperforming compared to other coworkers and their pay would have to be cut. At first, they said at most it would be 10%. However, it ended up being 23%, which way less than even their prior job. Needless to say, they’re taking the softskills option and looking for a new job. My question is how commonly does this happen, and what are some telltale signs that this could potentially happen? Thanks for your time and a have great week! I’m 8 years into a career in software engineering and I just accepted a senior engineering position at a well respected tech company in Silicon Valley. While I believe I am qualified for the position, it will be a big step up for me in terms of the caliber of engineers I’ll be working with as well as the overall scale of the system compared to my previous jobs. The standards of engineering and general productivity will likely be higher than I am used to, though I’m excited to level up. I’m not looking for advice about my specific situation, but I’m curious: what are your guys’ priorities during your first days, weeks or months at a new but senior-level job, to ensure you hit the ground running and set yourself up for a successful tenure at the company? Anything you used to do that you don’t anymore? Any common mistakes you see engineers make when they join new teams?

May 24

33 min 44 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions This question came with a delightful ASCII-art diagram that I will now dictate as follows: “pipe space space space space” JK TLDR: I want to move up the ranks but I’m not sure what might await me… except meetings. What should I expect? And how do I get there? Too Small, Want MOAR! I work in a big enterprise as a Tech Lead in an ““agile team””. So day-to-day I focus on getting our team to build the current feature we’re meant to be building (eg by helping other devs, attending meetings, and sometimes writing code). The next step for my career would be what we call an “Engineering Lead” but I’m having a hard time figuring out what that role actually is and our “EL” is so slammed with meetings I’m afraid to take any of their time to ask… SO - Dave & Jamison, can you enlighten me? What might the goals and life be of someone at that level and how would someone who still codes every day(ish) start figuring out what to do to get there? P.S. It’s taken me about 4 years but I’ve finally managed to listen to every single SSE episode! (I have a kid, binging podcasts isn’t possible for me). P.P.S. In an interview recently I was asked ““What’s the most valuable piece of advice you were ever given?”” to which I replied ““To negotiate for better benefits in job interviews, got it from a podcast called ‘Soft Skills Engineering’””. The interviewer thought that was cool, subscribed to your podcast during the interview then REFUSED TO NEGOTIATE ON ANYTHING! >:( Living in a small town my options as a software engineer have been limited to working for one company straight out of uni for 7 years. Wanting to develop in my career, and knowing you have advised others in the past to move on from their first job out of uni. What is your opinion of seeking out and switching jobs into remote work? Will this provide the same development value found in a traditional job switch, especially after the impact COVID has had on the way companies see remote work.

May 10

23 min 1 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Listener “Scrolly McScroll-Face” asks, Hi Team! Love the show. Keep up the great work and congrats on 256 episodes! I think I’m addicted to my phone? Every time my code goes to build, or something I know I need to wait on, I open my phone and start scrolling. 40 seconds later when the build is done, I’m still scrolling. In between thoughts, I also open youtube in new tab fairly regularly. It’s definitely gotten worse while working at home during these times. I’m surely not alone in this slipping of discipline…. I’ve tried to put my phone in the next room and that has some success, but I don’t always remember to do that. Do you have any tips? Anything you’ve seen while managing folks? I love my job and I love the work, so I dont think I’m not engaged enough, and I struggle to see how a different job would engage me more. Hi I am the under-leveled engineer from episode 240, and I want to provide an update and ask a follow up question. I was promoted in this cycle, and because of my shyness I used Jamison’s favorite problem solving technique of doing nothing prior to my review, my compensation in the new level is also underwhelming. Or is it? Comparing my pay with some data point on levels.fyi, my salary is slightly below average. As part of my promotion, I have another equity award, and that is also slightly below average compared to the data points on the site. However, I already have an existing equity award granted to me when I started at my previous level. It is unclear to me if the data points on the site have taken into account for an internal promotion vs an offer extended to an external candidate. If I add in the previous equity awards and my compensation in this new level, then my total seems too be way out of band, on the good side. Digging into it more, there are other sites and blog posts that talk about things like refreshers and bonuses. These are brand new concepts to me since my previous jobs only pay salary, event the tech jobs in middle America. Could you talk about how compensation is structured in the big leagues?

May 3

31 min 17 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions I’m currently in my first job as a software engineer. Before working full time, I worked at the company as an intern, and during the last few weeks of my internship the engineering manager asked ““We want to bring you on full time. What are your salary expectations?”” Naive me, not wanting to cause any trouble, responded with a very moderate number. They give an offer that was 10% less, but with ““really good benefits,”” so I accepted. Just over one year later, I feel like I’ve proven my value to be substantially more than what I asked for, and I know I’m making 10-30% less than my peers. A couple weeks ago, I had my salary review, and rather than the management being open to negotiation (which is what I had expected going in) they just told me ““You’ll be making 4% more this year.”” After the meeting, I mentioned to my manager that I felt that the raise wasn’t representative of the value that I would be giving the company. He responded that they pay ““Within expected ranges for my job title and experience.”” I was a little hurt by this, because I want to be paid based on the value that I provide, not based on my title or experience. I don’t think I should quit the job, because I get along well with the team, enjoy my work, and they are paying for my master’s tuition on the side. What should I do? Hear ye hear ye, Gods of podcasts, I have a question for thees! I think my salary is ok, £60k (UK) and I’ve brought up the subject of raises a couple of times with my boss (2 years ago and 1 year ago) - both times I was told I’m doing pretty well but they’ll look into it. So far no sign of a raise but I’m not annoyed, I really like my job and the people I work with are great. I’m now on paternity leave and have taken the time to do some interviewing to see what’s out there and keep my skills sharp. Turns out I could earn a lot more! Who knew!? I’m now caught between going back to my boss with these other offers to say ““actually no, turns out I’m not doing great, gimmi more money”” or quitting my job for more money but a potentially worse job… help! How do I say ““more money please or I leave”” but nicely?

Apr 19

25 min 28 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Hiya, thank you for the show. It’s very insightful and both of you are pretty charismatic. Without getting too much into details I had a number of difficulties when I was younger which caused me to never finish my computer science degree. I took a job as a Business Intelligence analyst because I needed to move out. Fast forward a few years and I am now an Engineering Manager for one of the biggest companies in the UK - nearly 2000 engineers and around 100.000 employees overall. I consider myself incredibly successful for my age, just turned 30. I manage two teams(11 and 4 ppl) that are seen as the top performers in the Data Engineering department, and that is credited to my leadership. I’ve always been very self conscious of the degree situation. I’ve tried to finish it online a couple times but I simply can’t find how. I am now being asked to apply to my boss’ position as Senior Engineering Manager, which could mean being responsible of 6 teams of around 10 people average and a sizeable budget. I live in constant anxiety from the possibility of hitting a ceiling or being confronted about the degree situation. While I didn’t hide it on the interview process It’s not something I advertise at all but I got to a point where I just don’t know what to do about it. And so that would be my question: What would you advice for someone in my position? I’m working at a small company where we used to have 2 developers. Both of us had at least 10 years of professional experience and both of us are around 28 years old. A few months ago, our bosses decided to hire 3 new FE devs and all of them come from bootcamp. That wouldn’t be so unusual, but all of them are 35+ years old and have families and basically just 6 months of experience. This causes a lot of friction in our team. We’re trying to “mentor” them in best practices and experience we’ve gained over time, but sometimes they don’t accept it, because we’re just too young for them (in one case 10 years younger). Do you have any tips how to approach “mentorship” when it comes from younger to older dev? And how to overcome the 10 year barrier? Show Notes https://www.simscale.com/blog/2017/12/nasa-mars-climate-orbiter-metric/ https://money.cnn.com/2012/05/13/technology/yahoo-ceo-out/index.htm

Apr 12

31 min 5 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Hey there! Thank you so much for the amazing podcast. In my current job I work with an incredible (and very strong technically) team, and I like working with my manager a lot. BUT, during all 1:1s, and annual reviews the feedback is always that I am doing a great job and there is never a negative nor constructive criticism. However, I have been waiting for a promotion for more than a year, I never get assigned to the shinier and more challenging tasks/projects, and for the merit review I was put in the “good” bucket (not great, not the best). So, if I am always doing a great job, what else can I do to get this promotion and be trust worthy of shining projects? Jon asks, I’m having a hard time at work. There is so much to do my team can barely spare the time to collaborate on anything. Even when I ask for help, the overwhelming stress usually results in a snarky response. I’ve been working here for a year under these conditions and I’ve learned a lot but we never talk to each other…I feel like I still don’t have the whole picture because I’ve basically never been onboarded. I want to collaborate with my team but either the organizational structure or sheer amount of work is keeping us in silos. Trying to break them down usually lands me in the dog house. What the heck do I do now? I feel like if I stay I’ll only ever get year 1 dev experience, but I also feel like I’ll be totally useless to any real development team.

Apr 5

25 min 8 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Hi I just listened to your most recent podcast and you mentioned having gone to hand therapy for what I assume is something like repetitive strain injury. It would be great if you could talk about this, I assume lots of engineers have issues with aching arms and hands. Or, to phrase it as a question “my hands often ache after coding for hours. I can no longer work in bed on a laptop or my hands ache for a few days. what did you find out at hand therapy?” Cheers! I am at a large (non FAANG) tech company. We have salary levels/bands. My entire team was laid off, and I was offered a job that is three bands higher with another team. They said usually they would not hire someone of my level, but since they had worked with me before and I was a heavy individual contributor they were willing to interview me for this senior position. By the end of the process they decided I was the most qualified candidate and offered me the job. They don’t want to increase my level at all. This is displeasing to me. I was the most qualified candidate, why not offer me the higher level as well? If an external candidate was the most qualified, they would have offered that person the higher level. Unfortunately, I believe that since I did not negotiate on my initial offer when entering the company my perceived worth is tied to my compensation and low seniority level. How do I broach that I think this is unfair (or that they should increase my salary)? As additional information, I was given a raise by the previous team’s manager of 20k in January as I found out I was the least compensated on the team by 30k and I got upset at my boss because only about half the team had ever made a commit to any repo and most have no understanding of OOP. Perhaps this is why the team was cut. I feel my company might find it weird to see my salary increase twice in one year and reject for that reason. I feel you’re going to tell me to quit and find another job, but I have worked with the new team and can attest that they are kind, smart, have good engineering practices, and are given a lot of attention because they do AI, so it’s not an opportunity I want to miss out on. Thanks, love your show, it’s like car talk for the 21st century. Show Notes Voice Driven Development: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKuRkGkf5HU Patrick McKenzie’s article on salary negotiation: https://www.kalzumeus.com/2012/01/23/salary-negotiation/

Mar 29

32 min 34 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Thanks for the show, I absolutely love getting awkward glances from people when I LOL randomly in public places. I’ve been at my first job for 2 years, including an internship. The work I got to do as an intern was absolutely brilliant and I learned new things almost every day. Then I joined as a full-time employee, and things were good at first. For the past year, things have gone downhill. I barely get to write code and spend most of my time reviewing and writing documents in excel and word. I find this unsatisfying and can barely get the work assigned to me done due to lack of motivation and interest. However, I am fairly convinced that the compensation and other perks I get here, as well as the coworkers and management here are some of the best I could find. Should I follow the soft skills advice and quit, or should I stick around because of the other favourable conditions I mentioned? In other words, how should I decide between satisfying work vs the favourable conditions? Hi, I am a data scientist. I work on a team of about 30 other data scientists. It’s a new team and I have determined after talking to everyone for a few weeks, that about 1/3 of the team does not know Python, 2 even admitting to me privately they lied in the interview, and probably 50-60% have no idea what git is. I feel like they hired a bunch of excel, tableau, business-y people and assumed any experience with data qualified you to do data science. You may say “quit your job” but this is my first job out of college and I don’t think I could find another easily. Do I tell my manager about this? How do I teach them these things? I’ve already had to pick up a lot of slack on the team, luckily since I have no kids, no girlfriend, a ton of free time, and have been coding since middle school it’s been manageable, but I’m concerned about how to handle this going forward.

Mar 22

33 min 30 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions How do I incentivize people to maintain documentation? Getting anything done at this large enterprise company is a massive challenge because documentation is constantly out of date and people only have half the information needed. So much time gets wasted because people have contradicting knowledge about the status of projects, systems, or requirements. Should I just quit my job or can this be fixed? Greetings! First off, great show - thanks for the countless episodes, most of which result in me getting weird looks as I chuckle to myself while running and listening. I have a passion for technology which lead me to a career in development. I am very often researching new languages and software that will help us do our jobs and/or lives better in my free time. I get excited about these things I find and want to share them with my co-workers but often get rebuffed by them, asking me why I spend my free time “working”. I know I can’t expect everyone to share my enthusiasm and passion for this stuff, but I am finding it discouraging being on a team where this curiosity is not celebrated/encouraged. I love the company I work for and don’t want to leave, but I find myself becoming more and more disconnected from my team because of this. Any suggestions on how I can share my passion with my co-workers is a way that is mutually beneficial to me and them? Thanks, keep up the great work! Show notes Gary Bernhardt’s WAT video from 2012: https://www.destroyallsoftware.com/talks/wat

Mar 15

29 min 45 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions I’m not a developer, and have never worked with developers. I have four years of systems/IT experience (ansible, bash, python, windows, etc). I got hired in a devops role at a company with many developers. How can I make sure I’ll have meaningful discussions (and a good learing experience) with software developers in my upcoming devops role at a new company? Will they notice that I don’t know what an enterprise communication bus is if just don’t ask but instead scribble something in my notebook? I just watched “How to crash an airplane” by Nickolas Means. It is about how the flight crew of an airplane crashed in 1989 yet saved 189 lives. The learning is that there are no heroes and teams can succeed only with inputs from all members in the team. All opinions need to be heard. And he also emphasizes that the captain used “we” in all his speeches. When it comes to interviews, the expectation is to talk about your personal experience. Using “we” during interviews would look like negative, right? Especially in leadership interviews, this is difficult since leaders are successful only with their team. Can you give us some strategies to balance this the best?

Mar 8

23 min 59 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions I’m a Tech Lead at a decent sized corporation. If I want to grow towards a promotion my options are a more people management track towards Engineering Lead (basically a TL who also manages 1-2 other TLs) or a more technical track towards Staff TL. Where I’m struggling is I don’t know how I would actually work towards the Staff level, seeing as most of my time is spent wrapped up in mentoring, coaching, planning meetings, and just generally large blocks of time spent on Zoom. Have you ever seen someone move down that path? I worry I would be letting my other responsibilities slip through the cracks by focusing on my own technical advancement. How should I balance what my team needs from me vs. what I need to focus on to get to a role like that? Is the best way to get there 1 step back (to being an individual contributor again) and then two steps forward (working towards Staff Engineer then Staff TL)? Hello soft skills! Love the show and your great banter, keep the laughs coming. Do you have any tips for ‘active listening’? My manager is very, very chatty and our catch ups over zoom often last two hours or more. I find myself drifting in and out while he talks and then need to snap out of it when I hear something that might be useful. How do I keep focused in extra long meetings where we are one on one and the content is not particularly interesting? Thanks! Show Notes https://mediocre.dev/it-takes-more

Mar 1

28 min 4 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions I recently took over to manage development at a small company that has been around for a few decades. We just wrapped up a four year effort to move to a more modern web stack. The development style before my new position is best described as ‘Wild West’. My direct boss’s philosophy can be illustrated with the following phrases: “We are going to have to rewrite it, so just get it out fast.” “Just hardcode the sh*!@ out of it” “It just has to look like it works, but it doesn’t really have to work.” My boss is the co-founder of the company and ran development before me. I have made a concerted effort with my current team to introduce best practices, Unit Testing, PSR standards, APIs and so forth but engagement is really low. I’ve tried every way I know how to get them to care about quality code, tests, standards, etc but they just don’t respond. They are more concerned about getting things out fast which is nice but not my top priority. I’d rather have clean, predictable code that doesn’t break in production. How do I get my team to buy off on these principles? Hi Dave and Jamison How do I communicate all of the self-study that I’ve done to potential employers? I transitioned from a bachelor’s degree in the health sciences to the software industry and I have now worked as a data scientist for a couple of years. I spent a lot of time and effort taking free online classes in mathematics and computer science through Stanford and MIT. Over 3 years I’ve probably done the equivalent of half of a math degree and about a third of a full CS curriculum. And even though I’m employed now, I still keep working on more advanced classes in my spare time. How can I communicate this to potential employers considering that I’m not getting any academic credits for my effort? Should I just leave this off my resume? Is it okay to mention that I have audited those classes? Any other ideas? Thanks for the lovely podcast.

Feb 22

28 min 59 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Our engineering manager keeps sneaking/creeping on our private slack channels. As an admin of the workspace he can join any private slack channel without being invited. I feel like this is an unacceptable behavior. What should I do? Should I just reach out to him and ask him not to abuse his admin privileges? Should I setup a discord server for me and my fellow developers? Or should I take the soft skills engineering advice and quit my job? Thank you guys for your awesome podcast. I have recently begun my foray into management with the reception of my first subordinate. I selected him due to his illustrious undergraduate project presentation and his ability to expound on the intricacies of said projects. But, I’m having a hard time managing my expectations. He is unable to complete the simplest of tasks, often going off on tangents that, despite being given the answer, result in spending hours in unrelated rabbit holes. Additionally, he asked for a high salary and was promised an increase scheduled ahead of review. As a first-time manager, I worry that I am inflicting unrealistic expectations especially since software is my passion. I enjoy learning learning new languages and technologies. What is the best way to let him know that he is not meeting expectations? How can I say this without my typical brashness which will ultimately result in me blurting out something to the tune of “you aren’t nearly as capable as you made yourself out to be”?

Feb 15

31 min 31 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions What is your opinion about estimates. Is it a good practice? Are they helpful or just a guess? Should we estimate in story points or hours? How can we improve our estimation skills to be more accurate? I really don’t like estimating. I don’t think it is a good practice because we almost never get it right. The teams that I have worked also almost always made wrong estimates, causing us to miss our sprints commitments frequently. Is it a problem with this practice, or there is a way to improve it? I heard about the Kanban method, that don’t use estimations, but metrics, to give predictability. What do you think? Hello Soft Skills Audio :) Love the show and the great advice, I look forward to the show every week. I just joined a company that embraces hotdesking and I’m having trouble feeling like I am part of the team. All the engineers report into the head of engineering but we work on different projects. I work with one other engineer who works remotely from another state, and take direction from the product owner who works from another. The culture of hotdesking across five floors of a multistory building means each morning I end up circling around hunting for a place to sit. Because anyone can sit anywhere, I could be sitting next to someone new from sales, marketing, finance, or engineering everyday. Everyone always looks hard at work with headphones on and our organization chart doesn’t feature profile photos. I’ve tried introducing myself to the people I find myself next to but it’s just small talk and I never see them again as everyone shuffles around. I’m sick of sitting alone at lunch and missing out on “watercooler” conversations. How do I make friends and figure out how I fit in with an office environment like this?

Feb 8

32 min 23 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions I listen to the show while I’m working out and wanted you to know I’ve almost dropped the weight on myself multiple times when one of you cracks a funny joke (which is often, I’m learning to be more careful)😂. I work for a growing startup as a dev manager. Hiring has proven to be one of our most difficult challenges. We had one candidate in particular that would qualify as a potentially “Risky” since they lacked experience in our industry. We ended up hiring them because their salary requirements were so low, they were half of what we pay other junior engineers. They quickly proved be miles above the Junior engineer position. They have strong technical skills, are proactive with resolving problems, and have raised the bar for the entire dev organization. They currently meet all the criteria for what we would qualify as a Senior engineer at our company. I’ve started feeling uncomfortable about how little we are paying this person. I’ve brought this concern up with management, but their take is that if they asked for the little amount that they did, then we should leave them at that for as long as they are comfortable there. The part that takes this to a whole new level of humanitarian concern for me is that, in passing, I found out that this person is trying to get approval for adoption and that is why they had to leave their consulting background and settle for a salary job. I’m familiar with the adoption process and if we were paying them what they were actually worth (or even 25% closer to what that number is) the entire process would be different for them. I want to take care of the company, but I also believe that we should pay people what they are worth. What should I do? I’ve recently joined a new company (hoorah!) and even more exciting, I’m engaged (double hoorah)! Previously, I’ve focused heavily on my career progression and decided what a good job for me was based on my selfish reasons (more pay). Now, my priorities are shifting towards family first and I’ve been looking into any parental benefits the company may offer (unfortunately none). Is it worth looking around for a company that will provide better parental leave benefits and child-care days?

Feb 1

28 min 19 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Hello soft skills audio, love the show and your great advice. My question is how do I stop sweating the small stuff. I have one colleague who either can’t spell, or types so fast the words make no sense and doesn’t correct the mistakes. Emails, comments in code, comments in PRs, presentations to management, everything is a garbled mess and makes us look bad as a team. Another colleague just can’t stop talking in ‘business speak’. Every conversation is twice as long as it should be because they need to ‘touch base on what’s happening in this space and will circle back’ These are by no means ‘quit your job’ problems. How do I avoid eye rolling and getting frustrated over something so minor? I’ve been working at a software company for almost 10 years now. It’s an amazing company, 5 minutes from where I live, with a really good culture. I have an awesome role as a senior developer working with interesting new technologies, a lot of flexibility, responsibilities and a valued opinion on both technological and company-wide matters. However, this is still my first job. I’ve invested a lot of time and effort on career growth the last few years but I feel like there are only a few developers at my company who share the same level of enthusiasm and the need to grow as I do. I’ve been able to bring in new tech, introduce modern practices and share knowledge with my colleagues, but it feels like I’m the only one who’s actively pushing for this. Since this is my first job, I don’t know if this is the case in other places as well. I’ve done some freelance projects on the side to learn more about how things work somewhere else but mostly I’m the only senior dev on these projects. On the one hand I have a job that I love, on the other hand I don’t really know what’s out there. I feel like I might regret it later if I don’t try something else but based on other people’s experiences, I know it’s hard to find a company with such a good culture and understanding as where I am right now. Switching jobs would also give me a significant salary increase, but will require a longer commute. There are only a few software companies in my area. Can you help me figure out if I should take the blue pill or the red pill?

Jan 25

29 min 26 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions My coworker Alice reached out to me in confidence to say that another coworker, Blake, is leaving in about a month. Blake told Alice in confidence that they intend to put in their two-weeks notice next week. Making things better, Blake is our entire ops team (<3 bus factor of 1) and our startup was not planning on hiring anyone else into that team for three more months! Do I have an obligation to respect their twice-removed confidentiality? Or do I have an obligation to the company (and my remaining coworkers) to push to start hiring their replacement sooner? I’m concerned that if I do nothing, it’s a risk to the company because Blake plays such a critical role and we did not setup Blake in an HA configuration, but I’m also wary of doing something that seems like an ethical gray area. I’m not in management, so I have no ability to directly start hiring. But I’m a senior IC and pretty heavily vested in the success of this company. And bummed about my dear departing friend/colleague! And bummed that my workload is about to go up as all of us learn to be ops engineers, too! Help! I don’t want to have to take the soft skills patented advice of quitting my job when the startup crumbles under the ops team’s departure, so what do I do instead? Someone I worked closely with on a previous job has reached out to me, asking for a referral and recommendation to my current company. The problem is, I really didn’t enjoy working with this person. The experience was so bad it prompted me to leave that job for another one. I didn’t want to burn bridges, so when I left the job, I cited personal reasons and did not mention the real reason was that I hated the interpersonal dynamics there. It could be the case that their toxic behavior was partly due to the toxic organization we were in. It’s also possible that over the years they’ve matured, but I don’t know. On the other hand, each time I’ve asked someone for a referral, they’ve always done it, so I assume that there’s an expectation to refer previous coworkers? I can’t in good conscience recommend this person to my current company. If I provide my true opinions, I suppose they’d eventually find out. Can this person sue me for defamation if they don’t get hired?

Jan 18

28 min 43 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Quite often my manager writes me in the morning: hey, can you help the team with this thing? And sometimes it happens so that I know no more than “the team” about the thing, and actually there’s no way in the world I can help them, but everyone assumes that I am some kind of expert in it. Where did they get that impression? This is so irritating! I absolutely love to be asked for help when what I’m asked for is kind of “my thing”. But in some cases, I can’t just say “hey, this is not really my specialty, I will be more of a burden here”, because everyone would think that I’m just lazy or unwilling to help. And then I sit and struggle through the process of everyone asking me questions I obviously don’t know answers to, and I try to guess or figure out these answers, and I suffer because I don’t meet everyone else’s expectations, and everyone else suffers because no one knows what to do, and it goes on and on and on… I don’t know about you - do you find yourself in such situations and what do you do if you do? My company just asked me if I’m interested in going to a conference that’s about a month away, but I’m currently in the process of job hunting and don’t know if I’m going to be around for much longer than a month. What do I do? It feels dishonest to go and then leave the company shortly after. But it also feels dishonest to say “Nope! Not interested!” because I actually would like to go. There’s also the benefit that people often are recruiting at conferences so it might be a great place to be for that.

Jan 11

21 min 59 sec

It’s one more re-run before we are back with new stuff! Enjoy this episode from November 2018, back when Tiger King didn’t yet exist. In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions I sit in a desk with 3 other people. One of those people does a great job of personal hygiene…the other two not so much. I have dropped a couple of hints about it (I mentioned it is a good idea not to wear the same pair shoes/trainers every day so you’re feet don’t start to smell). Some days, my stomach will churn from the smells that inevitably waft over. What should I do - I am worried if I tell my boss to talk to them, he will mark me as a troublemaker/overly sensitive. To make things worse, one of them sits opposite and puts his feet under my desk, so the, let’s be frank, absolutely awful stench is right under my nose! :? It’s not just feet by the way, we are talking the full BO experience. I was at a interview recently. When being asked for expected salary. I mentioned a number lot more than what the company was expecting. It’s already been a week and I haven’t received a response from them. I really really love the company and the project they are working on. I would love to to contact the HR personal and tell that I am interested in the position even if it means less money. How do I approach the situation? I don’t want to mess it up more than I already have. 🙁

Jan 5

25 min 2 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions How do you quit when you’re indispensable to the team? I am the lead developer at a startup. I have a small team of 3 developers under me. I am essentially the “person who wrote all the code”. I have an offer from another startup for more money and more percentages of the company and they want me over there asap. I’m afraid to quit this startup as I fear that it’s not yet at a place where it could survive without me. I realize that sounds super egotistical but unfortunately I don’t have a successor ATM and none of the other developers are at a level where I could potentially train them to be my successor in the time frame I have with the other offer. The other sticky thing is that the current startup probably doesn’t have enough money to hire someone at my level for what they’d actually be worth. I, and the rest of the team, are severely underpaid, as this is a bootstrapped startup. Love your show, would love to hear your guys’ take on this. I recently interned at a local factory to help clean up some broken 20 year old databases. After remaking them, I quickly became a rising star and word spread fast of my aptitude. I was offered a full time salary position, in which I was able to negotiate for some special privileges and a cool title: software engineer. I am having an awesome time building little tools for various departments while learning different languages. I’ve been very fulfilled with the projects and recognition I’ve been getting, there’s just one problem: the IT department absolutely despises me. They see my sole existence as an affront to their entire structure. I am a part of the engineering team and work very closely with product and process engineers, which is apparently hurtful to their ego. Lately, IT has been actively obstructing every project I work on and refusing many requests, sometimes with obviously false excuses. I do not have admin privileges, I have limited internet access, I’m not even allowed to have my email password. It’s at a point where I start getting serious anxiety when I need to see IT (e.g. to install a framework or IDE extension). How can I navigate these awful encounters without letting it harm my view on the rest of the job? I am feeling like I need to wage war but I want to retain my golden boy status.

Dec 2020

34 min 1 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions I became a software engineer 4 years ago after graduating from a bootcamp. I then worked a few software jobs in middle America. About a year and a half ago, I got a job in a well know tech start up and moved to a big city with heavy software/tech presence. Before I moved, I suspected I was good at software engineering, and after working in this tech startup “in the big leagues”, I confirmed my suspicion by quickly becoming the go to engineer for the team. I just finished a project that delivered a major tech component of our core system, and received lots of kudos. Because of this I suspect I was mis-hired for my current level; this is the first job that I can compare myself with more than 10 software engineer peers, and evidently I am above average. I used to tell myself I was not that good because I didn’t work at a “real tech company.” I am pretty certain I will get promoted in the next cycle, but how can I land my compensation to be above average in the pay band as well? Should I share my feeling that I was mis-hired in my current position? How do I push back the work I do not really want to do while still being a team player? My manager assigned me a project that I do not really want to work on and when I try to push back, he said he finds me the best person that suits this. I ended up doing it since I want to be a team player, but I don’t believe it will benefit me in the long term in the team. How can I push back to my manager in other occasion in the future? Thanks for your podcast, it has been very amazing.

Dec 2020

34 min 38 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Really love the podcast. Keep it up! I’m in a senior role at a software company and have been here over 5 years. I have come up with a SaaS product idea after finding a problem in my company’s engineering process and started working on it. It solves a niche problem in general software development so it isn’t related to my company product. I would like to use this product at my current company both to help me manage the technical issues at my current company and to help validate and grow the idea. Should I have any concerns with what I’m doing? Can my company claim my idea as it’s own? What should I be doing now to protect myself? Any other things I should consider? Does it make sense to validate a new side hustle idea at a company while working full time at said company? Please help soft skills wizards: Junior eng at a huge conglomerate, quit mid-patent process (OK I HAD A PRODUCTIVE TUESDAY A MONTH AGO and I’m pretty good with mermaid.js). If they come back with a job offer post-departure, since I am the sole inventor on this patent, how do I properly handle this one? My manager was…. extremely toxic and every attempt that was made to move was botched either by CoViD-19 or my chain of command. I don’t think I could feasibly have a positive interaction with my former manager and working under him has had a significant impact on my mental health. But…. I loved my work. I loved some of the people I worked with. Sometimes it being a huge conglomerate had its upsides as well: I was able to bend the rules as long as the bureaucracy had prevented someone from implementing the visibility that would have demonstrated the rules were bent. If they give me an offer to return as a junior architect I would be very tempted to do so, but would be afraid of being anywhere near my former manager, director or VP.

Dec 2020

26 min 17 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions A few years ago, my current company did a big no-no which turned into a scandal that made national headlines. When I was considering joining, I said it was important for me to feel ethically aligned with my work, and asked about how things had changed since The Incident. They told me they stopped doing bad things, and I accepted the offer. Well, during my time at the company, it has slowly been dawning on me that my team is THE TEAM in question. I finally gathered the courage to ask a coworker, and he confirmed that this was true, and that there’s more designs coming down the pipeline that he and other devs are uncomfortable building. He brought it up with our manager and he was basically told “business is business”. As devs, we don’t make the decisions. And our golden handcuffs are really shiny. Should I leave, stay and try to influence change from the inside, or stay and maybe be a whistleblower one day if need be? I think I made a horrible mistake. I gave up an undesirable job for a fairly large tech company, and joined a Drupal agency. These two weeks have been the longest year of my life. I haven’t written one line of code, and the Drupal admin is incomprehensible. Since it’s only been a (relatively) short time here, how do I get back in the job market without looking like a chump? Do I remove it from my resume? Do I own it like a hideous tattoo? What do I tell hiring managers; whether its a gap in my resume, or that I want to leave after only 2 weeks? Any and all help is appreciated. Thank you!

Nov 2020

31 min 44 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions I am REALLY into music. I mostly get paid to listen to Spotify. With this in mind I decided to apply for a new job at a “globally leading audio technology company”. The job would be paying a lot more. About 30% more minimum based on the advertised salary range. However, I hate the stack being used! I have been given a homework assignment to complete, but it has not been an enjoyable experience. I enjoy my current job, however the company doesn’t seem as stable, and their are complications with tax/benefits which i won’t get into. So to summarize, should I take the classic SoftSkills engineering advice and quit my job for a sweet pay check and an interesting industry, to suffer the stack? Maybe I will learn to love it? Any advice? I’m at my first developer job at an ad agency, and on a regular basis I and my co-workers are working well in excess of the 40-50 hours a week (closer to 60+). On many occasions we work the weekends as well. I’ve worked on websites, a couple of apps within a proprietary system, banner ads, and html emails. I’ve learned as much as I’m going to at this job. There are no code reviews, no training, and no on-boarding. I no longer want to work at the agency, but I can’t afford to just quit my job. Given the perceivable lack of transferable skills(recruiters have said this to me, ie no product experience), what are some of my options? Mind you, I also don’t have a fancy CS or CS-related degree that I can leverage. Show Notes https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knuth%27s_up-arrow_notation http://boston.conman.org/2003/12/02.3

Nov 2020

24 min 51 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Can you talk about making mistakes at work? How do you handle it, how do you frame it when you talk about it, do you try to minimize or be honest about it, how soon is it to pretend nothing went wrong and you’re doing great, etc. Thanks! Hello there, Huge fan of the show here, I often laugh hysterically listening to it on long commutes and people think I am on drugs. I just finished grad school in a foreign country and i am in the middle of negotiating a job offer with a company whose field of expertise is my passion. All seem to be going well and i have a feeling that the company is hugely interested in me. HOWEVER when we arrived at the salary subject i found that WAN… WAN… they want to pay me a fresh graduate salary even though i have 3 years of part-time and 1 year of full-time development experience abroad; i know their decision is not based on my skills as i did not even have to do a technical test (we mainly talked about the tools i used in the past and the work i did related to that field and it was convincing enough). As i see the situation, I have 2 options of either take their offer and use it as a learning experience before switching to a well paying company or say No and go on Vettery? Let me know what you would do in my case. Merci Show Notes Patrick McKenzie’s article on salary negotiation: https://www.kalzumeus.com/2012/01/23/salary-negotiation/

Nov 2020

33 min 6 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions I work as an IC in a team which owns 3 very different and large parts of the system. Our team is 4 experienced engineers and 1 intern. Historically each person was assigned to a single part and, as you might expect, we have a bus factor problem. With this layout we’re making as much progress as possible and it helps us to compete on the market but creates a dangerous situation if someone would decide to leave (spoiler: I will). What would you do if you were IC, team lead or a manager in such a team? We’re already exceeding headcount so it’s not an option. I am a developer with 1.5 years of experience, and was put on a greenfield project to rapidly develop a new application. We have a contractor that came onboard to help with the process. On the very first day of meeting this person I noticed their propensity to not allow anyone else to talk and interrupt. Fast forward several months and this person has really become a micromanager, they’re requesting the source files from our UI contractor, they got another person kicked off the project because they didn’t like the changes they were making interfering in their development process, they have constantly hoarded all the real dev work and work frequently until 9pm. I have voiced my concerns to the PM, mainly about the bus-factor, since layoffs are likely coming and this person likely won’t be converted. At this point I am just tuning out on this project. I do the scrap issues the contractor basically doesn’t want, but I am seeking learning opportunities elsewhere within the company and have nearly zero interest in the project which I see as a ticking time bomb. What would you recommend? I could potentially escalate the issue to the manager of our team but I basically see working with this individual as toxic and the PM as autopiloting to the finish line. Show Notes https://www.computerworld.com/article/2534312/the–640k–quote-won-t-go-away—-but-did-gates-really-say-it-.html - apparently the bill gates quote is apocryphal

Nov 2020

27 min 16 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions How can I stay at a job for a long period of time? I’m on my second job after graduating and as I’m approaching my first year at this company I’m already thinking of moving somewhere else. A similar thing happened at my previous job where I stayed for around 15 months. I feel that by switching companies so often I’m hurting both my personal development and future employability. At the same time the easiest way to get a better role or a raise is to switch jobs. What should I do? Have I just not been lucky enough to find a company that offers better career progression which would give me a reason to stay? Is the problem with me? How did you deal with this in your own careers? How about when you’re making hiring decisions - are you wary of hiring frequent job switchers? Great podcast btw, keep it up Is firing the new counteroffer? A junior dev on my team confronted us with an offer he got from another company. He is already paid at the limit of his range, his upcoming performance review is “not great, not horrible”. The amount offered to him would put him in our lower senior range and there is no justification for that at all. He made it clear he is in a complicated financial situation (got his bank account emptied and credits maxed out). I don’t see a path to him getting close to the salary he got offered in the next year or even longer. We are not a company that fires people if they do not grow at a certain rate, but given his situation he is probably not going to stick around for long. He also made it clear he would like to stay if not for the salary, but now I am thinking it might be the best for the company to fire him, maybe even for him. Is that cruel, which other options am I missing? Given your eternal backlog of questions your advice is probably coming late, I would still be interested in it. Thanks for all the other advice, it’s both entertaining and very helpful. Best from Colombia

Nov 2020

29 min 23 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions My (very large) company has an alternative definition of “unit testing”. Unit testing at this company refers to when a developer manually tests their code in whatever interface the code is associated with after they write it. An example usage would be a standup status update such as “I finished writing the code for ticket x I am just doing unit testing to make sure my code works”. My concern is that there is very little real unit testing at this company and the I think the misuse of this term makes it harder for real unit testing to become more prevalent. Is this worth speaking up about? Feeling Isolated and demotivated while working from home. With COVID 19 pandemic we have been working from for more than six months and looks like it will be another six months at least before we get back to work. We are already a geographically distributed team and with work from home the interactions within team have become harder. We do have once week team meeting but there are more than 20 people and it is usually a tech talk. Sometimes I go days without interacting with the team outside of slack/email. I have realized this tends to make me more distracted or demotivated. Interacting with team members and seniors within team gives big picture information, ongoing projects etc. that helps keep me motivated. I have tried proposing virtual happy hours or even meetings within small groups who working closely once a week or so. Understandably not everyone is enthused about virtual happy hours. Do you guys have any other suggestions? Show Notes https://www.martinfowler.com/bliki/UnitTest.html https://www.amazon.com/Art-Gathering-How-Meet-Matters/dp/1594634920 https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1304143989939949568.html

Oct 2020

34 min 14 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions First I want to say thank you and I really love the show and all your helpful advice. I think it has made be become a better developer. I am a current junior in high school and the lead developer (intern) of the small non profit with approximately 10 college and graduate interns on it. School has recently started to push me away from the project (not enough time in the day) but I still want to be a source of help. I wrote a very significant portion of the code for the current application, however the founder wanted this to be shipped as quickly as possible and this led in a sense to a bit of a cobbled together mess of microservices and no documentation. My main problem is that although I feel I have the technical skills to lead the team, I really do not have much experience in terms of team management, especially in the case of leading a development team. During the main development of the application, it mainly consisted of me and this other developer writing the code. However now that they are gone, I am the only person (along with someone else who kind of has an understanding) with knowledge and familiarity of the code base. Sorry this is long, but I guess what I am asking is how can I (i) create a team structure that will not only prepare interns for real world development as well as making sure that the application remains after I move on and (ii) help build processes and structure that will allow people to meaningfully contribute to the code base. Also, just for more information, I have not yet added unit tests or code reviews. Most of this just usually became just as me. I work in AI startup and planning to change my job. My contract is full of NDAs about pretty much everything. How do I talk with companies and recruiters about things I do when I’m not allowed to disclose project details like technologies or libraries used, algorithms for data manipulation, or even where we take data from, bought or downloaded. I can’t say anything more than “I work on AI and we do music manipulation in a programming language”. What do I say?

Oct 2020

33 min 12 sec

In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions: Questions Hey Dave & Jamison, I have a problem with a more senior engineer in my project, I cannot really predict or follow his thought process. They introduced best practices about organizing code, Git branching, software versioning, etc. to the project. Which is great, because I like well-defined processes. And I followed those processes happily. Now, there are some occasions where the senior engineer violates one of the processes. When they do that I ask why, then they give me the reason and I nod because I think that make sense. Fast forward a little, and I also choose to violate the process the same way, for the same reasons. During the code review, the senior engineer rejects my approach because it “does not make sense”. SurprisedPikachu.jpg I tried a few times to challenge them in these situations but more often than not they either stood their ground or gave the “agree-to-disagree” nod which demoralizes me. So now, I’m inclined to just follow what they say if this situation happens. I understand that there is some nuance for a certain thing to go a certain way, but when this happens I am always left puzzled and spend time re-calibrating the idea/approach. What is the best way(s) to deal with these kind of people? Anyway, love the show and keep up with the good work! Do you think that a job that helps you constantly grow is more important than a job that promises titles?

Oct 2020

32 min 49 sec