A Software Developer’s Most Important Skill? Communication

Communication might just be the most important skill to have as a software developer. It’s more important than typing speed or your data structures knowledge. It’s more important than math, coding language knowledge, or perhaps even more important than knowing how to Google. That list may be exaggerated. However, communication is a skill that is not emphasized enough as an instrument in your tool belt. Here, I’ll explain why.

It helps keep everyone on the same page.

The clear way that proper communication can help is by keeping you and your team members on the same page when working. Now ,this may seem obvious but it is not uncommon for multiple teams to be touching the same code base. If you do happen to run into a situation where another team and yours are both updating the same project, you will have to be on the lookout for duplicate work or overwriting each other’s work.

The best way to get around this quagmire is to have a shared channel for updates. This can be a Slack channel, Teams channel, Discord server, or, heck, even a text chain if you are into that. The important bit is to have an open channel to let others working on the same files know that you are also there poking around trying to fix your issue. Who knows? They may be working on a similar issue and could you could pair to tackle the ticket. You do not want to run into a situation where work and efforts are duplicated. That will lead to wasted dev time and lots of frustration.

Context matters.

Do you have a question? Being able to communicate what you need effectively will help your teammate or co-worker understand the context of the question and provide feedback, advice, or even a quicker answer. Now, this is not an invitation to be a fire hydrant and spit out a novel every time you have a question. Communication is just as much about being concise as it is about expressing your thoughts.

Help others help you.

This part may not be the most obvious, but communicating is helping you in the long run. I have struggled with this before, but letting others around you know critical information about how you work and your comfort with things is a big part that is missed when communicating.

While there are some exceptions to this, most teams genuinely want to help you succeed, and they can only do that if you let them know what you need. Do you need some schedule considerations? Do certain stimuli affect you in a way that makes working difficult? Heck, do you prefer to use 15 monitors each with its own Vim editor open? Okay, that last one was probably extreme. But, if you can properly communicate needs like this to your team or manager, more likely than not they will put in that effort to help you succeed in your role. If you cannot or do not communicate these things properly, then how can they help you?

Communication is difficult but also important. Just looking up online communication strategies, you get hundreds of hits from different styles of communication. These range from how to present yourself a certain way when communicating all the way to basic how do you say this in such and such a language. Even a little bit goes a long way, so next time you feel like asking a question or speaking up about something, do so unabashed.


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