126 Soft Skills Every Developer Needs

The following are 126 soft skill topics divided into 14 categories. These are the topics covered in my SoftSkills.app training program.


Communication – How well you communicate

  1. Respect – Understanding that respect is the foundation of effective communication.
  2. Honesty – Understanding the role honesty plays in building trust.
  3. Trust – Understanding that trust enables fluid communication.
  4. Assertiveness – Understanding the difference between assertive and aggressive communication.
  5. Debate – Understanding the difference between a discussion and a fight.
  6. Consensus – Understanding how to achieve consensus on a course of action within a group of people.
  7. Persuasion – Understanding how to make a persuasive argument.
  8. Aggressiveness – Understanding how to respond to aggressive communication.
  9. Manipulation – Understanding when and how to adjust your communication to serve the greater good.

Teamwork – How well you work within a team

  1. Individuality – Understanding the degree to which individual desires must be sacrificed for the good of the team.
  2. Mission – Understanding the criticality of a team having a well-defined objective.
  3. Alignment – Understanding the importance of aligning each team member towards a common mission.
  4. Strengths – Understanding that all team members should have strengths the team can leverage.
  5. Weaknesses – Understanding that everyone can not be good at everything.
  6. Balance – Understanding how to balance strengths and weaknesses when assembling a team.
  7. Leadership – Understanding the role and function of a leader on a team.
  8. Ownership – Understanding how to take ownership of a mission.
  9. Obstacles – Understanding how to overcome the barriers the team will face as they attempt to accomplish their mission.

Curiosity – How much interest you have in learning new things

  1. Thinking – Understanding the importance of allocating time to think about the problems you have to solve before you try to solve them.
  2. Intelligence – Understanding how intelligence affects the desire to learn new things.
  3. Openness – Understanding the importance of being open to new ideas regardless of the source.
  4. Research – Understanding the importance of gathering knowledge about a problem before attempting to solve that problem.
  5. Experimentation – Understanding how to run experiments to gain additional insight into how a product should be developed.
  6. Prototyping  – Understanding the power of prototypes in validating ideas before investing the time into building them.
  7. Imagination – Understanding the role of thinking creatively in problem-solving.
  8. Innovation – Understanding the circumstances under which people can innovate. 
  9. Invention – Understanding how a series of innovations contribute to a new discovery.

Initiative – How much you desire to start new things 

  1. Ideas – Understanding the relative value of an idea that has yet to be made into a product.
  2. Opportunity – Understanding how to look for and assess market opportunities.
  3. Determination – Understanding how to maintain forward progress despite setbacks.
  4. Planning – Understanding the importance of planning and the value of having a flexible plan.
  5. Selling – Understanding how to sell ideas to stakeholders.
  6. Compromise – Understanding the difference between good and bad compromises. 
  7. Inspiring – Understanding the role of giving your team a goal worth achieving.
  8. Motivating – Understanding how to create motivation for your team to accomplish a goal.
  9. Enthusiasm – Understanding how a team’s attitude impacts their probability of success.

Skill Level – How much emphasis you place on being skillful 

  1. Education – Understanding the role of formal and informal education.
  2. Knowledge – Understanding the utility of memorizing information versus learning it on demand. 
  3. Experience – Understanding the role experience plays in the quality and speed of execution.
  4. Dedication – Understanding the effects of remaining dedicated to a craft for the duration of your career.
  5. Perseverance – Understanding how to overcome the desire to give up when trying to learn something difficult.
  6. Incrementalism – Understanding how to see value in making small steps towards your goal.
  7. Expertise – Understanding what makes someone an expert in their field.
  8. Mastery – Understanding how an expert becomes a master.
  9. Mentoring – Understanding the role of teaching plays in furthering mastery.

Attention to Detail – How well you understand and implement requirements 

  1. Patience – Understanding the importance of being patient while gathering requirements.
  2. Listening – Understanding the importance of carefully listening to what is being asked for.
  3. Questioning – Understanding how and when to ask the right questions to fill gaps in knowledge.
  4. Scenarios – Understanding how to analyze requirements by representing them in real-world use cases.
  5. Diagrams – Understanding the power of presenting complex information visually.
  6. Checklists – Understanding how to use lists of items to complete to improve effectiveness and efficiency.
  7. Internalization – Understanding how to process requirements until their recall is instinctive.
  8. Interpolation – Understanding how to use an intrinsic knowledge of what is being asked for to fill in missing requirements.
  9. Perfection – Understanding the role of seeking perfection in achieving quality and meeting deadlines.

Business Focus – How much you care about the goals of the business 

  1. Capitalism – Understanding the foundational concepts upon which companies are built.
  2. Profit – Understanding the importance of businesses operating at a profit.
  3. Growth – Understanding the potential tradeoffs between profit and growth.
  4. Sales – Understanding how revenue is generated by selling a product.
  5. Advertising – Understanding how revenue is generated by selling ads.
  6. Licensing – Understanding how revenue is generated by selling licenses and subscriptions.
  7. Payroll – Understanding the outsized contribution of payroll to companies operating budgets.
  8. Funding – Understanding how money is raised for internal projects and external startups.
  9. Runway – Understanding how the funds remaining affects the time until a business must become profitable.

Deadline Focus – How much you are concerned with deadlines 

  1. Estimates – Understanding how estimates are used by business stakeholders.
  2. Commitments – Understanding the difference between an estimate of when work will be completed and a guarantee that a date will be met.
  3. Contingency – Understanding how to add the appropriate amount of time to deal with unforeseen circumstances.
  4. Stakeholders – Understanding the goals of your stakeholders in requesting and reviewing an estimate.
  5. Expectations – Understanding how to set realistic expectations for delivery timelines.
  6. Reporting – Understanding the importance of establishing a system for reporting progress.
  7. Negotiations – Understanding how to achieve a mutually acceptable timeline between the delivery team and stakeholders.
  8. Contracts – Understanding the effect a legal agreement has on deadline flexibility.
  9. Consequences – Understanding the immediate and long-term effects of missing deadlines.

Estimate Accuracy – How accurate your estimates are

  1. Precedent – Understanding the role of similar past work in predicting delivery time.
  2. Investigation – Understanding the need to dive deep into the requirements to come up with a realistic estimate.
  3. Decomposition – Understanding how to break a large chunk of work into smaller pieces that are easier to estimate.
  4. Scope – Understanding how to gain a full understanding of all of the work that needs to be delivered.
  5. Dependencies – Understanding the role of work upon which other work depends.
  6. Competencies – Understanding how the skill of the people doing the work impacts estimates.
  7. Interruptions – Understanding how to take into account the inevitable distractions project’s face when working towards a deadline.
  8. Turnover – Understanding how to factor in the likelihood that someone might leave the project before it is delivered.
  9. Overtime – Understanding the short-term and long-term effects of working overtime on productivity.

Productivity – How much work you produce per unit time 

  1. Distraction – Understanding the necessity of staying focused in order to achieve your goals. 
  2. Motivation – Understanding the role of personal motivation in getting work done.
  3. Discipline – Understanding that sometimes you have to get something done regardless of if you want to do it.
  4. Effectiveness – Understanding that the most important things have to be done first.
  5. Efficiency – Understanding how to complete the most amount of work in the least amount of the time.
  6. Completion – Understanding the importance of being 100% complete before you declare you are finished.
  7. Flow – Understanding the highly productive mental state called “Flow” or “Being in the Zone.”
  8. Previsualization – Understanding the technique of mental preparation before you start working.
  9. Sleep – Understanding the crucial role of sleep in cognitive productivity.

Criticality – How important you are to an organization 

  1. Fungibility – Understanding that replaceable employees are a foundational concept of capitalism.
  2. Uniqueness – Understanding that it is improbable that you are so unique that you are irreplaceable.
  3. Importance – Understanding that you can be more or less critical to a company in comparison to your peers.
  4. Specialization – Understanding that to master a particular domain, you must become a specialist.
  5. Exceptionalism – Understanding that you can pursue and achieve being exceptional in comparison to your peers.
  6. Recognition – Understanding how to gain recognition for your work.
  7. Reputation – Understanding the importance of maintaining a good reputation.
  8. Politics – Understanding the reality of corporate politics.
  9. Promotion – Understanding the mechanics of getting promoted.

Marketability – How easily you can find a new job 

  1. Jobs – Understanding that a job is only a temporary step in your career.
  2. Careers – Understanding that your career must be managed carefully through a careful section of jobs, responsibilities, and achievements.
  3. Ambition – Understanding the role of having goals that you are working towards in the advancement of your career.
  4. Demand – Understanding that the need for employees with specific skills changes over time.
  5. Economy – Understanding the role of the economy in driving worker demands.
  6. Trends – Understanding how to stay abreast of trends while avoiding fads.
  7. Recruiters – Understanding the business model of recruiting agencies.
  8. Networking – Understanding the importance of gaining and maintaining long term business contacts.
  9. Offers – Understanding the process of getting and negotiating an offer for employment.

Adaptability – How well you can adapt to new situations 

  1. Comfort – Understanding the danger of staying in a position where you are comfortable for long periods.
  2. Confidence – Understanding the role of your self-confidence in being able to adapt to new situations.
  3. Courage – Understanding the role of conquering your fears in taking on new challenges.
  4. Absorption – Understanding the importance of embracing new circumstances rather than resisting change.
  5. Adjustments – Understanding how to make adjustments to your approach to adapt to new circumstances.
  6. Resiliency – Understanding how to recover from disappointment.
  7. Detachment – Understanding the importance of maintaining an appropriate distance between corporate job responsibilities and your personal passions.
  8. Formlessness – Understanding how to let go of your personal sense of the way things should be done to fully adapt to any situation.
  9. Survival – Understanding how to adapt and survive adverse circumstances.

Risk Tolerance – How much you fear failure 

  1. Fear – Understanding that having some degree of anxiety is unavoidable when attempting new things.
  2. Costs – Understanding that there are always costs associated with trying new things.
  3. Rewards – Understanding that there should be a benefit related to any new thing that you attempt.
  4. Success – Understanding the importance of creating a definition of success.
  5. Failure – Understanding that failure is a natural part of trying to do what has never done before.
  6. Recovery – Understanding the importance of learning from failure and trying again.
  7. Gambling – Understanding the difference between taking calculated risks and playing a game.
  8. Odds – Understanding your odds for success as a factor for deciding if something should be attempted.
  9. Recklessness – Understanding when the boundary has been crossed from taking a risk to being dangerously reckless.
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These soft skills are covered in my Soft Skills Training Program.

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