Victor Leung

The importance of communication as a software developer

February 09, 2021

I want to communicate with you on the importance of communication as a software developer. It may sound obvious, but it would impact significantly on your career. If you ignore what I said in this article, maybe you would not get the high paying job that you want in the interview process, maybe you would not get the promotion that you want as you were perceived as an incapable leader, maybe you won’t get the support that you want from your team members. You would not want to put yourself in such a competitive disadvantage position for your career and there is a couple more scenario that you would need good communication skills:

  1. Demo presentation. You would need to do a product demo at the end of a sprint to showcase your great work. To the non-technical audience, you would need to articulate the use case of the feature implemented and how it is relevant to their business. To the technical audience, you would need to walk through your solution design with enough context that prevents them from being lost. To the senior management and stakeholders, you may need to push back when being challenged while demonstrating great values to them at the same time.
  2. Client facing. You would need to clarify requirements with clients or business users. Given the scenario that they usually have ambiguous wants and unrealistic demands, you would need to ask the right questions, clarify with them, speak the same language and align on your understanding. Sometimes you would need to explain a complex technical idea, and you would need to talk clearly on how different components wire up together and how you translate the requirements to the implementations. Otherwise, it would be a waste of time to deliver something completely different that does not solve the problem.
  3. Technical queries. You would need to seek help at some point. For other technical experts to help and support you, you would need to explain your thinking process clearly, provide the replicate steps as well as the technical context, so that others can follow and understand you. This implies you also need to well document your code, such that you would be able to understand the intention of the piece of code snippets when you are reading your comments in the future. You would be struggling to troubleshoot if you cannot describe why you are stuck and get your listener frustrated as well since they are trying to help resolve your issues.

Okay, assuming that you are onboarded and agree with me on the importance of communication. Do you want to improve on these soft skills? Do you want to shine on public speaking? Do you want to get positive feedback from your presentation? Here are my three tips to help achieve your goals above and make them come true!

  1. Speak with good intention. Do not try to speak for the sake of seeking attention. Do not try to bull shit on stuff that you don’t understand. Do not waste other people’s time by talking about stuff that everyone already knows. Instead, you want to speak up because you think something is cool and worth mentioning. You ask questions because you are genuinely seeking an answer. You contribute to the conversation because you are adding values by giving your point of view for others to think. Keeping good motivation gives you confidence when you speak especially if you are shy as an introvert.
  2. Imagine talking to one friend. I know how it feels when speaking to a crowd of audience. You have a fear that you speak something wrong and look stupid. You are afraid of constantly being judged by strangers and try to impress them. You may look like a pity by trying too hard. Instead, imagine the situation is just a casual catch up with a friend. It is relaxing to share your knowledge with a friend that you know well. Lectures are boring with one-directional communication from the instructor to the student. However, conversations are more natural with questions and answers. Engage your friend by raising questions, pause and answering your friend’s questions as well. Listen to the audience feedback and structure well on what you try to say.
  3. Slow down and breath. You are stressed and worry about missing some important points that you prepared for a long time for the speech. However, the reality is, what you speak doesn’t matter as much as how you speak. People are going to forget what you said. They are constantly distracted by their mobile or even fall asleep without paying attention to you. They are not going to be able to follow you if you speak too fast. This is especially true if English is not your first language and trying to present with your accents. Likely, you would be thinking faster in your first language than speaking with your second language, since you are trying to find the right word to say what you mean. Besides, you would sound more confident when you speak at a slower pace.

These tips work for me. I hope it will work for you too. Next time, try to speak with good intention, imagine yourself talking to one friend instead of a crowd of audience, slow down and breathe. Let me know how you think and hopefully, now you have the awareness on communication, which we can both work and improve together.

Written by Victor Leung who is a keen traveller to see every country in the world, passionate about cutting edge technologies.
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