5 Soft Skills Every Programmer Needs (And You Might Already Have!)


News flash: The best computer programmers don’t always make the best managers. They may write beautiful code but they might not have the soft skills necessary to manage others without ruffling feathers.

Technical programming skills can be learned but soft skills, on the other hand, are the kinds that tend to come naturally for the best managers. We went to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) to find the soft skills that will make the difference for you in your management career. Add these to the technical programming skills you’ll learn in a traditional college computer science program and you might just have the right mix to move into a management position.

Soft Skill #1: Communication

The ability to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing, is one of the most important soft skills for a manager in tech-based fields, according to O*NET. Strong communication skill isn’t just being able to speak in front of a group without stammering, but also finding ways to diplomatically convey your message.  

As a manager, situations will inevitably arise where you will have to pick sides when considering multiple solutions to a problem. Your ability to tell a valued employee that their solution was passed over in a way that doesn’t upset office harmony will go a long way to keeping your workers motivated and happy.

Furthermore, if you can’t clearly communicate your expectations for your team members, confusion and a lack of accountability will follow, a surefire way to doom any project.

Soft Skill #2: Effective delegation

No matter how skilled you may be with the hands-on work, once you reach a management position you won’t be able to do it all. Being able to delegate work is a soft skill every manager needs, and the key to it is being able to break down a large project into smaller pieces.

The best managers know the strengths and weaknesses of their workers and look to set them up for success by matching their skills to the pieces of a project that best fit their skill set.  If you’re the type of person to take charge and assign roles when faced with a large group project—especially when everyone else doesn’t know where to start—you already have a strong grasp on the delegation skills needed to succeed in management.

Soft Skill #3: Listening

While it’s great to have the ability to take charge and give clear direction to your subordinates, you need to be able to listen to feedback and adjust plans accordingly. Being an active listener is one of the top skills required of computer and information systems managers, which makes sense with the amount of feedback you’ll receive from both your subordinates and  your supervisors.

Listening can be more of a challenge than you’d think for managers—not many people like to say that they’re overwhelmed or uncomfortable with a task assigned to them lest they risk looking incompetent. Being able to gather information and listen for signs of trouble will help you be proactive in addressing issues before they come up.

Soft Skill #4: Mentoring/teaching

Everyone in their career will make a mistake, no matter how skilled they are in their job. The key with any mistake is to learn from it—that’s where mentorship comes into play. If you’re comfortable walking someone through problems and their solutions, you’ll be able to avoid similar mistakes in the future. This is a big reason why teaching others and providing guidance are skills identified as important to managerial success.

Another benefit from strong mentorship ability is the trust that develops between you and your workers. It becomes a lot easier to approach a boss with an issue if you know they’re willing to help you without judging you too harshly. The benefits of mentorship aren’t limited to just a supervisor and a pupil, eventually the skills and advice will be passed on throughout the company as pupils begin to mentor others as they develop in their careers. 

Soft Skill # 5: Resourcefulness

It doesn’t take MacGyver-like skill to be an effective manager—at least we hope you’re not diffusing bombs with paperclips and chewing gum at your workplace—but there are times when resourcefulness comes in handy for managers.

Critical thinking and problem solving are two of the top skills for computer and information systems managers, according to O*NET. The ability to think on your feet when faced with tough situations like a budget crunches and changes in project scope is incredibly valuable.

Quick thinking and creative solutions can prevent large delays and over-budget projects from creating angry clients or bosses. If you’ve got a talent for making the best of a bad situation, you just might have the resourcefulness needed to be an effective manager. 

The takeaway

A team of the world’s greatest programmers will still struggle with projects if forced to deal with the effects of poor management—this is a big reason why businesses value soft skills. If you’re an effective leader, you already have a large portion of what it takes to succeed. All you need now is to develop the technical skills Rasmussen College’s computer science degree can provide. 

External links provided on Rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced.

Will is a Content Marketing Specialist at Collegis Education. He researches and writes student-focused articles on a variety of topics for Rasmussen College. He is passionate about learning and enjoys writing engaging content to help current and future students on their path to a rewarding education.

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