Are You Becoming a Software Developer or a Soft Skills Developer?

September 23, 2020

Are You Becoming a Software Developer or a Soft Skills Developer?

May 29, 2023

When I was at Stanford Business School, unfortunately, I could not get off the waitlist for the most popular class, affectionately known as “Touchy-Feely.” Chronicled in this article, this class (formally known as “Interpersonal Dynamics”) created foundational skills in effective communication, leadership, teamwork, emotional intelligence, and creativity.

Not only was it immensely popular, but many famous alums have said it was their most important MBA class.

Too often, companies and business schools believe that “soft skills” are unteachable. This MIT Sloan Management Review article suggests soft skills can’t be scaled, even in an AI era, when EQ is becoming more important. The main problem is, relative to hard skills, we’ve spent far less time trying to understand the value of soft skills, let alone how to measure them appropriately.

But, here’s one of the fundamental fallacies of this hard skills/soft skills debate. We learn hard skills for finite periods of time. We learn soft skills during all of our waking hours, not just at school or work. Yet, we’ve done precious little to help people see that if you’re a parent with kids, you’ve taken Leadership Development 101. If you have parents who are late in life and struggling, you’ve taken Empathy 101. And, if you’re trying to make ends meet in a terrible economy, you could teach Creativity 101 (what it takes to cope these days).

So, for those of you who think you need to retrain as a software engineer in your fifties, read the last one-third of this Arthur Brooks article (The Atlantic magazine) on how our professional decline is coming sooner than we think. The first two-thirds of the article is depressing, but the last third reminds us that our soft skills continue to grow until very late in life. So, why shouldn’t we double-down as a soft skills developer in a world that could use a little more creativity, empathy, and leadership development?

I can’t think of a reason not to, either.

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