The #1 Required Skill In Software Engineering

Dr Stuart Woolley
CodeX
Published in
7 min readNov 8, 2023

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From HR to Sales, from lowly PM to top flight CTO, there’s “one thing” you need to develop to 1,000% rockstar your career! Etc.

“Image generated using OpenAI’s DALL·E.”

First of all apologies for the slightly clickbait title, but it does fit in extremely well with the general theme of the article — that of the necessity of taking on board¹ a nauseating somewhat even soft skill just to get through a standard day in the Grand Game of Software Engineering.

You may imagine it’s something like being able to listen properly², to speak up in a meeting to get your voice heard, or be a silent whirring and “productive” cog by coming into the office, opening the doors for managers, and making sure there are no crumbs down your hoodie when in another unmissable important stand-up.

If you did, then you’d be wrong.

I’m talking about a skill that you probably already practice from time to time in your actual life outside of the Game (there is one, honestly) and that’s the skill of trying very hard not to look completely bored.

You do it in the queue at Gregg’s³ when someone’s counting out the coins (remember those?) or ordering a dozen steak bakes and various hot beverages on a meal deal for a building crew working across the road, you do it in the company canteen when some random management droid asks you how things are going with your project when you can’t even remember what day it is let alone what colour the ticket is you’re currently working on, and you definitely always do it during performance reviews… but might not have noticed as you were too focussed on getting everything just the way HR likes it so that you get an actual pay rise this year.

It’s a skill that must be developed, it’s an experience that you have that through the means of repeatedly killing you makes you even stronger (to coin a phrase), and it’s something that every progressive software engineer can bring to bear when faced with any one of a number of situations that can occur regularly in the Grand Game, as we shall now see.

There are times when your project manager will just ramble on about tickets, often for hours, relentlessly, sometimes not even seeming to pause for breath⁵.

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Dr Stuart Woolley
CodeX

Worries about the future. Way too involved with software. Likes coffee, maths, and . Would prefer to be in academia. SpaceX, Twitter, and Overwatch fan.