Personal / Productivity

7 lessons for life that you can learn after working in tech.

November 06, 20215 min read
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Photo by Florian Olivo

If you work in software development or any other area in tech, you will have realized that we work on highly dynamic environments, and we learn something new every day. Not just that, but continuous learning becomes an intrinsic requirement of our roles.

These new things we learn can be categorized in many ways, but probably the distinction we make the most is: technical stuff vs non-technical stuff, being the first group the one that we usually focus on as software engineers but, what happens with the non-technical skills, aren't they important?

Let's talk about "soft skills"

There is a lot of controversy about the term soft skill, and there are many questions about this topic. For instance, if there is anything called soft skill, is there something called hard skill? If soft skills are non-technical, does it mean technical skills are hard skills? Does it mean technical skills are more important than personal ones? Is learning React more important than becoming a good leader?

As always, the answer here is: it depends. Depending on the context, developing a mobile app might be more important than being a good communicator, or vice versa. Considering this, I start using the term personal skills instead of soft skills in this article.

We could say that learning technical skills lets you become a better engineer and developing personal skills leads you to become a better person. I'm not going to extend myself on this topic, but I will conclude it by saying that - in my opinion - developing personal skills is harder than learning technical stuff. You can take a Python + Django course, and you will be able to create a super cool API. However, would you be able to understand how to create a trustable and solid working environment in your team after just reading a book? As you can see, there are a lot of things involved here, like empathy and other feelings, previous experiences, etc.

Considering how hard is developing personal skills, I wanted to share with you some things I've learnt after the years:

Leave everything better than you found it

If you are a developer and you have read Clean Code, this will remind you the Boy Scout Rule:

Leave the code cleaner than you found it.

The Boy Scouts apply this rule to the campground, the developers apply it to the code, but we can apply it to everything. We can summarize it to: try to make this world better with small actions. Small actions don't require too much effort but they can still lead to a big change.

We don't need perfect things in life, just things that work

If you are a perfectionist, you might have struggled many times when finishing something, like a project, for instance. You might feel it's not ready yet and keep working on it, and it can last forever, causing problems.

The truth is that most of the time, a not so perfect product is still valid and fulfills requirements and users expectation, and subjective and ideal concepts like perfection might not suit the real world.

A good approach to avoid falling into this trap (once again) is focusing on goals and keeping things simple.

Don't focus on blaming who caused a problem, focus on finding a solution

Problems are a deviation from the expected (or desired) result of something, and there are a lot of things that escape our control in this world, so we can conclude life is full of problems. The first reaction of some people when facing a problem is finding who caused it (who is guilty?). However, if we do that, the problem will still be there, we will just delegate it to another person, but it will keep bothering us and we will focus our energy and efforts in something that won't solve anything. Not to mention, just pointing our finger to someone else is unfair, as we all commit mistakes. Instead, we should spend our time on finding a solution to remove the problem.

Communication is KEY, as well as empathy

We live and work in society (for instance, we can work in a team or for a customer), so we need to interact with other people continuously. Having said that, communicating effectively is crucial and, to do so, we need to understand the context of the people we interact with and how they feel.

There are two kind of people: those who 'do' and those who 'look'

The world needs more from the first group. Take the initiative and do what needs to be done.

Every new criticism is another chance of becoming better

Committing mistakes is totally fine as long as we learn from them. With every mistake - or even without them - we could receive criticism, both constructive and destructive ones. Not everybody reacts properly to criticism, some times it's hard handling it, mostly with the destructive ones. However, every criticism has a little piece of truth that you can turn into an opportunity to improve something of yourself. Focus on continuous improvement.

Nothing lasts forever

Success will come, but it will eventually go away. Be ready for that. Problems will come, but they will eventually go away. Be patient and don't let them overcome you.