MLOps Zoomcamp: Free MLOps course. Register here!


Skills of a Successful Software Engineer

by Fernando Doglio

The book of the week from 12 Sep 2022 to 16 Sep 2022

Skills to grow from a solo coder into a productive member of a software development team, with seasoned advice on everything from refactoring to acing an interview.

In Skills of a Successful Software Engineer you will learn:

  • The skills you need to succeed on a software development team
  • Best practices for writing maintainable code
  • Testing and commenting code for others to read and use
  • Refactoring code you didn’t write
  • What to expect from a technical interview process
  • How to be a tech leader
  • Getting around gatekeeping in the tech community

Skills of a Successful Software Engineer is a best practices guide for succeeding on a software development team. The book reveals how to optimize both your code and your career, from achieving a good work-life balance to writing the kind of bug-free code delivered by pros. You’ll master essential skills that you might not have learned as a solo coder, including meaningful code commenting, unit testing, and using refactoring to speed up feature delivery. Timeless advice on acing interviews and setting yourself up for leadership will help you throughout your career. Crack open this one-of-a-kind guide, and you’ll soon be working in the professional manner that software managers expect

Questions and Answers

Ricky McMaster

Hi Fernando Doglio, thanks a lot for doing this! Just wondering first of all how much you address effective communication within teams, and between tech and business?

Fernando Doglio

hey. Ricky, great question! I think I mention the importance of communication throughout the book, but I really make a point of it by the end, chapters 7 and 8. During chapter 7 I cover the importance of communication with your team and your manager in multiple places. As for the “business”, I do cover the subject of talking with clients from a consultant point of view. I do not cover the importance of effective communication with the business inside the company, if that’s what you were asking for.

Ricky McMaster

Thanks Fernando, that’s good to know.

James Gough

Hi Fernando, congrats on the book. It looks perfect for me and I think I will buy it so count me out of the free copy! 🙂 I have read Clean Code and am currently reading Code Complete. I chose these as I wanted to know wanted to approach software in the same way as others and given they’re foundational texts they seemed a good place to start. Does your book build on/update the best practices in these books or have best practices evolved a lot since they were written? Also, any criticism of these books and approaches I’d be interested to hear. I think older texts can be quite gate-keepy in their own way and project a very ‘there is only one right way’ kind of vibe.
Also, do you touch on how to get started on contributing to open source? That is something I think a lot of people (me included) feel intimidated about, especially if you’re not professionally part of a software engineering team.

Fernando Doglio

Hi James, thanks for the question! I honestly can critique those books since I haven’t read them. While I do have some chapters that cover coding and best practices, the focus of my book is not “just that”. So I do go into some details about best practices in general, and in regards to unit testing, but then I keep going into other topics.

Fernando Doglio

And as for your question of whether or not best practices evolve over time, I tend to agree there. Different architectural patterns either created, or re-discovered over time, and that brings light into different ways of tackling the same problems.

Fernando Doglio

when it comes to soft. development I would never say “there is one way to do this right” about anything really.

James Gough

Thank you!


Hi Fernando Doglio , Thank you for giving us this opportunity to discuss this topic cuz i realize most people focus only on coding part and ignore other skills.
1 - Do you consider your book a technical book, non-technical or both?
2 - What are the few skills that you gathered much later tahn necessary?
3 - software engineering is more than memorizing algorithms, it’s about being able to work well with your team and be able to communicate your solutions well.
How do you see this saying, and is this what your book is about?
4 - If i hone skills/practices mentioned in your book, would i bridge the gap between being decent SWE to a good/great one?
Finally, wish you best of luck for your book, and thanks for your time.

Fernando Doglio

Hey Di_hash! Great questions!

  1. It’s actually both, I do cover some tech points, but most of them are not technical, the focus is the overall journey of a developer.
  2. The main one would be communication. I neglected it thinking I should only focus on my tech skills. Eventually I realized that without being a good communicator, I would not be able to grow in my career.
  3. Yeah, I’d say that this is one of the core principles at the center of my book.
  4. Well, I certainly hope so! 🙂 Of course, it’s all up to you, reading the book alone will not make you better, you have to interiorize the teaching, and apply the lessons. It will definitely help you jump a few years ahead of everyone else at you same level, that’s for sure.

Thank you, i appreciate your clarifications

Fernando Doglio

thank you for the great questions!

Saba Azad

Hi Fernando Doglio , thanks for the opportunity to ask you questions about your book.
My question is about ‘gatekeeping’ in tech. How to navigate through that? If a person who started late in tech and doesn’t have many years of experience, but they can do the work, how would they survive?

Fernando Doglio

Hey Saba, that’s a tough one. Mainly because the way I deal with “gatekeeping” is by ignoring it, but I understand not everyone can do it. My advice would be to keep reaching out to people until you find a positive support group. Internet is filled with developers looking to help others, some even specialize and create a lot of content and have a lot of advice for people switching careers into tech, if you run into gatekeepers, just turn around and keep looking.

Fernando Doglio

And if you don’t know where to look for these people, I would suggest reaching out to content creators that produce content around your areas of interest and asking for supportive communities, they’re probably exposed to multiple ones.

Alber Novo

Hi Fernando Doglio, thank you in advance for answer our questions 🙂
It seems to me that software development is getting further away from low-level programming to a high-level. Before, knowing how hardware and Operating Systems work was a must for a great programmer. Today it seems to be all about frameworks and how to connect them. All complexity is being hidden and forgotten (it may be good or bad:man-shrugging:). I know my statement is very opinionated, but it gives the context to my questions:

  1. How do you see the future of software development?
  2. What is your advice to someone pursuing a career in software development to be focused, and at the same time, be relevant in the market when a new and exciting framework is in demand every day!?
Fernando Doglio
  1. This one is a tough one, because it depends on what you mean by “future”. I think on the long run, AI will definitely affect our jobs. Not replace us, mind you, but at least it will change the way we code. Allowing us to keep moving up on the abstraction layers, like you put it.
  2. As for staying up-to-date with all the frameworks out there. that’s impossible, and I don’t think it should be anyone’s aim. Instead, you should aim to master the basics. No matter what your industry or area of expertise is, you should aim to understand the core of programming, and then you’ll see that picking up new frameworks becomes second nature. Focus on understanding how different paradigms work, learn about data structures and algorithms… learn about architectural patterns. The language is irrelevant and the framework even more. Once you know what MVC is (for example), you’ll start seeing it everywhere.
Ashish Lalchandani

Hi Luca Massaron Konrad Banachewicz, thanks for being here! My question is, how to get started with Kaggle? Is it something like Leetcode where there’s a problem statement and we start coding? As a beginner, do we just dive into ongoing competitions or practice a bit with older competitions? I am really wondering on how to get started with Kaggle, want to test my knowledge of basic concepts, and learn new things by reading others’s code, but don’t know how to get started.


Hi Fernando Doglio thank you for writing this book, I have one question, how to avoid getting burned out with the myriad of things to learn especially in ML where the rate of newer ideas are a lot. How to get optimal work-life balance?

Fernando Doglio

there is no magic formula for a balanced work-life scenario. Sadly. Everyone has different burnout limits, and I think it’s important to be aware of them.
The main thing is to remember that you’re need other things in your life other than your work to be happy, and that it’s OK to not know everything.
At the rate at which new technologies are developed, it’s impossible for a person to know everything and to have experience with everything, so you have to be able to draw that limit and say “here, I’m good here”, and learn to enjoy things other than coding, that way hobbies can take you out of your “work” mental space.

Moritz Wilke

Hi Fernando Doglio thanks for presenting your book. I am currently (re-)reading “The pragmatic programmer” which presents a similar “holistic” approach to writing software (albeit it seems to be a bit more focussed on technical patterns) and I enjoy it very much. What was your personal motivation for writing this book? Sections like “getting around gatekeeping in the tech community” sound as if you had to overcome very unproductive situations on your way? Do you “only” present personal strategies to navigate these problems or do you have ideas on what has to change in the whole community/profession?

Fernando Doglio

Hey Moritz, thanks for the question. I guess we could say 90% of the book is based on personal experience but there are other areas where I just present my ideas on how it could be improved. Problems like gatekeeping are very visible if you’re active on any social network where many developers interact with each other, you can see so many people trying to help others and some developers trying to prevent them from moving forward by imposing their own ideas of whats “right” or “wrong”.

Fernando Doglio

In the case of gatekeeping, I tried to show what I think are the best ways to move around it and most importantly, to be aware of it, because sadly internet is not filled with developers helping developers.

Hyoson Yamanaka

Hi Fernando Doglio, thanks for doing this session. I am currently in a team where the lead comes from a non-technical background and all members are DSs/SWEs. Would you recommend your book to a person less familiar with software development that wants to understand how to manage such processes? I am curious if you have any tips and experiences on how to bridge the gap between technical team members and non-technical leads/ decision makers.

Fernando Doglio

Hey Hyoson, thanks for the question. I wouldn’t recommend my book to this person. I didn’t write it with that kind of profile in mind, and if they’re already leading teams with no intention on becoming a developer, then the book really wouldn’t do them any good.
That said, bridging the gap between a non-technical lead and team members is hard, because sometimes it might seem like they speak completely different languages. The lead will usually have concerns about timeline, product delivery, reaching milestones, and if they’re not technical they will have to trust their team when it comes to tech issues (like generating/spending time fixing tech debt, time estimations, bug reports and many other areas). This person will have to actively look for advice from the team, or at least, from the senior members of the team.
From the PoV of the team members, they’ll also have to try and find a way to have an open dialog and accept that this person’s experience leading teams, even though they lack tech skills, might help them be an effective leader regardless. Sometimes tech folk tend to not show the same level of considerations or respect to non-tech leaders than what they would show to a senior technical person who becomes a leader. That has to change, if this person is leading the team, they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Fernando Doglio

At least that’s how I would try to approach the situation from either end.

Hyoson Yamanaka

I appreciate your thoughts on the matter! There is indeed some tension in our group due to the issues you mentioned and it hasn’t been addressed directly yet, which I think it should.

Fernando Doglio

yeap definitely, all cards on the table , that’s the way I like to do it anyway.

Tim Becker

Hi Fernando Doglio, thank you for this very interesting book and for this opportunity to ask questions.

  • Do you have any advice concerning how to handle configurational data and transactional data that several teams have to use? For example, a data science team and a software development team? How should the interface between the teams be designed?
  • What are the most important skills for a tech leader?
  • As a tech leader, how can you ensure high quality in your production code and at the same time provide meaningful tasks for junior developers in your team?
  • How did you improve your communication skills?
Fernando Doglio

great questions!
Let me start in reverse order:

  1. Writing did the trick for me. I started writing articles online, and that helped with my english and my ability to explain complicated concepts in simple ways.
  2. I’m not sure I understand this one, if by “high quality in your production code” you mean MY actual code, I can’t, but that’s because as a tech lead I don’t code. It’s been my experience that as a tech lead I’m too busy with others managing tasks (estimations, client management, team management, etc) to be able to have enough time to code myself. Considering all the tasks I have at hand, it would be irresponsible to put coding tasks on my backlog as well, I wouldn’t be able to deliver them on time.
  3. I would say they’re not technical. Communication and empathy are two big ones on my book. Tech people tend to be really bad at those, some of them like machines more than people, so they don’t focus on developing their communication skills, specially early on. Being able to interact with them in a way they feel heard, and then turn around and talk to the business in a way they understand what’s happening is a key skill any lead should have.
  4. I’m not sure I understand this question either, can you elaborate a bit more? Maybe have a sample scenario?
Tim Becker

Fernando Doglio thank you for your answers. Seems like I wasn’t very precise in writing down my questions 😉

  • Concerning question 3, yes, probably the lead does not code anymore. However, he/she will have to ensure that the products are running at all times, that there are no bugs and that the code stays maintainable. It seems to be that many junior developers are struggling with these objectives. How can you help junior developers grow and get better and avoid creating a mess in your products on the way?
  • Concerning question 1, as an example, if your organisation has a data science team and a team with developers. The data science team creates models which produce predictions that should be displayed in a web application with a nice user interface. The web application is created by the developers. The data science team provides an API for the developers to use. For this purpose, a lot of data has to be shared between the teams. For example, how should the predictions be presented? Also the model might change over time, the inputs and outputs might have to be adjusted from time to time which needs to be communicated between the teams. How would you manage the interaction/communication between the teams. Or would you design the whole setup differently?
Dustin Coates

Hi Fernando Doglio thanks for the Q&A, and hello from a fellow Manning author.
My question for you: are the skills of a successful SWE different depending on the field or type of technology you work with? E.g. is someone working on maintaining old COBOL applications going to need different skills compared to a full-stack web developer or someone working on SFDC.

Fernando Doglio

Hey Dustin, great question! Interestingly enough, I cover this topic on chapter 1 of the book. The whole premise for the book is that the skills that make up a successful SWE are not technical. In fact, they’re mostly soft-skills. Technical skills differ from project to project, but you’ll always be dealing with people.

Ajay Muppuri

Hi Fernando Doglio thank you in advance 😊 What advice would you have for someone who is already a tech lead, so that they can keep up with the evolving technologies and still be good at their job of not just writing good code but also teaching others to do the same.

Fernando Doglio

Hey Ajay, great question. I would suggest starting to create technical content. My go-to would be written content, but if the aim is to stay close and up-to-date with code, you can do anything you like. Through this process you’ll be able to play around and get to know the latest trends in tech and you’ll have to become great at explaining concepts and transmitting that information to others.
This way, you get to see and experience new technologies without having to spend months working with them. If you have enough experience as a developer in general, that should give you all the tools you need to keep being a great leader and avoid falling behind trends your team is not using right now.

Ajay Muppuri

thank you 🙂

To take part in the book of the week event:

  • Register in our Slack
  • Join the #book-of-the-week channel
  • Ask as many questions as you'd like
  • The book authors answer questions from Monday till Thursday
  • On Friday, the authors decide who wins free copies of their book

To see other books, check the the book of the week page.

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and join our Slack.
We'll keep you informed about our events, articles, courses, and everything else happening in the Club.

DataTalks.Club. Hosted on GitHub Pages. We use cookies.