The Pragmatic Craftsman :: Simplicity from complexity : by Stanley Kubasek ::

Communication Skills

In the road to becoming a craftsman, I need to define a software craftsman. In this section, Becoming a Craftsman, I’m going to try to explore who a software craftsman really is, and offer my advice in steps required to go in that direction. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I’m either going through the action steps, went through them, or they’re on my list. That’s a real deal. I’m going to start off with communication skills.

Software craftsman is a good communicator

There is no question about about it: If you cannot explain what you’re doing to others you will not be a true craftsman, no matter how skillful you are. You have to become a good communicator! Being a good communicator is not only knowing how to speak (yes, that’s part of it), it is also knowing how to write well, and how to listen well. I’ll explain one by one.

Knowing how to speakThis is very important because a lot of times a person is judged by it. Just think about it. Who do you perceive as smart? Who has left a good impression on you? Whom are you more likely to listen? Usually, somebody that knows how to speak well. Usually, somebody that has got your attention. Besides, if you want to gain confidence or move up the ranks you need to be able to speak clearly. What can you do about it? Practice, practice, practice. I’ve recently joined a local Toastmasters club solely for that purpose. It’s a speech club that gives you a chance to talk at every meeting. I can’t tell you how it has helped me, since I joined it recently, but judging by the people in the club, I think it’s going to help me tremendously. Plus, I found out about it because it was recommended by an article on Computerworld.com — How to Prevent Offshoring From Taking Your Job. Check out Toastmasters.org, find a local chapter, and go to a meeting and see how it is.

Knowing how to writeIn software development there is a lot of writing. You write software requirements. You write design document. You write code. You write tests. There is a lot of writing. What comes with it? An opportunity to shine. An opportunity to be better than others. An opportunity to be perceived as quality oriented. Just by writing well you will be perceived as a better developer. What can you do about it? Set it high on your priority. Say it to yourself: I’m a good writer. And then practice, practice, practice. Read some books on writing well. There are two that I read and that I think are must reads: The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, and On Writing Well by William Zinsser. You should definitely read at least those two. Here is a list of others by a professional writer and his recommendations.

Knowing how to listenYou might be saying to yourself, whaaaaaat? Yes, knowing how to listen is also a very important communication skill. However, it’s a skill that many of us, including me, take for granted. I am not doing a whole lot in that direction, except acknowledging that it is important to do so and reading up on some strategies in Carnegie’s book (see below). What can you do about it? Get a book on communication skills and you’ll sure find it there. Plus, take notice: don’t interrupt when somebody talks; stay interested when somebody talks; ask questions. Basically, when somebody talks, stay active, don’t daydream.

Being a good communicator will not come right away. This is a long-term process because it is a change that has to come from inside of you. Make a dedication and evaluate your progress every 1/2 year (or more often — the more the better). You’ll see a difference. This is a skill that will help you in other areas of you life. It is a universal, whatever-you-do skill. It has a potential to be a difference maker. Take it seriously.

On a related note, a classic book that everybody should read (I’m finishing it slowly), is Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People. I am highly recommending it, as are hundreds of users on Amazon (it has almost a 5 star rating).

So, say it to yourself and try to achieve it: I am a software craftsman and I know how to communicate well.

One Response to “Communication Skills”

  1. rob says:

    Very good entry.

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