The Most Important Skill Any Software Engineer Must Have
This is the most important email I've ever written for your career, so please read till the end (3min read)
I post daily on social media so I can grow my audience. I got quite busy at work and decided to hire a social media manager to help me out. I had a very good budget, way above market rate for such roles. I was willing to pay even more if I found the right person.
I connected with 10 social media managers with over 5 years of experience according to them. I set meetings with 4 of them, who looked like the best candidates to me.
The goal of this meeting was to introduce my brand to them and talk about their past experiences.
After speaking with all 4, I hired none.
They all had one major flaw in common. Skill driven career focus. They were proud to explain how long they had been posting on Instagram, Twitter and even Tik Tok.
They knew how to create video content, viral content, even podcasts. They could create slides on Instagram and beautiful grids.
That’s all fancy and fun. And these are definitely skills you need to succeed as a social media manager.
Well then what’s the problem ? And why is this a flaw ?
They thought I was willing to pay them for their skills. But no. I was willing to pay them to solve a problem I was facing.
A business will not hire you for the skills you have. A business will hire you to solve a problem they have.
Oh how I wish! Oh how I wish someone had told me to build my career around problem solving and not skill acquisition.
There’s a very thin line between the two, and I will break it down for you.
I will use the social media example to explain further.
This is the kind of candidate I would have hired.
A candidate that told me these 4 things:
A problem they solved in the past
A measurable negative impact caused by that problem
The solution they brought
A measurable positive impact by that solution
This is the problem solving mindset.
Here’s an example of how a candidate would show this skill:
Start quote _
I worked with Piggy Vest 2 years ago. They had one major problem. Gen Z and Millennials did not know about them.
They knew this when they realized 60% of the people who saved on their app were 85+ year old. This was making them lose over 70% of the market share to their competition.
We sat down and did some research. We realised that Millennials and Gen Z spent most of their time on Instagram and Tik Tok. We decided to create a strategy to reach this audience where they spend their time.
My team and I created a social media calendar specific to the Gen Z and Millenail audience.
We also came up with 1 social media campaign for that month. The goal was simple. Increase awareness of the Piggy Vest brand amongst this audience.
Using Buffer, we got automatic metrics showing us the metrics, performance and engagement of every piece of content.
Our content was very specific.
At the end of the month, we got 300,000+ impressions across all social media, 500 new Gen Z sign ups to Piggy Vest.
How does that look ? Who will you hire ? This person said nothing about instagram grids, viral videos, or LinkedIn slides. They said nothing about all the hard core skills you need to get the job done.
Instead, they focused only on the business problem, the impact of the problem, the solution, and the impact of the solution.
Problem: Piggy Vest had low Gen Z users
Impact of Problem: Competitors had majority market share
Solution: Build brand awareness amongst Gen Z using social media engagement
Impact of Solution: 500 new Gen Z sign ups after 1 month of solution.
This is six figure material. This is the social media manager that gets paid $100k+ per year brands while working from anywhere in the world.
This translates to all careers in tech. Let me give you another practical example of how this applies to software engineers.
Say you’re hiring for a Frontend Engineering Role. In the job description, they mentioned their love for automated testing.
Here’s how you present your previous experience to them.
Start quote _
In my last job, I worked on a team developing the SAAS dashboard for our customers. Every month, we had 8 new customers that churned because the app was too buggy. Too many bugs.
During a strategy call with the head of engineering, we decided to add automated tests. I wrote more tests than anyone else. I enjoyed the process.
The tests helped us catch bugs early, and reduce regressions.
After a few months, we noticed the average number of bugs reported had reduced from 15 a week to less than 6. Also, zero customers churned because of the app being buggy.
Now compare this to a frontend engineer who tells you I know Jest, React and Cypress for testing.
It’s a completely different mindset. It’s a mindset that let’s tech companies hire you despite your location.
Because you are just so good at what you do and think in a problem and solution mindset.
So, what's the most important skill a software engineer should have ?