Want to thrive in tech? It might come as a surprise that hard skills alone are not enough to progress your career as a developer.

At Taxdoo, we believe that nurturing Emotional Intelligence (EI), as well as technical skills, is the key to a healthy, productive environment.

Why care about EI?

The stereotype of a good developer coding alone in a basement surrounded by empty pizza boxes is outdated (was it ever that realistic?!). Modern tech companies thrive when their teams are diverse, communicative and feel comfortable. The former archetype of a developer is narrow, promotes an unhealthy work/life balance, and requires little emotional intelligence or social interaction. The reality of working in tech is that you need to be a people-person, because creating software for humans is about understanding humans and most of all, understanding yourself.

You may be wondering, in such a results-oriented role, where code quality and features deployed are often used as measurements for success, how is it possible to cultivate and demonstrate emotional intelligence?

Worry not! We’ve compiled some practical tips on how you can boost your Emotional Intelligence on the job.


This one is a big one. And for that reason, it’s an uncomfortable one. As a developer, it’s a good idea to reflect on who you are and how you show up in day-to-day life.

You write comments on a merge request that is detailed yet succinct. You send a message to the developer let them know that you’ve submitted your feedback.
Silence. They don’t respond to you for a day. You send them an email, just to make sure they know you’ve reviewed their work. In the next stand-up, you directly ask why they haven’t responded. They give a blunt answer about being too busy. You feel irritated by their response- don’t they want to get this work done promptly? You decide to complain to your tech lead about this. They listen to your concerns however seem bemused that you are taking this instance so seriously. You start to feel alienated and disinterested in your role.

It is completely normal to not be fully self-aware. In this instance, it pays to consider the perspective of the person you are working with. With this example, it would help to ask for feedback from your colleague who wrote the MR or your tech lead to understand how your behavior is influencing the environment.
Sure- you are doing your job, reviewing code and communicating efficiently- but the way you do this will impact how other humans react towards you. Could sending a Slack message followed by an email (without a response from the initial message) be perceived as pushy or passive-aggressive? Was your tone neutral, friendly, or aggressive? Was stand-up the best opportunity to address your concern? Could it have come across as accusatory or as if you were ‘throwing that person under the bus’?

Instead of complaining to your tech lead about the lack of communication, this would have been a great opportunity to ask a trusted colleague for feedback. By asking for feedback from a trusted friend or colleague, you hear another person’s perspective and start to train yourself to proactively consider how you can positively impact others and therefore be perceived as a reliable and trustworthy colleague who people love to work with.

Looking for more advice on improving self-awareness? The Harvard Business Review outlines great tips and examples for improving self-awareness as a business leader, all of which can be applied to your role as a developer or tech professional.


Let’s face it. 2023 was a tough year for the tech industry. Layoffs, instability, reduced resources, and increased workload are all factors that contribute to feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Whilst these conditions are far from optimal, the way we react during these times will have long-lasting effects on our careers, our relationships, and our health.

Self-regulation to the rescue!

Learning to self-regulate is not about repressing feelings or sugarcoating hard times; it’s about feeling those feelings without letting them control your behavior. According to Psychology Today, ‘self-regulation may be behavioral or cognitive, or both’. Put simply, you are either self-regulating behavior or thoughts. Here are some ways you can manage these feelings healthily and productively.

It’s the last day of the sprint. You’re the most senior developer on your team so you’ve picked up the most important piece of work. And it’s not finished. Nowhere near ready to go to a Quality Assurance Engineer for review. Your Product Manager pops up to your desk after stand-up and is visibly stressed. They start quizzing you about why this valuable feature isn’t ready yet. Why didn’t you give more updates on this sooner? Why didn’t you ask for the deadline to be extended? Don’t you realize how much revenue we might lose if this feature is delayed? The client wanted this a month ago!
Everyone on your team is silent. It isn’t fair that you’re being publicly grilled. You feel yourself clamming up. Then getting really angry.

Deadlines and stress are common in tech. Whilst you can’t control how fairly your colleagues will treat you, you can control how you react to their behavior. In this example, you can start by acknowledging that you feel angry. Why wouldn’t you? Their behavior is unpleasant and unreasonable. Then, take your time to decide how you want to react or if you want to react at all. Saying nothing is also a response.
Regardless of how you decide to react, make time to reflect and journal afterward. Were there particular words or patterns that triggered you? By making a practice of understanding common themes that you find triggering, you will become better at understanding how you can observe those feelings in the moment, process them, and react in a way that is authentic to you yet also appropriate for the environment.

As a developer, how can you do this?

1. To start with, make it easier to stay in control. Got a deadline? Mute any distractions (Slack, put your phone on flight mode) and dedicate time to purely focus on completing the task before the deadline. Also, communicate to your team and other stakeholders what you need to focus on so that they are aware and can support you.

Remove anything that breaks your focus or could cause you to become distracted.

2. Acknowledge your feelings
Feeling worried about your job security? Schedule some time to worry. Write down all of your thoughts and fears. Make a plan and set a date to take action. This plan might include having a frank conversation with your tech lead or HR, it might include updating your CV or looking for a new role. Whatever the action involves, commit to it and after this scheduled time of worrying is up, move on and do something else.

These examples are ways that you can acknowledge negative emotions and react in a way that is practical and measured. This cognitive skill is highly prized and if you want to become a respected leader, self-regulation is something you should try to master.


Motivation drives actions. Motivation is often linked to highly productive and resilient individuals. Staying motivated as a developer can be a challenge. For quick ways to regain focus and stay mentally well, you might want to try the Pomodoro technique. This technique splits time into chunks of just under half an hour, which helps you to stay motivated and avoid becoming overwhelmed.
However, this hack won’t solve a deeper lack of drive. Most of us code because we love it, some of us code because it brings a steady paycheck.
Regardless of career choice, it’s important to understand what motivates you intrinsically, regardless of financial compensation, status, or any other external reward. The saying goes that if you find a job you love, you won’t work a day in your life.
If you find a job that matches your personal goals, values, or beliefs, you will find it a lot easier to stay motivated when the going gets tough. As developers, we are so lucky to have an abundance of opportunities available to us, so understanding ourselves will make us better employees and help us to make choices that create a career we love.


You’re applying for a new role at a company that is a completely different product with a completely different tech-stack, some of which is very new and you’ve never worked with it before. It offers a huge pay rise, a flexible hybrid working environment, private healthcare, your potential new boss is ex-Google, and share options are also available after passing probation. This company invites you to submit a project using a framework you’ve never used. You invest a lot of time in the project and you manage to submit it within the deadline. Success! You are invited for an interview with the hiring manager. They explain that this company has significant technical debt, and is a bit understaffed however the culture is good and senior leadership is understanding and supportive. A few days later, they offered you the role.

From this example, can you discern what the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators for this role are? Extrinsic motivation would be feeling excited about getting paid more, getting better benefits, and enjoying a flexible working policy. All of these factors are important, however, they have little to do with actually building software- they could be offered with almost any computer-based role. Intrinsic motivators would be relishing the thought of learning a new tech stack or hacking away at the tech debt to offer better solutions for the company. Conversely, an understaffed team might be enticing as you’ll not be short of exciting work to do. As long as there is a hiring term plan and supportive leadership, a high workload for a short amount of time can be rewarding.

A question that helps you understand whether your motivation is intrinsic or extrinsic is asking yourself: when was the last time you experienced joy when coding? Regardless of whether this was at work or in your time, an important part of coding is being excited to code and learn. Tech is a fast-paced industry where frameworks, languages, and business needs change rapidly. If you are intrinsically motivated to solve complex problems and keep learning, you will find your career a lot more enjoyable.


Empathy is a skill that is becoming ever more sought after. Why? Humans are drawn to empathetic people. Empathy is not the same as sympathy; the latter is often about pitying and therefore distancing yourself from another’s situation. Empathy is about finding the similarities in a human experience and understanding what that person is going through.

A new front-end project is on the horizon. As your team has a strong suite of front-end development skills, it’s looking likely that the project will be assigned to your team. The assigned Product Manager set up a kickoff meeting. It’s time to gather requirements. In this meeting, do you ask questions about how current users experience the app? Do you ask questions about which framework or component library will be used? Do you enquire about data that outlines pain points for users? Do you ask about how much time and how many developers will be allocated to this project?

These are all great questions when gathering requirements and defining the scope of a project. Yes, as a developer, it is important to lead on how a project will be technically built and implemented. Yes, most revenue-focussed companies require a specific delivery timeline. However, by exercising empathy at the requirements-gathering stage of a project, you put the user’s needs first, which means that the solution delivered will be most valuable. It will also demonstrate that you are open to the wider context of the business and that you care about who uses the tool that you are building.

In addition, communicating authentically is part of leading with empathy. Can emojis help? They might well be able to foster engagement and build happier teams, according to Forbes. In digital communication, emojis make it clear what sort of tone you wish to convey and inject humor into communication that can otherwise be transactional or impersonal. Of course, use them with caution and not in formal settings, however, you may want to consider using emojis to bring more personality and warmth to your everyday communication style.
Remote, hybrid, or in-person, asking your colleagues about themselves and actively listening to their responses also shows that you are empathetic, and care about them as individuals whilst also respecting professional boundaries.
A good way to show empathy is to simply ask your colleagues how they are, check in on them and every time you speak to them, actively listen.

It is a simple tip, but listening and remembering details about your colleagues is a great way to show them that you care and are aware of what they might be going through.

Social skills

An often overlooked soft skill, having great social skills will propel your career forward hugely. Of course, businesses value individuals who deliver results but also those who invest in social capital by building networks with their co-workers. This not only facilitates efficiency but also promotes a healthy, collaborative environment.
And the best thing is… you don’t have to be an extrovert to have great social skills!
There are a host of ways that you can reach out to your teammates or colleagues (Slack, email, video call, or an in-person catch-up), however, the main thing is to communicate with them authentically and if possible, to make time to understand them aside from the topic of work. Be aware that some colleagues may view work as simply that and may not feel comfortable with getting to know other colleagues.

You’re in a meeting. Your senior, your team lead and the client are also in the meeting. After introducing yourself, you sit quietly and wait for someone to ask you a question. The senior fields most of the difficult questions that the client has, with your team lead backing him up where necessary. It’s an intense meeting and you feel quite overwhelmed by the client’s requirements. With a silent sigh of relief on your part, the meeting comes to an end, and aside from the introduction round, you’ve said nothing. You can get back to finishing your ticket for the day. You want to get yet another piece of work finished, especially as you have a one-to-one meeting with your team lead next week and you’d like to ask for a promotion because you’ve been delivering a lot of good solutions.

If this example is typical of how someone behaves in a collaborative setting, how likely is it that the individual will be promoted? True, being productive and consistently finishing work is part of being a good worker. However, staying in your comfort zone and being silent in meetings means that you lose out on opportunities to show that you are a team player, to showcase your work, and to support your team. Public speaking is daunting and is often not a skill that is taught, however by starting small, for example, to ask project-relevant questions in meetings or proactively offer a response if you know the answer, you can build your confidence and trust with your colleagues as you go. 

You might feel shy to begin with however with practice, you will feel more confident. Start by asking open-ended questions, then ensure to check in regularly and if you feel comfortable, attend work-organised social events.Remember, it’s not a popularity contest, more an opportunity to create a network of supportive individuals that will help you, your team and your organisation achieve success.

Emotional intelligence is becoming increasingly important. The tech industry is growing, and whilst there may still be a standard of technical skills that are deemed crucial for certain roles, it is always good to remember that these can be learned. Developing emotional intelligence can be learned, however it is most effective as a constant mindset.
After reading this, you may wonder where to begin. Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills are all components of emotional intelligence- why not score yourself on each area and pick one to improve on? We all have our unique strengths, so we may as well make the most of them.

Would you like to work in an environment that values emotional intelligence as well as technical challenges and interesting projects? We’re hiring! Check out current vacancies here or learn more about Taxdoo culture.

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Software engineering is all about coding. Right?

Wrong. Well, just a little bit at least. Software engineering is way more than writing lines of code. Problem-solving, understanding complex business systems, specifying the scope of project implementation, defining contracts between clients and customers, coordination (for resource allocation, deployments, interlinked pieces of work), prioritizing, communication between colleagues or with Product Managers… the list goes on.

In fact, for many developers, coding is the easy part. You can practice this craft to perfection. Got a bug? Fix it. Data table locked and clients can’t log in? Declare an incident and fix it. Deployment of a new release failed? Fix it.
We, developers, are innate fixers. Logically minded, we love building solutions that help someone in some way. Which in itself is an innately empathetic trait.

Yet, when deadlines are tight, or the team is stretched too thin, or even when everything is going brilliantly, we can sometimes forget to work on the long list of other skills we need to do our job which doesn’t involve code. This is where having good Emotional Intelligence is incredibly valuable. Not only for yourself but a survey of hiring managers confirmed that 75% of hiring managers valued high EI over high IQ.

Firstly, what is Emotional Intelligence?  As April Wensel said in her talk at PyTennessee in 2018, it’s not about sugarcoating difficult conversations or being an extrovert. Emotional Intelligence is about not being ruled by your emotions. 

American psychologist, Daniel Goleman, popularised emotional intelligence and defined five key principles that underpin EI; self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

How can we apply this as software engineers? We’ve broken down the five EI pillars into simple definitions and, based on extensive research and lived experiences as developers, we’ve collected some examples and tips that you can use to boost your Emotional Intelligence.  


Self-awareness is being able to understand your emotions and how your reactions to your emotions affect others. As a developer, it’s good to spend time reflecting on your intrinsic strengths, weaknesses, environments that you have a natural preference for, and potential situations that can trigger you. A good example of having good self-awareness is knowing how much you can do.

It happens often in teams of developers that a sprint finishes with initially committed user stories unfinished. Self-awareness enables the team to take on and commit to finishing a realistic amount of work based on the complexity and skill set of the team. An example of this may be considering whether, even on a good day, could you complete an 8-point piece of work within a working day. It’s unrealistic to commit to this if you know you would struggle or have never completed a piece of work like this in that time.

How can self-awareness help you as a developer? In a nutshell, it will help you to recognize and mitigate the impact of stress by understanding your skills and limitations accurately.
From tight deadlines to receiving constructive feedback in 1-1s to tackling criticism during code reviews to simply working in the fast-paced world of software development, the ability to recognize when you are experiencing stress will help you to limit the impact it has on your health and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

To boost your self-awareness, ask yourself the following questions and journal your answers.

Complete this exercise once a month and review your answers from the previous month.

Do you notice any differences?


Self-regulation is the ability to manage your own impulses, energy, and moods and to think before you act. This is particularly useful when you apply this to managing your capacity at work and how you react in a professional environment. We probably all know the impulsiveness that comes with working behind a computer screen; less actual face-to-face time, brisk deadlines and the sometimes unavoidable insularity of coding can mean that you can get stuck in your head and forget how to regulate yourself when it comes to interacting with other human beings.

For example, let’s say we’re a junior developer who has just started learning Java. They see a high priority ticket in the sprint, weighted at around 8 points. We all know the feeling. We want to impress and please our team. But we don’t have the skills needed to complete the work, especially in a specific timeframe. Self-regulation, in this case, will mean that you decline to pick up the ticket but maybe offer to pair or review the work of the more senior developer who picks it up. Sure, you’re turning down an opportunity to shine but you’re also not being controlled by your pride and accepting work which will be stressful to complete well. Instead, self-regulation helps you to make a decision that is realistic and benefits the team, as well as the business you work for.

This might present as getting irritated at correcting a colleague’s code format for the umpteenth time (despite also asking them to install a linting extension in VS Code) and writing a slightly too direct comment on their latest merge request. With a few grumpy exclamation marks to boot.

When you are unable to self-regulate, you react in ways that are driven by your emotions, which isn’t always appropriate in a professional setting. Outbursts like the one above are likely to make your colleague more hesitant to ask for your help when they next have a merge request to review, for fear of getting the same reaction. Over time, reactions like this lead to a less collaborative environment. Had you been able to self-regulate and calmly explain why the changes needed, your colleague would’ve made the adjustments and would trust you as a source for support in future.


What motivates you? Many of us working in tech are lucky to be well paid, have interesting projects, a work-life balance, and have supportive colleagues (or, at least a mixture of some of these).
But does any of this motivate you intrinsically

It may well be that none of these motivate you, which is OK. Understanding what drives you will help you write and keep writing the best code you’ve ever written. If the going gets tough, you’ll already know how to tap into your innate ambition and stay focused and positive. You’ll also be more likely to take the initiative to take charge of your own career and create your own opportunities, as opposed to following the path set out by your employer or what is expected of you by others.

This is not about promoting ‘hustle culture’, but more to highlight the importance of knowing what keeps you going and cultivating a proactive mindset which means you are ready and motivated when opportunities that align with your goals present themselves.


Empathy is the awareness of the feelings, needs, and concerns of others. Being aware of how others experience the world means that as a developer, you are better able to communicate and build relationships with lots of different people.

Take our example earlier of writing an irritated comment in response to a mistake on a merge request. When exercising empathy, you may consider whether your colleague has made a mistake because they are stressed or whether code quality standards are communicated clearly across the department. You would then share your feedback on the merge request calmly and perhaps check in with this colleague.

To be clear, empathy is not about lowering your standards or cutting people too much slack. It’s about considering others and considering how your actions may impact them. A good example of exercising empathy is setting easy-to-understand variable names. Underpinning a key principle of clean code, setting variable names which are easy to search, intentionally named, and describing the logic of the variable makes life much easier for the next developer who comes along and has to work out what the code does. This contributes to how easy a system is to maintain or re-architect. Ever designed an API? Developers are your users, so develop and publish an API and related resources that are simple and if possible, include a feedback option so your users can ask questions. At Taxdoo, we offer Developer Support for our API via Reddit, so that developers can read discussions and share knowledge.

Ever heard of Ubiquitous Language? Eric Evans coined this term in Domain Driven Design to describe the practice of establishing a language between users and developers, based on the Domain Model. By using empathy to develop Ubiquitous Language, we then have a framework of communication between developers and business domain experts that makes the feedback for testing or developing a product clearer and much more impactful.

Being aware of how others feel is also key if you aim to become a leader. People gravitate towards those who can unite a diverse group of people and bring out the best in them. Highly empathetic people are also more likely to be able to acknowledge and successfully navigate political situations at work in a way that delivers results, for example, securing promotion for a direct report or receiving more resources to better complete a project, without compromising their integrity or neglecting the development of their team.

Social Skills

Social skills are just for social butterflies and extroverts? Of course not! Even for the most shy or introverted, social skills can be developed in an authentic way so that you can connect and work with others. Social skills cover a breadth of qualities; the ability to communicate (think honestly and clearly, rather than chatty and convoluted), the ability to build trust and bonds with colleagues and most powerfully, to yield influence based on the high regard that your colleagues hold you in.

Let’s uncover another myth: having good social skills is not about being popular or striving to make everyone like you. Social skills are about presenting yourself authentically, being an uncomplicated person to work with, and being someone who can mentor, manage and resolve disagreements in a way that builds trust, rather than erodes it. In many organizations, people who possess brilliant social skills can also use this to spark change in a positive way. Does the company want to become agile? Advocates will be selected based on their sphere of influence to spearhead a cultural shift and ensure that the adoption remains high.

At the end of the day, we know that Emotional Intelligence is often overlooked as a ‘mere soft skill’. We like to measure success with cold, hard metrics. So why care about Emotional Intelligence, especially in a logic-driven field such as software engineering? Because a high IQ alone is not enough to achieve success.

Much as we are expected to have multiple skills and areas of knowledge as an engineer, to work sustainably and be more impactful, we need to address how we behave, react, and present ourselves at work. The great thing about EI is that it puts the focus back onto personal growth, emotionally and mentally, as opposed to professional growth, which focuses on acquiring new skills and experiences to remain competitive. 

Combining both and suddenly, we, as engineers and tech professionals, can sustainably deliver value as well as grow as individuals. 

Not sure how to approach this subject with your team? Share this article with trusted colleagues on chat messenger, ask them to read it, and see what they think. Perhaps it will spark a healthy debate on what processes a team or department could work on to promote a culture of emotional intelligence.

Or if a problem keeps arising around code reviews or difficult-to-understand documentation, use this article as a conversation starting point for addressing these issues in retros or post-mortems. It is good to note that in some organizations which are purely results driven or where mental health or wellness at work is not prioritized, that the topic of Emotional Intelligence may be viewed negatively or could cause someone to take offense. Not everyone thinks the same or is as progressive as you’d hope them to be, so consider before you decide to raise this topic in your workplace.

We hope that you found this article. Please feel free to share your feedback or experiences with us!

Maria, Engineering Manager at Taxdoo, delivered a presentation on Emotional Intelligence in Software Engineering at the FemTech Conference in 2023. Covering the definition of Emotional Intelligence, management psychology, the professional benefits of high Emotional Intelligence to practical tips on how to improve your own emotional intelligence, her talk was a deep dive into EI that aims to provide practical ways to improve your own EI whilst supporting your team in an EI-positive environment.