Being able to build a team of developers or engineerings capable of creating unique and engaging digital experiences is no easy task. Having built many engineering and dev teams myself, I know how daunting it can be to find individuals that are not only technically capable but mesh well together into a cohesive team. And let’s face it, while technical skills are essential, there are some personality traits that are equally (or more so) important when architecting your team. In this article, you will find five essential personality traits that are highly valuable when creating an efficient, collaborative, and high-performing web team.
From my experience, technical skills can be learned; personality traits are much more sensitive and need to be fostered. When I started prioritizing personality traits over technical skills, the results were the creation of highly collaborative and solutions-oriented teams that enjoyed taking on challenges. A driving factor was the awareness that we were all in it together and each person knew what the others were intrinsically bringing to the table – no matter the outcome, we all had a similar mindset.
For practical application, as you are reading this try thinking of questions to ask potential candidates or ways to better evoke these traits from your current team.
One of the most important attributes of a successful developer is creativity. All members of the dev team must be able to think in multiple ways at once. Whether it is rationalizing the design of a user interface or creating a new interactive feature, creativity is essential for success. Creativity can uncover unique solutions to common problems, which can create sustainable value for both the product and the wider team.
An exercise I like to use to evoke more creative thinking, is to ask my dev team to think of 3 ways to solve the need at hand, no more, no less, and rather than using code, sketch the options – literally, on either paper, whiteboard, or a digital tool. The outcome is not necessarily about the output, but rather about developing a mindset of thinking dynamically. This simple activity will start to inspire more creativity among each member of the team and as a collective.
2. Attention to detail
Attention to detail is another essential personality trait for developers. Both web and product development involve working with complex code and software, which requires a great deal of precision. A small mistake in the code can cause errors or even crashes to the site or digital experience. Therefore, attention to detail is critical, and being meticulous is an absolute must. Attention to detail also extends to the expression of the user interface, which includes minor nuanced transitions and animations that transform a good experience into a great one.
The expression, “good enough” is not good enough; however, “pixel-perfection” is a bit over-the-top. The sweet spot that any great developer is able to achieve is somewhere in between, where the interface may need the fine-tuning skills only a talented web dev can offer. This level of attention to detail typically requires a small, sometimes imperceptible, interpretation of the code to bring the experience to life.
Development is highly complex and can be a frustrating field. Developers and engineers must have the patience to work through complex problems and overcome obstacles. Patience is especially important for technical priorities when dealing with bugs or issues, which can take a long time to solve. Alternatively, patience is also vital when building complicated features with highly detailed requirements or when moving through a quality assurance (QA) phase with significant feedback.
One of the areas where patience is particularly important is during design reviews. Any good creative team is going to include devs during the design process, to help sense-check the approach for feasibility and ensure any ideas are balanced for budget and timeline. In these meetings, developers must strike the right balance between holding back and speaking up. The perfect balance is to be patient enough to allow the creative process to unfold while preventing potentially problematic ideas from being pushed to leadership for approval.
4. Communicating with Empathy
Development often involves working in cross-functional teams, where communicating with designers, project managers, and possibly individuals in marketing and communications is necessary. For those working at agencies, there is typically a certain amount of client-facing time, as well. Communication skills underpinned with empathy are essential for effective collaboration and for ensuring that everyone is on the same page. Dev teams must be able to explain technical concepts to non-technical team members and be able to listen to feedback and suggestions.
While expressive communication skills are a more obvious need, receptive communication skills are just as important to ensure empathy. Being able to listen will help developers become active participants in conversations and ensure there is understanding from both sides of the conversation. A tactic I typically like to use is to interpret and voice back what I heard. While this may seem redundant or unnecessary in the moment, this activity often uncovers additional questions and can help avoid misinterpretations or assumptions being made (never assume, anything).
The use of analogies is a tip that can help simplify complex topics into easily understandable terms. The analogy of building digital products to building a house is one of the most commonly used and applies to design and development.
No matter how you are able to communicate, the point is to ensure everyone is on the same page and understands each other’s perspective. Devs with good empathetic communication skills are able to find ways to ensure everyone understands the matter at hand without feeling alienated or “talked down to” in the process.
Web and product development is a constantly evolving field, with new technologies and trends emerging all the time. Developers must be adaptable and able to learn new technologies quickly. They must also be able to adapt to changing project requirements and be flexible in their approach. Those who are adaptable can stay ahead of the curve and deliver contemporary solutions that allow for longevity.
By combining a few of these traits together, dev teams will approach times of change with composure. Those who can remain patient, communicate effectively with empathy, and find creative solutions that meet the needs of the build, will help orient a team quickly – even in rapidly changing environments. Developers and engineers with good adaptability can keep a project from falling off the rails and actually further strengthen relationships and trust.
In conclusion, web and product development requires not only technical skills but also a range of essential personality traits. Creativity, attention to detail, patience, communicating with empathy, and adaptability are all essential for success as a developer. By cultivating these traits, leaders will be able to build teams capable of not only building great products but serve as vital participants in the creative process at any size organization.