Every tech leader is looking for technical talent and fluency in the latest trends in their tech developers. But there’s more to a truly great developer than that. Sometimes the qualities that make for a really valuable team member come as a surprise to new leaders. The skills and habits a novice tech leader may think of as simply “nice to have” in a developer sometimes turn out to be the qualities that make a major impact not only on their work but on the company as a whole.
The members of Forbes Technology Council are seasoned industry veterans who have seen what differentiates stand-out team members. Below, 15 of them share surprising traits and habits they’ve noticed that make a developer a true asset to a team.
1. Showing Empathy
Development skill with empathy is a tremendous combination. While there’s a core belief that an understanding of people (both clients and colleagues) underpinned with technology coding excellence is a key combination, many people are surprised when empathy is nurtured within a technology space. We are all human, we all have our own areas of expertise and we all have the ability to connect. – Dax Grant, Global Transform
2. Documenting Their Work
My observation is not confined to any single person; I’ve recognized a trait that’s something like an inner script in many developers. It compels them to transcribe their entire day for themselves and their team. These developers are an A-class on their own. It’s like having extremely excellent manners or the perfect table etiquette—only for software building. – Shmulik Fishman, Argyle
3. Exhibiting Ongoing Curiosity
I always appreciate it when a developer exhibits curiosity about why we are building the products we are. Then after learning that, they continue to be curious and ask questions. Those questions not only challenge our default behaviors but also our way of thinking about the problem. I really appreciate diverse ideas and opinions when we build something new. Curiosity tells me that they are interested and inspired. – Kathy Keating, Ad Hoc
4. Having A Team-First Mindset
Team members who work hard and create quality work will always have the chance to go far in their career, but a trait that sets someone apart is strategic thinking coupled with a team-first mindset. Developers who understand how to harness the power of the team and the importance each role plays in the development process will create a better, more powerful product and results. – David DeWolf, 3Pillar Global
5. Sharing Their Expertise
In an area of new technology, where the team is very much charting a new course (not only for the team itself but also for the industry), it has been amazing to see team members transform their passion for their technical work into playing a real role as confident expert advisors for the industry at large and our partners. – Jennifer Esposito, Magic Leap
6. Understanding And Furthering Product Scalability
A great trait in a developer is the ability to take a 10,000-foot view of what is being developed and understand the business implications for scalability and future-forward development. Completing an ask to develop a product is one thing; critical team members are the ones who can evaluate the ask and suggest ways to improve the product’s longevity in the market. – Amanda Dorenberg, COMMB
7. Approaching Projects With The Business’ Interests In Mind
I value a developer’s ability to empathize with the business. Most developers take great pride in solution shaping and seeing a challenge through to a solution. But the ability to empathize with the business on the challenge or issue is worth its weight in gold. It humanizes IT. Developers need to approach projects and tasks from a business mindset. When they do that, they earn more than just respect from the business. – Satya Jayadev, Skyworks Solutions, Inc.
8. Experience Working With The Public
Developers can get caught up in a bubble, so those who have held jobs in which they had to talk directly to customers bring great value. Maybe they waited tables, worked in retail or sold cellphones. Whatever the case, the more they can draw upon the experiences of nontechnical people, the better they are at developing software. – David Moise, Decide Consulting
9. Being Unintimidated By Management
Comfort around higher management is a skill many developers lack. Last year we hired a developer who not only had excellent tech skills but who also worked well with senior management. He presented on multiple occasions to senior leaders with a clear and impactful narrative and built effective working relationships with multiple teams to support data-driven decision making. – Jit Papneja, Reynolds American
10. Teaching And Storytelling Abilities
Everyone wants to hire a rockstar coder who knows all the ins and outs of some language or framework. But what puts someone over the top is the ability to communicate—to spread that knowledge to other team members and make it relevant to the product and the work. Truly great developers are usually great storytellers and connectors. You have to recognize that behind-the-scenes talent. – Fahim ul Haq, Educative Inc.
11. Awareness Of And Respect For Other Cultures
Cultural awareness is key. Tech companies increasingly provide services globally, and developers increasingly collaborate with other employees, partners and customers worldwide. Developers who are conscious of their own culturally shaped values, beliefs, perceptions and biases tend to be more culturally aware and adaptive. We increasingly screen for this trait. – Olga V. Mack, Parley Pro
12. Striving For Growth
Some of my global developers have positioned themselves as true thought leaders in the tech space on social media. They create and circulate content that teaches others invaluable skills and provides insights into the tech industry from a developer’s perspective. These things impress me because they remind me of the countless layers of innovation that make great future leaders. – David Gasparyan, Phonexa
13. A Willingness To Be Challenged
It may not be surprising, but an employee who wants to be challenged in his or her work can morph into an industry leader. Extreme talent, vision and drive from a talented team member can revolutionize a project or company, which can be very valuable for a startup. – Jun Pei, Cepton
14. A Willingness To Question The Status Quo
I value developers who step up and question us when they think they know an easier way to accomplish the same task. It’s easy to go with the flow, even if the final project takes much longer. When team members can speak up and share ways we can fine-tune our workflows and enhance our customer experience, I always see them as true assets to my team. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster
15. Demonstrating Initiative In Taking On Responsibility
My company employs more than 100 developers worldwide, and we have embraced the work-from-home culture. I have been very pleased and surprised when new developers take on responsibilities on their own initiative, such as leading technology training and roundtable sessions for the entire company. Typically new developers are only focused on their current projects, not the company as a whole. – Steve Taplin, Sonatafy Technology