Who really likes the term “Soft Skills”?

As testers, we find ourselves testing, even when we aren’t testing, and semantics is a fine example of that.

Rick Tracy gave a Soapbox talk on ‘Testing the city’, at EuroSTAR 2017, and he touched again on that in longer form, with his talk ‘Are we crazy?’ at UKSTAR 2019.

Part of his talk’s blurb is:

Testing is dangerous. No, I don’t mean it’s hazard-pay dangerous or wear-your-helmet dangerous, but it is drive-you-crazy dangerous. We work in an industry that is constantly, deliberately, and effectively driving us nuts.


Sometimes we struggle to let go, and sometimes we can’t stop noticing faults, defects, imperfections, irritations etc.

Even today, I was getting irrationally upset about anomalous apostrophes in a restaurant’s menu. Sometimes I need to let go.

In In my mind, my body and my soul….. I talked about the need for testers to have strong communication skills, highlighting further the need for diplomacy, pragmatism, emotional intelligence, and a greater awareness and appreciation of our love languages along with those of our colleagues.

The more I think about it, the more these “soft skills” are something that I find hard to quantify. Wikipedia’s opening spiel about these are:

Soft skills are a combination of people skillssocial skillscommunication skillscharacter or personality traits, attitudes, career attributes,[1] social intelligence and emotional intelligence quotients, among others, that enable people to navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals with complementing hard skills.[2] The Collins English Dictionary defines the term “soft skills” as “desirable qualities for certain forms of employment that do not depend on acquired knowledge: they include common sense, the ability to deal with people, and a positive flexible attitude.”


My testing instinct, that gut feeling that you have when something doesn’t sit right with you, just has a hard time to resolve that in common parlance, these skills are soft, whereas something more tangible, or measurable is hard.


This infographic is presented without any particular point, other than a means to add a visual stimulant to this monologue of a thought process.

I’m aware that I have bias regarding soft skills, I believe that it is one of my strengths and something I really look for when recruiting testers. But, why should testers be the only ones for whom we are paying attention to these skills?

Why is something that is so hard to teach, called soft?

What do you look for in your managers, your coaches and your leaders?

An exciting return to Sporting Analogy Corner:

When you look at some of the world’s greatest footballers, did they all transition into superstar managers?

Not all, but some did. Look at Zinedine Zidane, Franz Beckenbauer or Didier Deschamps.

But then again some really didn’t work out, Diego Maradona or Alan Shearer, for example.

Then there are success stories in management who weren’t superstar players. Such as. Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger or Joachim Loew.

It’s all about balance really, we all have our own mix of the two columns and hopefully we will all find our place. But, why can’t we give them different names?

I put out a quick question on Twitter, what could we rename soft skills and hard skills, below are some of the replies.

  • Learned and taught
  • Interpersonal and tech
  • Peoplegood and Computergood
  • Light magic and dark magic

Maybe you’ve got more suggestions?

Blog post title lyrics from: Skills to pay the bills – by Beastie Boys.

Find all the songs from my blog posts at this Spotify playlist.