Software Engineer & Developer

Things Every Software Engineer & Developer Need to Know

The software development landscape never stays in the same place for long. Developers–at least the good ones–are always learning something new, evolving their skill sets to keep up with innovation.

These days, software programmers and engineers have a few more things on their plate, thanks to a combination of converging technologies and the changes and challenges brought on by a global pandemic. In this article, we’ll look at ten things that all software developers and engineers need to know as we look toward 2021.

1. Know Your Customer

Software development is ultimately about helping the customer achieve their desired outcome. This often means helping your client deliver the best possible experience to their customers. 

You can’t create great software without understanding the end-user, use case, and what they’re trying to achieve. The bottom line is that the more you can learn about your customer and how their business operates before the project kicks off, the better. 

You’ll want to start from a place where you have a contextual understanding of how the end-product fits into a broader context–allowing you to ensure that the requirements, framework, and design align with the objectives that offer the most value to the business.

2. Work on Your Communication Skills

Team communication is a big deal in the software industry. Software engineers and developers must continuously work on their people skills, including empathy, clear communication, active listening, etc.

Teams need to be able to give and receive feedback, learn from their mistakes, and get comfortable with having direct conversations about their work. Combined, it hinges on building a culture of trust and mutual respect. 

Unlike other types of knowledge workers who can perform a lot of their work on their own, development teams work closely with one another as part of a tightly coordinated effort. 

Even small change requests made during informal discussions should be documented in the proper channels for future use, ensuring that everyone is on the same page regarding project status.

3. Master Multiple Programming Languages

Okay, understanding programming languages seems like sort of an obvious prerequisite for developers, but it’s important that you continue to embrace new languages, as experience with one or two won’t get you all that far. 

Becoming an expert in multiple languages unlocks new opportunities and higher earning potential. According to HackerRank’s 2020 Developer Skills Report, 38% of hiring managers said that hiring full-stack developers were their top priority going into this year.

While some languages like Python, JavaScript, C/C++ have long been the most in-demand languages, newer additions like Go, Rust, and TypeScript are on the rise

4. Data Should Be a Priority

Developers should be familiar with database platforms like Oracle, MySQL, SQL Server, and PostgreSQL. They should have an understanding of how to use them to retrieve and manipulate data.

Beyond that, it’s worth working on developing some data science skills. Employers are increasingly looking for developers with experience in Python and R, as well as streaming tools like Apache Kafka. 

5. Improve Your Cloud Computing Skills

Cloud computing is now the default, which means it’s a given that software developers will almost exclusively focus on creating cloud-based applications. In recent years, there’s been a shift toward cloud-native development and containerization, which means developers should focus on mastering them.

Cloud computing skills typically align around top vendors–Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Microsoft Azure–where organizations tend to hire developers based on their experience working with these different environments so that they can onboard new hires faster.

6. Develop Some Basic Project Management Skills

Learning some basic project management skills can help you become a better teammate and stay more organized. This holds true as development teams, like the rest of the world, have been thrust into a remote work environment. 

When you’re working with technical leads, project managers, and scrum masters, understanding the terminology and processes they use provides more clarity around expectations, allows teams to discuss projects using a common language, and helps put individual contributions into a broader context.

For example, if you look at something like task estimation, developers tend to focus exclusively on the technical aspects of a project–writing code, testing, debugging, etc., rather than the big picture–which means they’ll likely underestimate how much a project should cost or how long it takes to deliver the end result.

Project managers are trained to consider everything that goes into a project, including design, planning, development, code reviews, etc., plus some extra time to account for unexpected snags. 

Always Be Learning

And finally, the most important thing that developers should know is that learning is a never-ending process. According to StackOverflow’s 2020 Developer Survey, 75% of respondents stated that they learn at least one new skill each year.

For those of us who have been in the game for a long time, we’ve experienced some pretty major changes first-hand. For example, a lot of us started our careers working on monolithic, centralized systems hosted on company premises. The software was written in archaic languages, installed locally, and users were required to pay expensive licensing fees to use it. 

Today, development teams use open-source software, cloud-based business tools & infrastructure, and work across distributed, decentralized networks. They’re coping with new cybersecurity challenges, taking on big data, and responding to new needs brought on by the pandemic. The point is, things change fast, and it doesn’t take long to become obsolete.

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