Whether you’re listening to music, joining a video conference, or booking a flight, using software has become part of the daily routine. It’s so common in fact, it’s now hard to imagine a world without apps.
Software engineers are responsible for building the apps we use every day. It’s a highly-skilled job that requires in-depth knowledge of coding, development tools, and engineering principles. If you have a technical mindset and love solving problems, software engineering is an excellent career choice.
We’ll take a look at all the skills you’ll need to get started in the field. But first, let’s look at the role in more detail.
What Does a Software Engineer Do?
A software engineer uses engineering principles to plan, design, develop, test, and maintain computer software and mobile applications. The role requires extensive knowledge of programming languages but is more than just computer programming.
Software engineers need to first capture user requirements, define the system specifications, and come up with design ideas to meet the requirements. They must then write the software and test it for errors. Once the software is developed, the responsibility doesn’t end there. Software engineers must provide ongoing support, maintenance, and software updates based on client feedback.
The recent boom in mobile tech has made software engineers in-demand professionals. Companies regard skilled software engineers as extremely valuable employees and reward them with excellent compensation packages and job perks.
Here are some common software engineering responsibilities:
- Improving system quality.
- Enhancing applications.
- Writing testable code.
- Debugging and troubleshooting existing systems.
- Developing flowcharts, layouts, and documentation for solutions.
- Executing the software development lifecycle.
- Developing and executing project plans.
- Problem-solving using statistics and mathematical tools.
- Implementing new technologies wherever relevant.
- Maintaining codebases.
- Collaborating with others to implement technical designs.
- Ensuring the system is updated with the latest features.
Software Engineering Hard Skills
Here are some technical skills required for the role:
If you’re planning a future in software engineering, you must have a command over at least one or two of these languages. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and is used in specific situations.
For example, C++ provides fast execution times and low resource usage. It’s great for building software that needs to be optimized for speed like 3D video games.
- Databases: Every software engineer should know how to work with databases. You’ll have to handle creating, storing, maintaining, managing, and updating data. Knowledge of concepts like normalization and table design will come in handy.
You should also be good at writing SQL queries. MySQL, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, Cassandra, and Redis are some popular database systems. You don’t need to be good at all of these, mastering one will do the job.
- Data Structures: This is a crucial skill required for problem-solving and writing code. You’ll not be able to write an application without knowing basic data structures like a map, linked list, and an array.
- IDEs: An IDE (or Integrated Development Environment) is a word processor for programmers. It’s easier to read and write computer code using an IDE. They speed up the process by highlighting and color-coding commands and statements. They can also report errors in real-time so you don’t have to compile the program to identify bugs.
Visual Studio or Code::Blocks are considered good IDEs for C, C++, and C# programmers. PyCharm, Spyder, or Jupyter notebooks are popular amongst those who use Python. Eclipse, NetBeans, and IntelliJ IDEA are recommended for Java developers.
Text editors can also be used to write code. Notepad++, Sublime, VIM, and Atom are some of the widely used editors. You should learn keyboard shortcuts too, in order to save time and work efficiently.
- Software Testing and Debugging: Many companies prefer candidates who are good at testing and debugging. These are crucial parts of any large scale software project.
- Networking: Almost all applications are based on a client-server model, where the request will go through the network to a server. Applications like online games, cloud computing, and business automation all use networks. The architecture has to be designed properly, otherwise errors and HTTP request issues can occur.
Software Engineering Soft Skills
It’s rare to work in isolation as a software engineer. You’ll therefore need strong social and interpersonal skills to help you be an effective team member. Here are some essential soft skills needed for the role:
- Adaptability: Tech-related fields move fast. This is especially true in a software engineer role. You should be open to learning new skills and technologies as old techniques change and evolve. At times it becomes challenging to adapt to new methods. You should be able to handle problems, criticism, and comments positively.
- Empathy: As a software engineer, you should be able to put yourself in other people’s shoes. This can help you understand the problems and challenges that your team is facing. For instance, while giving feedback to a team member, you should understand their perspective. You should also be able to empathize with your users. This will help you understand their needs.
- Teamwork: You’ll have to work in teams, which requires interpersonal skills. You should know how to handle criticism, appreciate your colleagues, listen to their perspective, empathize with them, and communicate with them. These qualities will make you a good team player.
- Communication: It’s important that you communicate your ideas and your perspective to others clearly and effectively. Good communication within a team facilitates harmony. You should also be a good listener. Keep in mind not to interrupt others while they’re speaking.
- Problem-Solving: Problems and challenges are a part of every job. The important thing is how you handle them. The key is to look at problems objectively. Instead of blaming others, your aim should be to find solutions. This is a key quality recruiters look for in a candidate during the hiring process.
How to Learn Software Engineering Skills
Whether you’re starting from scratch or refreshing existing knowledge, there are many different ways you can learn fundamental software engineering skills. Here are some tips on how to get started in this field:
- Get a Degree: A bachelor’s degree is the traditional way to learn software engineering skills. Courses take 4 years and cost up to $120,000 in tuition fees. A computer science or related course will provide students with an in-depth understanding of software engineering principles. Due to the significant investment of both time and money, degrees aren’t for everyone.
- Enroll in a Bootcamp: In this fast-moving industry, employers understand on-trend skills can be more important than degree certificates. This is where bootcamps come in. They provide aspiring software engineers with the opportunity to learn career-ready skills, fast. Enroll in our online software engineering bootcamp for an affordable, laser-focused learning program. You’ll get one-on-one mentoring and receive our full support as you complete our up-to-date curriculum. We’ll take you from beginner to hired in less than a year.
- Build Your Network: Join online forums and communities to reach out and build your professional network. You can attend local meet-ups and conferences to get to know other aspiring software engineers. Networking will help you learn from others and see different points of view. It’ll also help you stay up-to-date and could even lead to a job opportunity.
- Research the Role: Before committing to an education program, it’s important you fully understand software engineering and if it’s right for you. There are plenty of software engineering books available to learn about the role. You can also check out online resources like software engineering blogs, YouTube channels, and forums.
- Get a Mentor: Mentors can provide priceless insight into the role and support you through your career development. You can learn from their experience and avoid any mistakes they made. Mentors can also leverage their professional contacts to help you find job opportunities.
- Teach Others: By teaching new software engineers you can refresh your own skills. They may also bring another perspective and help you understand problems from a different point of view.
The Fast Track to A Career in Software Engineering
Software development is an incredibly satisfying role that involves a range of different skills. You’ll need technical programming know-how to develop software, but also great social skills for meeting clients and sharing ideas with your team.
If you have a passion for programming and love problem-solving, enroll in our software engineering bootcamp to fast-track your career goals.