The field of software engineering has become increasingly popular among the tech-savvy. It offers constant challenges, rewarding career opportunities, and high salaries.
If you're curious about what it takes to become a software engineer, here's your introduction. We'll define what software engineering actually is, and what the work entails. To start us off, we'll define what software is, and how the field of software engineering came to be.
What Is Software?
Before we delve into Software Engineering, it’s important to first define exactly what software is. Generally speaking, software is a set of instructions that tell a computer to carry out a specific task. We use ‘software’ as a generic term to describe the programs that run on smart devices like PCs, tablets, and mobile phones. Any useful function a computer performs will always involve software. This can range from word processing and web browsing to video gaming and voice chatting.
Definition of Software Engineering
Software Engineering is the process of designing, developing, and maintaining software. The first step is usually to capture user requirements. Next, Software Engineers design, build and test a software application that will satisfy those user requirements.
But how did Software Engineering come into existence? The answer to this lies in understanding the ‘Software Crisis’ of the late 1960s. This period saw many
failed software projects. Software development was becoming more and more expensive. Software systems were overly complex and difficult to maintain. It was a growing problem which meant software was failing to meet user demands. By transforming unorganized and chaotic coding methods into a more structured and pragmatic approach, Software Engineering was born.
The shift in working techniques resulted in fast adoption and widespread use in the 1970s. This development was followed by the automation of the Software Engineering process and the growth of Computer-Aided Software Engineering (CASE) in the 1980s.
As technology evolves, so does the environment on which applications must work. Over the years, Software Engineering has continued to adapt to the constantly changing world.
Steps of Software Engineering
There are several steps involved in Software Engineering:
- The first step is to capture user requirements.
- The software development team then divides those user requirements into system and functional categories.
- Next, they draft possible software solutions to meet the user requirements.
- The software developer then puts together a detailed roadmap for the final design.
- As the team begins writing the code, the software design starts.
- While coding, the developers test the software on multiple levels. This includes program testing, product testing, and user-engagement testing.
What Does a Software Engineer do?
Software Engineers build, develop, launch, and maintain software products and systems. Business applications, connected hardware, operating systems, mobile applications, web applications, and networking systems are all examples of software systems.
They have a thorough knowledge of computer operating systems, programming languages, and software development. They apply engineering principles at every stage of the process. The finished product should be fully bespoke and meet the initial user requirements.
Software Engineer vs Software Developer
The terms ‘Software Engineer’ and ‘Software Developer’ are often used interchangeably. But there is a key difference between these two roles. Software Engineers create software by applying engineering principles. In other words, Software Engineers connect the client’s requirements with technological solutions. They use engineering concepts to develop software.
Software Developers, on the other hand, are involved in the development process and are the creative force behind the software. They work with the client to create the concept of the design. They also work with programmers to create code that’s required to run the software. The software developers provide technical guidance at every stage of the development.
To sum up, Software Engineers oversee engineering, while Software Developers focus on the creation of fully functional programs. Developers typically have to earn several years of experience before becoming a full-fledged Software Engineer.
Here are a few other key differences between Software Engineers and Software Developers:
- Apply the principles of Software Engineering to
design, develop, maintain, test, and evaluate computer
- Software Engineers usually work in a team.
- Work with components of the hardware
- Create tools to develop software.
- Are involved in the complete process from
beginning to end.
- Build software that runs on various types of devices.
- Software Developers usually work alone.
- Write the complete program.
- Use existing tools to build applications.
- Development is only one aspect of the whole process of building software.
Challenges Faced by Software Engineers
Since almost every profession uses software in one form or another, Software Engineers face many challenges, including:
● The cost of software failure in critical systems like nuclear power plants or space missions can involve putting human lives at risk.
● Technology evolves rapidly, which often leads to added pressure for Software Engineers. They release constant updates in order to maintain a competitive edge in the market.
● Growing customer demands and changes in user requirements require engineers to continue learning and honing their craft.
● Time constraints often make working environments stressful. While working with
international clients across multiple time-zones, meeting deadlines and fulfilling client requirements can also be a challenge.
Key Skills Required for Software Engineers and Developers
Some of the key skills and experience required for both Software Engineers and Developers include:
● Excellent analytical and problem-solving skills
● Experience with cloud-based infrastructure, pattern designs, databases, architectures, and
● Knowledge of Software Development methodologies like Kanban and Agile
Types of Software Engineers
There are two categories of Software Engineers:
- Application Engineers: They analyze the needs of the end-user and create/adapt applications for organizations and businesses. They design, build, install, and maintain these programs/applications.
- System Engineers: They coordinate the creation and maintenance of business computer systems. Their responsibilities include coordinating the needs of each department, suggesting technical directions, and setting up networks that link computers with the company or organization.
Here are the key differences between Application Engineers and System Engineers:
- They are client-focused and develop
applications for Windows, Linux, iOS,
- They design the software that the end-user interacts with.
- They make the required changes in the
software and regularly analyze the user
- They are involved in both front-end and
- They primarily work with project
managers, marketers, graphic designers,
and customer success staff.
- They are responsible for hardware as well as
software. They build networks and operating
systems for user-facing applications.
- They are responsible for designing as well as
enforcing the IT standards.
- They combine separate software products into one
- They are mostly involved in back-end processes.
- They primarily work with senior systems architects,
data science professionals, development teams, and
How to Become a Software Engineer
If you’re ready for the many challenges and job opportunities that come with a career in Software
Engineering, here are some good starting points:
- Clarify your goal and why you want to pursue it.
- Research the field of Software Engineering, talk to professionals who are already established in the role, and learn as much as you can before starting.
- To begin your career as a Software Engineer, you should earn a bachelor’s degree in a related field or take a course that teaches you the skills you need to land a high-paying job.
- Supplement your studies and learn how to read code written by other Software Engineers.
- Develop practical experience in the field where you see yourself working in the future. This way, you can find potential employers while enhancing your skills. You’ll also develop a professional network as you start applying to jobs.
Even though formal college degrees are the traditional path, you can also transition into becoming a Software Engineer by other methods like coding bootcamps. These programs teach practical skills that are language-specific, cover the fundamentals, and prepare you to shine in a competitive job market.
Careers for Software Engineers include Junior Web Developers, Software Web Developers, Senior Software Web Developers, Lead Software Engineers, Technical Architects, Development Team Leads, Software Development Managers, and Chief Technology Officers, among many others.