A software engineer is basically working with a particular software product team (consists of other roles such as managers, clients, designers etc.) to accomplish planned development goals. Development goals could be something like adding new features, applying bug fixes and designing new solutions. It is true that coding activities could take more time from a normal software engineer’s daily work quota. However, engineering is not just writing code to ship a specific product because coding is only a part of the software development workflow. The other phases of Software Development Life-Cycle(SDLC) are also vital as the coding phase or the development phase.
We can list down common daily activities which are done by a generic software engineer as per below to get an idea about required skills.
- Implementing task A and reproducing bug B.
- Discussing about a new feature that can be added to the software product in future with clients.
- Participating in a scrum call.
- Implementing several action items for GDPR compliance.
- Writing a wiki page about a solution for a specific problem in the software architecture and presenting it to the other team members.
As we can see there are software engineering activities which are not directly related with coding. Let’s identify the top 5 skills you need to master to become a great software engineer.
1. Technical skills
Technical skills refer to the knowledge about general computer science concepts, programming languages, development tools and development environments. In fact, these technical skills of each developer are always tested by recruiting teams of companies before hiring them. These skills are clearly depending on the type of software product which belongs to your team and the role of course. For an instance, if there is a web application with separate front-end and back-end engineer teams, the front-end team should be aware of web technologies that are used in the project.
Indeed software engineers should be able to introduce better solutions for problems which may occur in software systems. Those engineering problems are usually related with one or more general computer science concepts such as algorithms and data structures. Therefore, having solid computer science knowledge is extremely necessary for every software engineer.
Technical skills could be categorized as per below for the modern world.
- Design patterns: There are infinite ways to solve a coding problem whereas there are few optimal/manageable ways. Therefore, being able to organize codes in a better manner is essential.
- Run-times/Environments experience: Software products are deployed into local environments or public cloud. For instance, if your software product is deployed into Amazon Web Services (AWS) you have a great chance to master cloud architectural patterns.
- Developer tooling/services: We use tools during the development and deployment process. Every developer should be familiar with common developer tools/services such as debuggers, IDE, code editors, source code management tools (Eg: Git, Bitbucket and Github).
2. Learning skills
Learning never ends. Software engineers work with different types of software projects which belong to various sorts of fields such as medical, manufacturing, agricultural etc. Having a learning-supportive mind is so important because you need to be ready to go ahead with the domain of your current project. If someone is able to quickly grasp domain knowledge of the software system and also be able to apply it within the project that person may be able to climb the career ladder faster than other engineers.
Learning skills can be explained bit further with following tasks/actions,
- Effective reading
- Time management
- Note-taking & summarization
- Creative thinking and critical thinking
3. Problem solving skills
Software engineers face challenging problems frequently and they need to effectively find solutions by applying their computer science knowledge. Solving engineering problems could be counted as a very important skill since the solution for a specific problem could be the foundation for future implementation of software systems. Certainly , this type of skill can be easily improved with practice and experience. Almost all developers will practice more and more engineering problem tests before applying for a job.
Competitive programming is a great way to improve and test your problem solving skills. Undoubtedly, it will help you to easily pass your next technical interview.
4. Communication skills
Effective communication is the secret behind every successful team work. We may play different roles inside our software project teams and we may contribute our project in different ways. Whereas, eventually everything will be connected and your awesome software product will be the result of everyone’s effort. Almost all software engineers are having daily scrum calls, demonstrations/presentations and various types of other meetings(Eg:- project review meetings, architectural meetings, interviews etc.) depending on their position or experience.
Here are some communication skills also with examples saying when each thing will be useful
- Listening skills — Listing down some action items according to the live feedback from customers.
- Presentation skills — Presenting a newly added feature to other team members
- Speaking skills — Letting others know about your daily update in the scrum meeting
5. Social skills
We work with people who are having different personal opinions, beliefs and profiles. However, you have to interact with people cleverly and carefully. Nevertheless, you should be able to be happy at the workplace too. Therefore, balancing these things requires a bit of social skills.
Simply it’s about,
- Listening to other people’s ideas and opinions
- Thinking twice before saying something considering the person and situation
- Treating humans as humans
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