Step aside tech geniuses -- you'll need a greater skill set beyond your exceptional technical talent to make it in today's software engineering market. Right now, future software developers are heading back to school to start a new semester and recent grads are pounding the pavement looking for job opportunities.
Against this backdrop, it's a good time to think about the make-or-break skills that you may not be learning in school, but that will nonetheless have a major impact on your success in the job market.
Changing skills for a changing business environment
It goes without saying that software engineers must have strong technology, problem solving and analytical skills -- as well as the coding fundamentals to program in multiple languages -- but, that's no longer enough. The days when engineers hunched over computers in a back room writing code for hours have all but disappeared as the strict division separating IT and business has dissolved and products and applications have become increasingly complex.
Additionally, companies are counting on custom software as a way to differentiate themselves in the market and gain competitive advantage. These changes require a new way of thinking and interacting in the corporate environment -- as the software engineer is no longer a sole producer but becomes a key contributor to the business.
I'm getting ready to participate in a job fair at my alma mater, the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, so I've been giving a lot of thought lately to the types of skills prospective software engineers need to land a job and be successful in their careers. Here are a few thoughts:
Keen business understanding
Technology should not be created in a vacuum to provide more bells and whistles, but rather, needs to be a critical business driver. Be knowledgeable about your organization's business goals and challenges. How can you develop technology to help your company move to the next level and gain competitive advantage? Adopt a business mindset in your approach to technology.
The ability to collaborate
Developing technology requires a lot of teamwork -- working with internal business "customers" as well as the development team. The proliferation of SaaS and mobile solutions and the BYOD mindset has made business users more active participants in addressing their software needs, and software engineers need to be able to work closely with them. At the same time, the focus on devops also requires ongoing collaboration between development, QA and IT operations to enable rapid software development and integration.
Be a great communicator
Collaboration requires strong communication skills. You need to be able to truly "hear" what business users need, as well as to read between the lines to know what they're not saying. These same skills are needed to be able to work effectively with your peers as well as the QA and IT operations teams. Being able to keep up with the rapid pace of software revs, the complexity of mobile apps, IoT connections and 24/7 uptime requires clear, consistent communication with team members and with other internal departments to ensure everyone is aware of changing requirements occurring in real time.
As software development continues to be an integral part of the overall business, the bar has been raised for software engineers. You not only need to demonstrate that you're a technical genius, but also that you have business savvy as well as the emotional intelligence to work well with others. That will make you an ideal job candidate and an invaluable asset to any organization.
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