What Competencies Should Software Developers Focus On?
Software developers are a key part of the digital world, and so, are in demand. As the need for technical understanding continues to grow, it’s important to think about the skills needed to turn a good developer into a great software developer. In the ever-evolving field of software development, a multifaceted skill set is necessary for those looking to stay ahead of the curve. As we venture into 2024, software developers must cultivate a blend of technical prowess, problem-solving abilities, and collaborative skills to thrive in this dynamic industry.
These are the key elements that can help propel a software developer to new heights, ensuring they can stand out in a competitive industry.
Important Competencies for Software Developers
- Coding Language Skills - Software developers need to become technical specialists in at least one coding language so they can increase the number of job opportunities they receive, as hiring managers often expect candidates to be experts. However, learning more than one software coding language increases a developer’s chance of moving into new technology fields or working on the newest projects. Some common coding languages to learn are:
- C++ is an OOP language that gives a clear structure to programs and allows developers to define their own data types and manipulate code to be reused, helping lower development costs, by enabling fast and efficient execution of code and optimising hardware capabilities. C++ is a superset of the C language.
- Python is rapidly growing in use. A high-level, interpreted programming language with a simpler structure that can be easier to learn and excellent for automating tasks. It is a multi-faceted programming language that can be used for various software development tasks including machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) e.g., code writing for an entire program or tracking errors in the language.
- HTML is a standardised option used in displaying text and images on website applications and can be used for paragraphs, bullet points, and charts.
- CSS is often used alongside HTML, and is mainly used to control web page structure, it allows the developer to add fonts, colours, and spacing to text content on a website application.
- Java is used to create applications and programs across different computer systems. Similar, to C++, it’s used by video game developers to design high-quality games, albeit with fewer complexities, in cloud computing where Java is often referred to as WORA, and to connect some IoT sensors.
- Algorithm and Data Structure Skills - Being a software developer requires a variety of different skills, and these go beyond simply writing code. One of these additional skills is the understanding of algorithms and data structures which are fundamental concepts of computer science. Data structures comprise different organisational methods for storing information in a database including arrays, lists, stacks, trees, and graphs. While algorithms are a collection of steps to solve a particular problem. Software developers often possess knowledge of various data structures and algorithms to determine which combination can assist them in optimising information in their software code. For example, a completed array structure can store different variations of the same type of data, such as a program that stores font information. If the developer used the correct algorithm, users could choose a type of font and its size.
- Database Management Skills – Databases are electronic systems that allow individuals to organise and structure information, particularly records. As databases are fundamental parts of how so many apps and websites function today, software developers need to know how to work with these databases, including how to search for information, input new lines of data in a table format, update a system with new materials, and keep databases secure. Many of the most popular database management systems today, like Oracle, MySQL, and Microsoft SQL Server, use a programming language called Structured Query Language (SQL) to perform functions. Learning SQL is a great place for software engineers to start with database management.
- Operating Systems Skills - Operating systems describe software that configures a device's hardware and allows a program to run. Without operating systems skills, it’s impossible for software to control computer hardware, and applications are unable to run. Expertise in operating systems also allows developers to better conduct testing procedures and transfer lines of code between them. Linux, Microsoft Windows, macOS, VxWorks, QNX, and Integrity are common operating systems for computers and embedded systems, while Apple iOS, Android, and Blackberry are three common options for mobile devices. As a software developer, you can either familiarise yourself with a variety of operating systems or specialise in developing one system, depending on your preferences and the requirements of a job position.
- DevOps and Agile Development Skills - Agile development and DevOps practices are more relevant than ever for Software Developers in 2024, with some experts even believing them to be more important than testing skills. The ability to work in fast-paced, iterative development cycles, while ensuring continuous integration and delivery, is crucial. DevOps experts are in high demand and, considering they are proficient in using tools and methodologies that support collaboration, automation, and efficient workflow management, it's no surprise. Embracing these practices helps teams to accelerate product releases, improve quality, and respond swiftly to market changes. With DevOps skills, the quality, collaboration, and efficiency of software development projects can be improved.
- Cybersecurity Skills – Based on a report by Skillsoft, cybersecurity is top of the list for many IT and software decision-makers, with 31% currently investing in cybersecurity skills. Rightly so, as in this era of increasing cyber threats, advanced cybersecurity knowledge and the responsibility to safeguard applications against attacks and ensure data privacy is paramount for software developers. While cybersecurity and software development may be separate fields, developers do have a role to play in keeping their organisations and customers safe by ensuring the software they build follows cybersecurity best practices. Developers must be versed in secure coding practices, understand common vulnerabilities and exploits, and be able to implement robust security measures.
- Cloud Computing Skills - The rise of the cloud is the hallmark of the digital transformation era, the technology that separates IT today from the past. Cloud platforms describe the hardware and software required to run a company's remote database, now generally called the cloud. Software developers must be adept at designing, deploying, and managing applications in cloud environments such as AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud Platform. The cloud isn’t so much a singular technology as it is a whole new infrastructure with new ways of developing, hosting, and delivering apps. To comprehensively understand cloud computing, software developers must thoroughly engage with the specific infrastructures their organisations use.
The evolving nature of technology demands adaptability, a commitment to continuous learning, and a keen eye for emerging trends. As a software developer, it’s important to remember that the most successful engineers are those who boast a variety of technical proficiencies, such as those listed above.
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