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5 key skills you need to be a software engineer

08/07/20 Nick Drain - CertRP Senior Consultant, R&D / Engineering

Though software engineers tend to have a minimum of a degree in computer science or electronic engineering, as many as 1 in 5 are self-taught coders. Software engineers, also sometimes known as software developers, apply mathematical analysis and the principles of computer science to design, develop and debug computer programs to meet a variety of business and corporate requirements using the principles of software engineering.


Software Engineers are responsible for creating the many types of software programmes or software tools, such as middleware, bare metal/firmware, embedded software, operating systems, network control, and business applications, whereas software developers tend to use tools to build software for products such as apps.

A Software Engineer is generally involved with software development, but very few software developers are engineers. The difference between software engineering and software development is one often oversees the engineering while the other tends to focus on creating functional programs.

Despite overall recruitment activity declining during the pandemic, there is a rising demand for engineers making a software engineer career path an extremely attractive one. A software engineer will work in a constantly evolving environment with the ever-growing complexity of technology. Demand has been growing exponentially as billions of physical devices around the globe are connected to the internet (IoT).

These digitally intelligent devices collect and share data, enabling many industries to become technology-driven. Here are the five key skills you need to succeed as a software engineer.


Generally coming from a computer science background, proficiency in coding languages such as C#, C and C++ are likely to be skills outlined on many software engineers’ curricula vitae. Being proficient in computer programming is essential for designing software and testing the systems built by others, meaning that software engineers tend to be fluent in at least one coding language. Professionals who stand out to employers are those who understand several languages or who are well-versed in structured programming languages which have several similarities. e.g. C++ grew from C.

Software engineers who want to diversify and build their language expertise should consider learning Python, PHP, Tcl, Java and/or JavaScript which are currently heralded as some of the best programming languages to learn. In fact, JavaScript steals the top spot with 73% of developers revealing they have knowledge of the computer programming language.

However, success in a software engineering career can require more than just a great coding ability.


Problem-solving is a typical talent found in a software engineer’s skill set, they tend to be investigative and inquisitive individuals. It is considered a soft skill that is inherent rather than learnt but with time senior software engineers can easily hone this talent. Though it’s an essential skill for software engineers, SHRM’s 2019 State of the Workplace found that it is one of the top skills that today’s workforce lacks with a total of 37% failing to show evidence of it.  The first step of problem-solving is to define the issue. Software engineers will draw on their scientific and mathematical knowledge to arrive at a conclusion. Combing both critical thinking and creativity, these computer scientists analyse data to identify the scope of problems and isolate invalid software models. Software engineers who demonstrate strong problem-solving skills stand themselves in good stead when looking to take the next step in their career.

Attention to detail

Whether they’re engineering AI for the cyber security market, control applications for special-purpose machinery, sophisticated algorithms, device drivers for semiconductorsor working on “DSP” for world-class audio systems, software engineers will need to be methodical and able to demonstrate great attention for detail. They must be meticulous in their coding, testing, and have an eye for identifying bugs to fix these issues. Analytical and detail-oriented individuals tend to produce more accurate programmes and code – something which is extremely important in software engineering today.


Aside from having a passion for software programming, software engineers must also be able to work well in a team. The creation of software systems can be a solitary task but overcome challenges on a project and devising solutions is key. Software engineers must collaborate and communicate their thought processes. A software engineer's job is to solve problems and to create a superb product, not just to write as many amazing lines of code as possible. Though software engineering qualifications and experience using Linux are usually required, teamwork skills are what makes software engineers indispensable.


As employees progress from junior or graduate software engineers to senior roles in an organisation, they will need to show strong delegation skills whilst ensuring that concepts, architecture, and solutions are innovative, high-quality, and cost-effective. Good leadership skills will help software engineers liaise between external customers and internal departments and ensure that the product design process is run smoothly. Evidencing this skill is key when mapping out a software engineer career path.

Find your next Software Engineer with Redline

Redline have provided exceptional professional talent for the European Technology industries since 1982. Our team includes engineers themselves and recruitment professionals with many years’ experience in software engineering, meaning we’re able to provide the knowledge, contacts and support you need.

We offer both contract and permanent roles and we are currently recruiting software engineers to join diverse and dynamic teams. View our current software jobs or quick send your CV to hear about our latest job opportunities.