7 Skills You Need to Develop in Order to be a Top-shelf Software Engineer

Have you ever wondered what kind of software engineer skills you may need in order to be a high-quality engineer? Believe it or not, not all of your skills are centered around your degrees and qualifications.

Software engineering is not just about memorizing variables – you need to be able to produce elegant and efficient solutions to problems. These seven skills are a must:

Teamwork

Teamwork is common in this profession. It’s common for groups to work at the same time on different pieces of data. You’ll also likely find yourself asking your team for help if you’re up against a particularly challenging bug. 

Good teamwork can look different for different teams, but they all have one thing in common-good communication. Communication on a team will be crucial. Here are some skills that help with teamwork:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help, no one likes working with someone who acts like they don’t need anything from anyone. 
  • Celebrate your colleague’s successes, don’t be afraid to make clear how impressed you are with their work. 
  • If a colleague asks you for feedback, be clear and concise. A general statement such as “sure, looks fine” is not very helpful.

Effective Written Communication 

Communication will be a big part of your day-to-day, even though that may not be what comes to mind right away when you think of a software engineer. The most important type of communication you’ll be dealing with is written communication. 

User documentation is a big part of the job and badly written documentation is a big no-no. Here are a few easy ways to up your written communication game.

  • Always proofread before you send something in, typos are never professional.
  • Make sure you are as detailed as possible. Vague statements are a red flag when it comes to written communication.

Problem-Solving Ability

When you boil it down, a software engineer is a problem-solver at heart. Usually, the requirements you receive are a set of problems that haven’t been solved yet. The best software engineers treat it like a problem and go out looking for a solution. 

Most organizations would rather hire someone who uses a problem-solving approach and doesn’t yet know a certain skill set needed for the solution. Rather than hire someone who knows the skill set needed for the solution but doesn’t use it to solve the problem because they didn’t ask the right questions about the problem in the first place.

Willingness to be a Lifelong Learner

English professors don’t stop reading the classics once they land a tenured job. News reporters don’t stop keeping up with politics once the election is over. And that means you shouldn’t stop studying good source code!

Being a lifelong learner means that you never act like you’re “too good” to learn something new. It means you are constantly learning from others, trying to improve your work, and staying as up-to-date as possible with the changes in your field. 

Being a lifelong learner has many benefits, among them are:

  • Better relationships with your colleagues.
  • An improved sense of self-confidence.
  • A greater ability to be open-minded.

So, what does it look like to be a lifelong learner? Well, we’re glad you asked. Here is what software engineers who are lifelong learners do

  • They are open to the fact that there are multiple solutions possible for a problem.
  • They seek out opportunities to learn from their peers and colleagues as often as possible.
  • They acknowledge the software engineering world outside of their workplace by reading articles, joining local groups, and reading research reports.

Great Time-Management 

Time management jobs are important for any job, but especially for software engineering. And although you may think time management is a personality trait that some people were just born with, we promise, it can be taught! 

There are several different techniques you can implement if you are not the best at time management. Some of these are:

  • Timelines – creating a timeline to know when the planning stage will be, how far the deadline is from the implementation, how long you have to problem solve, etc., etc., can be very helpful.
  • The Pomodoro Technique – A quick google search can give you more details, but this technique is extremely effective while also being so easy. It helps with time management skills for those of us who can lose time in the day easily.
  • Priorities list – Oftentimes, software engineers can get in trouble for treating everything like it’s the end all be all. When in reality, you should only have a few top priorities. Treating everything with the utmost importance is terrible for time management and making a list of your priorities can help offset that.

Attention to Detail

Think about the good reviews you’ve received. Most of them will often include something like “The attention to detail really stood out.” or “You could tell they paid attention to even the smallest detail”. Detail is important for people, it’s what makes someone, or something, stand out.

When it comes to fixing issues, attention to detail is crucial. You’ll have to work through heaps of code to find tiny glitches. You can’t afford to not be paying attention to detail in these scenarios.

Another scenario you’ll need attention to detail? Testing your software. The smallest of errors can oftentimes lead to the biggest problems and you don’t want to find out that you now have a giant problem on your hands just because you missed a small detail during the testing stage.

Creativity

Creativity is probably not the first word that comes to mind when you think of software engineers. But to be a great problem-solver, and to continually be open-minded and a lifelong learner, you have to be creative. 

If you don’t consider yourself creative, that’s okay! You can practice creativity in plenty of different ways outside of your work. Here are two activities to get you started-

  • The 30 Circle Test – This is a great way to get your creative juices flowing, and it’s super easy. All you do is draw 30 circles and then set a timer for one minute. Then you turn as many circles as you can into drawings before the time is up.
  • Stream of Consciousness- Another super easy exercise, but this one involves writing instead of drawing. Take a piece of paper and a pen, set a timer for one minute, and then start writing. The only rule is that you’re not allowed to stop writing until the timer is up.

As you now know, software engineering requires lots of skills they may not teach you at school! We hope that you can begin to implement these skills into your day-to-day life so that you can become the best software engineer possible.

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