How to Keep Your Software Engineering Skills Up to Date: 4 Tips

Software engineers are one of the hottest jobs out there, dominating Glassdoor’s list of the 10 most in-demand jobs of 2019. The rise of Internet of Things (IoT) technology has led to an increase in demand for these professionals over the past year, with the demand for blockchain engineers alone increasing by 517%, according to Hired State of Software Engineers 2019 report.

SEE: Tips for building a successful career as a software engineer (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Software engineers are responsible for the overall development and execution of software systems. Some of their main tasks include “writing complex code, running unit tests, or checking other people’s code,” according to Jeffrey Hammond, principal analyst in the CIO Professionals Department at Forrester. “Sometimes there are aspects of design and architecture that software engineers need to be able to learn and execute.”

When looking for software engineers, hiring managers are looking for a specific and impressive skill set, said Anthony Gray, principal software engineer at Intelligent Product Solutions.

The first skill most recruiters look for is programming language experience, Hammond said. Candidates who are fluent in multiple languages ​​are especially valuable because they have the agility and experience to work with a variety of systems and meet more customer needs, Hammond added.

However, language skills aren’t the only priority, Gray said. “When we’re looking for engineers, we’re looking for more than people who know how to grow,” he noted. “We are looking for people who can really collaborate and communicate. What good is amazing architecture if you can’t show people how to use it? An engineering team should be a sum of its parts, not individuals working alone.

But finding people with those skills is only half the battle for companies. The other challenge is keeping employees current on their skills in a rapidly changing field. This concern is also at the forefront of many developers’ minds, according to Hammond.

“Most software engineers have this little core of impostor syndrome. They’re always worried about not knowing the next technology, or not being able to take the next leap, or that the technology is moving faster than they can. can follow,” Hammond said.

Here are four strategies employees can use to keep their skills sharp:

1. Practical

The saying goes that practice makes perfect, and so does this job. “About 70% of developers spend at least five hours a week writing code, and when you drill down into that and ask why, one of the most common responses is, ‘To maintain my skills,'” Hammond said.

If employees are worried about losing certain skills or being replaced by a new hire with new skills, then they should take it upon themselves to keep up to date. Keep practicing the skills you currently have and try new skills you may not be as familiar with, Hammond noted.

“There’s a strong drive for most developers to invest in themselves, the same way a musician will train: because it makes them better, or there’s a particular piece that they’re trying to learn how to play or they’re practicing that piece to get better,” Hammond said.

2. Courses

Employees can also take a more academic approach to keeping their skills up to date. Online services, like Udemy, are great resources for learning new languages ​​and coding skills, Gray said.

With modern technology, it’s very easy for developers to learn skills online in their spare time, Hammond noted. The difficulty comes in finding the time to sit down and use these resources independently.

“When [employees] are at work, we definitely see things like training, self-paced or in the classroom,” Hammond said. “We are also seeing digital skills building services. A really good one would be something like Pluralsight, which we see big companies making available to their developers, which provides digital training on specific technologies or topics and then measures the developer’s skill acquisition.

3. Cooperation

Collaborating and learning from others is key to staying current, according to Gray. “Once you learn yourself, you become the expert, and then with the rest of the team, that knowledge proliferates, and everyone becomes an expert as well,” Gray said. “It’s the collaboration aspect and it’s the communication aspect that is kind of vital to being a good software developer.”

Word of mouth is an easy and popular way to spread new technologies and ideas, Hammond said. By sharing ideas with colleagues and colleagues, employees can easily find out what’s the next big thing in the industry.

“Maybe we’ll find some of our other tech blogs and read them well,” Gray added. “We’ll have updates and keep an ear out for what’s new and coming soon.”

4. Experience

Perhaps the most effective way to learn new skills is simply to try them. To learn about a new strategy or tool, you have to use it, Gray said. Often this can be done when clients need work that involves new technology.

“You have to be fearless. You can’t be afraid to take a misstep,” Gray said. There will always be new technologies, but without trying the new technology, the organization will have no chance to progress, he added.

“We always have to evolve,” Hammond said. “Technology is changing. If you don’t evolve with it, you are going to be dead.

To learn more about the most dynamic software engineer skills, check out this TechRepublic article.

Gordon K. Morehouse