Software engineering remains one of the most sought after professions during this advanced technological age. At many universities across the country, the list of top majors always includes computer science, but what does it really take to become a software engineer?
Read on for the ultimate guide to becoming a kicka** software engineer.
What Does A Software Engineer Do?
At a basic level, software engineers utilize mathematical analysis and the techniques of computer science to design and develop computer software. Many areas require software engineering, such as databases, games, animation, network systems, operating systems, etc., which keeps this occupation in incredibly high demand due to the growing reliance on technology. Most people think of software engineering jobs as entirely independent, but in reality they require extensive collaboration with a team. Software engineers involve themselves in many aspects within a company:
- Design, develop, and test computer software to meet client needs
- Engage in complex projects by reasoning through the technology while communicating effectively with a team
- Use current development technologies and programming to implement software projects, including internal and external documentation
- Recommend implementation that improves software security, performance, stability, reliability, and usability
- Troubleshoot difficult issues that require an in-depth analysis of data and understanding of variable factors
- Work directly with senior software engineers and gain personal mentorship
- Display ability and eagerness to work with a diverse team
What Does it Take to Become a Software Engineer?
Fortunately, the journey to becoming a software engineer has many access points. Most commonly people will earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science, data science, cognitive science, applied mathematics, or a related discipline. However, if finances serve as an issue, many people either self-learn or enroll in cheaper boot camps that teach you the core skills you need. Obtaining an entry-level software engineering job usually requires only a bachelor’s degree or demonstrated professional skills, but of course like in any field, research or leading an innovative project might necessitate a master’s or doctorate degree.
The Basics of Software Engineering
According to payscale, software engineers earn a salary between $62,000 and $127,000.
Software engineers typically work an average of 40 hours per week with a lot of flexibility due to the ability to work remotely. “Most of the time it’s a nine to five kind of deal, but it depends on how difficult the project is. Basically how it works is that you have project deadlines for when your code needs to go live, so your work is done whenever your team finishes that task not when the clock hits five,” software engineer at Google Ben Lee said. Ideally, as long as everyone on your team pulls their weight, a day of work consists of a nine to five goal.
Software engineers primarily use a computer the entire day, but companies often accommodate standing or walking desks, ergonomic equipment, unlimited free snacks, and other offices built for healthy activity. “My company has a yoga room, meditation room, and a volleyball court in the middle of campus. Usually you can ask your company for better equipment if you have a valid health reason, like a new mouse to help your wrist. I like to take walks or mini breaks while I’m working because staring at a screen for too long can cause fatigue. Glasses that protect against blue light are pretty helpful too. Being able to work from home sometimes is also nice because all I need is a desk and my desktop or laptop and also commuting can be a total drag,” software engineer Jimmy Garrett said.
With the United States transitioned into a virtual reality due to the pandemic, the demand for software engineers will continue to rise probably thereafter. “Obviously there might be a time where us software engineers can be replaced by a bunch of robots that can do our work way faster, but I don’t see that in the near future. The tech field will continue to grow bigger and bigger and that opens up many opportunities for more software engineers. Technology is constantly advancing and connecting our world in so many ways, so someone has to build that stuff somehow. We definitely are overpaid, but that’s how companies and start-ups draw more and more people into this profession. I don’t really see this framework slowing down anytime soon,” software engineer at Salesforce Arjun Jhunjhunwala said. Unless technology somehow dies out in the next few years, a bright future looms ahead for software engineers.
Skills Essential for Succeeding As a Software Engineer
1. Interpersonal Communication
Working in a team makes communication an essential part of functioning effectively. “You have to let your team know what’s going on with your part of the work so that you guys can all help each other. Oftentimes you might not know how to do something but one of your teammates does and vice versa. Sometimes I work with my teammates directly when we can’t figure something out. Coding is just a puzzle so the more brains that are working through it the better,” Garrett said. As you can see, working independently can be detrimental rather than helpful to the company because one person addressing a problem takes longer than many working together, showing the need for interpersonal communication.
2. Proficiency in Computer Science fundamentals
Classes in computer science tend to prove directly applicable to the software engineering job market. “When I went to UC Berkeley I took core classes in the structure and interpretation of computer programs, data structures, discrete mathematics and probability theory, and computer architecture. I use what I learned in these classes in my job everyday, so don’t neglect the basics,” Lee said. Learning the fundamentals of computer science remains a crucial step to successfully becoming a software engineer.
3. Desire to Learn and Grow
You might not know everything needed for a software engineering job, but if you showcase your willingness and enthusiasm to learn and adapt, that can help. “Since this field is growing so much there is always more and more to learn, so make sure to continually study and build your technical knowledge. You’ll also get a lot of opportunities to learn on the job or internships you do as well. Make sure to take advantage of that because then that makes you more marketable as you advance your career,” Jhunjhunwala said. Whether that seems like bad or good news to you, your education continues beyond your degree, so get to it!
Tips For Aspiring Software Engineers
- Learn different programming languages such as Python, Java, SQL, C/C++, etc.
- Be a go-getter. Don’t shy away from challenges; instead bring energy and enthusiasm to your work
- Be a creative and analytical thinker who can tackle abstract problems
- Strong language and documentation skills prove essential; you’ll need it when breaking down confusing issues and products
- Develop a positive attitude and stay committed to working openly within a team
Reviews from The Professionals
“You know, being a software engineer is an incredibly privileged position. We’re spoilt. We have great flexibility, a lot of perks, and we get paid tremendously. I’m honestly grateful that I can support myself and my family really well. It’s something not many people have the opportunity to do,” Lee said.
“I used to think that when I became a software engineer I would change the world. I had an idyllic picture of what my career would be like. Now that I’ve been in the field for quite a while, I realize that what we do is for the most part temporary. Your code isn’t eternal, it gets perpetually replaced by a newer version. I mean, I don’t think being a software engineer is a waste of time, but I don’t think it should be so idolized either,” Garrett said.
“It’s hard to say what it’s like. People become software engineers for so many different reasons. For some it’s because it’s all about money. For others they want to be innovators that create the next great tech stuff. For me, I just like computer science. My job is enjoyable, but also work is work, right? You can get your dream job, but at the end of the day it’s just work,” Jhunjhunwala said.