Things To Learn Software Engineer

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Things To Learn Software Engineer

A Software Engineering survival guide

Resources that will help you at the beginning of your career

The first few years of my career were a time of intense learning.

I encountered the realities of being a software engineer and had to acquire many skills that I didn’t know I needed. Looking back, it would sure have been nice to know the things I know now.

So, I wrote this guide to help others based on the experiences of developers I mentored in their first few years as professionals, and those of myself and some of my colleagues.

I will cover:

  • How to make the best out of interviews,
  • How to survive (and thrive) in your work as a software engineer,
  • And what resources to look into when considering continuous improvement.

Interviews

As you start your career in Software Engineering, you’ll have to face one indisputable fact. Interviews suck.

They can be awful for everybody involved. Having been both an interviewer and an interviewee, I can attest that interviews are a big time sink, extremely stressful and a really bad indicator of future job performance. Nevertheless, they are a necessary evil that you and your résumé better be prepared for.

What Does a Software Developer Do? A Deep Dive into the Career | Rasmussen  University

Preparing for Battle

If you’re considering a career in Software Engineering, make sure to learn some of the most commonly asked programming interview questions, such as ‘FizzBuzz’:

“Write a program that prints the numbers from 1 to 100. But for multiples of three print ‘Fizz’ instead of the number and for the multiples of five print ‘Buzz’. For numbers which are multiples of both three and five print ‘FizzBuzz’.”

Sounds simple enough, right?

Well, the vast majority of interviewees fail this simple test, let alone its more complex variants.

I’ve personally seen many candidates for senior positions fail this test while having full internet accessSo make sure that if a programming language is listed on your résumé, you know how to do at least FizzBuzz in it. Otherwise, you’re just wasting everybody’s time, including yours.

Of course, you’ll need to know more than just FizzBuzz to survive your interviews. You also need to make sure that you know:

  • Basic data structures and algorithms: such as linked lists, arrays, trees and sorts.
  • Common “gotchas” in your language of choice, such as whether strings are immutable, and how memory is managed.
  • Object Oriented Programming concepts like class versus object, and inheritance.

At the beginning of your career, you’ll need to shine on these sorts of questions, since you don’t have the experiences to prove that you will be good at the job. There are two resources that I always recommend when preparing for interviews:

  • “Cracking the Coding Interview”, a fantastic book that includes a lot of coding problems and their solutions, as well as summaries of what you need to know to solve them
  • CodeWars, a website that has a large collection of coding problems that you can solve in the browser using a wide selection of languages. The most useful part is seeing how other users solved the same problem. You’ll get to see different approaches to the same problem and learn new tools in the language of your choice.
Software Developer Career Overview | ComputerScience.org

Give yourself that extra edge

There are several things you can do that will give you that little something extra.

First, learn to communicate your experiences. You should have an elevator pitch that summarizes your resume into a coherent and engaging narrative.

In addition, know your own résumé! It sounds silly, but I’ve seen a lot of interviewees struggle to explain a particular item on their résumé. You should be able to answer questions about any experience that you list on your résumé and explain how it’s made you a better candidate for the job.

Next, have code samples to show on GitHub (or another public repository).

Seeing is believing, and interviewers being able to see your code will do wonders. Plus, it shows you have an understanding of version control systems.

The code samples don’t have to be anything too complex, but they do need to be clean and show good coding practices. This is your chance to show how you code without the time-pressure of a coding interview.

Once you’ve done all of the above, it’s time to consider participating in an open source project. It will show you can work in an existing code base and collaborate with other programmers.

This will be the closest you can get to programming in an industry environment without actually being in an industry environment. This is by far the hardest and time-consuming item so far, so reserve it until you’ve completed the lower hanging fruit I’ve discussed above.

Interviewing your interviewer

In the rush and stress of the job hunt, many candidates forget that interviewing is a two-way street. As the company is trying to figure out whether you’re the right person for the job, you should be figuring out if the company is the right fit for you.

Make sure that you get to ask some of the questions below, even if it’s in a follow-up email. Be aware that often times, companies might try to spin not following best engineering practices as a perk, so read between the lines.

Here are some example questions you could ask:

“What would a typical workday look like for me?”

It’s important to know what to expect from a particular position because Software Engineering jobs vary quite a bit. You might be expected to upkeep servers or talk to clients directly, for example.

Red flag: I’m not sure.” → Means that the people interviewing you won’t be on your team, or they don’t have a clear idea why they’re hiring you.

“How do you test your software?”

Ideally, a combination of unit testing, manual testing, and automated testing should be used to verify the quality of the code.

Red flag: We just don’t write bugs, haha.” → Those people are exactly the ones writing bugs.

“What version control system do you use?”

Version control systems are extremely useful for collaboration and there are zero reasons to not use one in a professional setting.

Red flag #1: “Uh, version control system?” → Run far, far away.

Red flag #2: “<insert obscure or custom VCS&gt;” → Indicates they’re most likely not keeping up with the times and haven’t updated their infrastructure in a long time.

“Do you do peer reviews?”

Peer reviews, or having someone else look at your code before it goes into the code base, is a fantastic way to spot silly mistakes and is a vital training opportunity when starting your career.

Red flag: “We just trust each other!” → Very likely that the senior developers are very protective of their code and not great at receiving feedback.

“What programs do you have for continuous education?”

Being a software engineer means constantly learning as technologies appear, mature and become out-dated at a dizzying rate. As such, many companies have a training budget that they use to pay for university and online classes, conferences, or in-house talks.

Red flag: “You mean reading stuff online in your free time?” → The company is either strapped for cash or sees developers as replaceable and not as long-term investments.

“What’s the software development process that you use?”

Process is vital to software engineering, regardless of the actual details. The particulars of what constitutes optimal process are subject to intense debate, but the mere existence of an agreed upon way of working on a project minimizes chaos and ensures everybody is on the same page.

Red flag: “Our process is inspired by free-form jazz.” → Most likely the entire department is in fire-fighting mode, jumping from emergency to emergency without any clear goal.

“How do you tackle technical debt?”

Technical debt is an accumulation of outdated technologies and quick-but-dirty solutions in the code base. Addressing it is important to the long-term health of the code and should be done on a continuous basis.

Red flag: “We’re exclusively focused on new features.” → Their code base is a mess or it will be soon.

“What’s your company culture like?”

Company culture might be a very vague concept, but even small things like an open office versus cubicles will change your day-to-day interaction with colleagues in significant ways. There are no general red flags, but make sure their answer is something you can live with for 40+ hours a week for years.

Working as a Software Engineer

At this stage, if you performed well in your interviews and liked how the interviewers answered your questions, you’ll likely be hired.

Congrats, You’re Officially an Engineer!

Now what? Well, it’s time to relearn a lot of things about coding and working. And since we’re programmers, let’s start by discussing code.

Good Industry Code

Good industry code has the following properties, in that order:

  • Readable, because code is read and maintained more often than it is written. The intent of the code must be clear to other developers years after you’ve written it.
  • Defensive, as in following best practices of defensive coding. Defensive coding is a topic all on its own, but the gist of it is: You have to ensure that improper use of classes and methods you’ve written won’t lead to your code crashing the software.
  • Optimized, which is last on this list because most of the time, you won’t really need to worry about it. That doesn’t mean you should write bad code that does something in O(n³) when a linear solution exists. But developers are generally eager to try and over-optimize when there’s no need for it, often at the detriment of the readability and defensibility of the code. You should always be able to prove that a certain optimization that sacrifices those properties is actually needed.

Now that you know how to write good industry code:

5 Qualities of High-Performing Software Engineers

You Won’t be Doing Much Coding

It may come as a surprise, but most of the time you won’t be writing new code, but instead, you’ll be:

  • Debugging
  • Reading existing code
  • In meetings or writing emails
  • Researching what to do so you don’t write code

Therefore skills other than coding will be just as vital for your career.

Debugging and Reading Code

  • You’ll need a lot more than debugging using print statements. All widely-used languages and tech stacks have a variety of powerful tools. Learn to use them as they’ll make debugging a breeze and save you countless hours.
  • Understand the code base. Most tech stacks have some sort of code graph generation tools that will help you understand the structure of the code base. Enterprise IDEs generally have that functionality built in. You can also explore the code using tools such as ReSharpergrep or Sourcegraph.
  • Understand the product. You’ll be surprised how many developers don’t know how the software is supposed to work before they try to “fix” it. Just read the documentation.

Organize Your Thoughts

Since a lot of your time will be spent in communication, research and multi-tasking, you need some tools to help keep everything in order.

  • TODO lists / Tasking: Your company should already have tasking software of some kind, but it helps to have a personal system as well. Use post-it notes or software like Trello or Todoist.
  • Notes: Always take notes in meetings, work to improve existing documentation and create a personal knowledge base. Use EvernoteOneNote, or a notebook, like in the olden days. It might seem like overkill, but you’ll be thanking yourself a year later when you’re revisiting that obscure build process which took you 3 days to figure out the first time. I’ve never met a good Software Engineer who didn’t take extensive notes.
  • Charts/Visualizations: Humans are visual creatures and creating charts of processes and architectures will help you and others understand complex topics. Diagrams are particularly useful when communicating with non-technical colleagues. Use LucidchartVisio or a plain whiteboard.

Know When to Use Libraries

Short answer: Almost all the time.

Long answer: 99% of the time, you shouldn’t reinvent the wheel. In most Software Engineering positions, implementing a particular kind of sort is a complete waste of time. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know how the algorithms and data structures you use work, since that will help you decide what to use and when.

In order to be an efficient Software Engineer, you need to understand the libraries that you have at your disposal. The standard libraries of most popular languages are extremely useful and are larger than what you’d expect. In addition, the code base might also utilize additional, specialized libraries. Read their documentation and know when to use them.

You should also not be afraid to suggest additional libraries if they will save time. However, you need to ensure that you pick a good library for industry use. A good library is:

  • Open source, so you can verify the quality of code yourself and potentially fix bugs that are critical to your application.
  • Licensed under a permissive license such as MIT and BSD, so your company doesn’t run into any issues by using it. Be careful with GPL, lest you open source your entire code base by accident.
  • Mature, i.e. it has been out for some time and has a rich set of features.
  • Maintained, with new releases coming out often.
  • Used by other companies or projects, which acts as a stamp of approval and ensures it has industry support for continued maintenance.

Continuous Improvement

In addition to learning the skills that will make you better at your day-to-day job, you’ll also need to continuously improve your skills and learn new ones, in order to create new career opportunities for yourself.

The opportunities to learn are many and a lot of them are quite affordable:

  • Online Courses: The opportunity to learn from the best professors in the field in a flexible format shouldn’t be missed. Check out CourseraUdacity, and edX (among many) for courses that can supplement your existing skills.
  • Online Master’s Degrees: A recent trend among top-ranked universities, online Master’s Degrees are a flexible way to continue your formal education. They are also generally less expensive thank on-campus degrees, with most programs costing ~$10,000 for the entire degree. Georgia TechUT, and UC San Diego are some of the universities offering such degrees. I personally recommend Georgia Tech’s Online Master’s which I graduated from this year.
  • Blogs: Blogs are an important part of the developer community (no surprise here, as you’re reading one right now). Blogs such as Coding HorrorJoel on Software, or even more humorous websites such as The Daily WTF can give you a good idea of what and what not to do as a Software Engineer. Browsing Medium, r/programming, HackerNews or other feeds will also lead you to good articles and blogs.
  • Conferences: Last, but not least, conferences are an amazing learning opportunity and you should definitely take advantage of your company’s training budget by going to them. A very incomplete list of good conferences to check out (alongside their topic): GOTO; (General), Strange Loop (General), PyCon (Python), CPPCon (C++), DEF CON (Security), Fluent (Web dev). All of these also have videos of (most) talks on YouTube so you will be able to learn something even if you can’t attend!
Why Learn to Code? The Surprisingly Broad Benefits of Coding | Rasmussen  University

How to Become a Software Engineer: What You Need to Know

With so much of today’s business landscape relying more and more on technology, software engineers have become highly sought-after. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that software developer jobs will grow by 17% through 2024 (much faster than the national average).1 We’ve broken down a few tips on how to become a software engineer below.

What Does a Software Engineer Do?

Software engineers and developers create the programs and applications that users interact with on computers, smartphones, and other devices. This typically involves first determining what a program needs to do in order to meet the end user’s needs. Software developers will then design the program by planning out each specific component or application required for it to perform the desired tasks, as well as setting rules for how these individual pieces of the software will/can interact. Programmers write the actual code for the software so the developers can test it, and potentially go back to make changes or modifications before it’s released to users.

There are traditionally two types of software engineers: application and systems developers. Application software developers design the types of computer programs or apps you commonly use on your computer, phone, or tablet, sometimes also designing programs and database interfaces for their companies to use internally. Systems software developers work to create and maintain the underlying frameworks on which computers and their applications run—like operating systems and your computer’s desktop interface. Depending on the company, software engineers may also assume some of a programmer’s typical role, writing and adjusting the code for each program themselves.

Tips on Becoming a Software Engineer

While it is becoming easier than ever to learn computer software and programming languages, software engineering jobs are also likely to see increased competition as the market grows. Below are five essentials to keep in mind if you want to pursue a career as a software developer.

Computer Science Degree – One of the first and most important steps in how to become a software engineer includes getting your Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and Technology degree, or a closely related computer science degree. While certain employers may prefer a master’s degree, most jobs will be open to you with a bachelor’s.2

Learn How to Program – Despite software engineers not always writing the actual computer code for the programs they design, they are expected to have a strong working knowledge of computer programming languages. Make sure to take both software development and coding classes while in school, and keep yourself updated on current computer languages.

If you are looking to pursue a career in software engineering and aren’t sure where to begin, here’s your guide to salaries, job markets, skills, and common interview questions in the field.

Play Sound

Members of Generation Z–those born from 1997 and onward–are the latest entering the job market. The oldest members of Gen Z are entering the market during an interesting time, with the US unemployment rate at an impressive low and employers fighting to attain and retain lucrative talent.

However, this young talent is chasing one profession in particular: Software engineering. Software engineer applications accounted for 19% of all job applications from Gen Zers in the US, making it the most in-demand job among that generation, according to a recent Glassdoor report.

To help those interested in the industry figure out how to launch a career in software engineering, we compiled the most important details and resources. For a free PDF version of this software engineering career guide, download this ebook. This article will be updated on a regular basis.

Why is there an increased demand for software engineers?

Software engineer and developer job positions dominated Glassdoor’s list of the 10 most in-demand tech jobs of 2019. The global demand for engineers is skyrocketing year over year, with demand for blockchain engineers increasing at 517% and security engineers at 132%, according to Hired’s 2019 State of Software Engineers report.

The demand for software engineers correlates with the ebbs and flows of new technology. For example, the explosion of blockchain in the past year has resulted in a need for software engineers with blockchain skills, the report found.

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Most companies are trying to stay competitive, resulting in a greater investment in technology, across all sectors, according to Glassdoor’s Economic Research Blog. As more companies are trying to transform into tech companies, software engineers are needed in those industries (retail, finance, manufacturing, etc.) to plan, manage, and launch the software.

What does a software engineer do?

Software engineers are responsible for building, developing, launching, and maintaining software products and systems, according to Indeed’s career guide. Software systems include operating systems, business applications, connected hardware, networking systems, and mobile and web applications.

Software engineers and software developers are interconnected, but mutually exclusive. Software developers help maintain existing software performance, recommend improvements, and develop updates or new software programs in code. The key difference is in the word “engineer,” because engineers are involved in the development of software, but developers don’t necessarily have the engineering background to be involved in that part of the process.

What are some software engineer job roles?

Software engineers can choose from a number of different career paths. Here are the nine most popular software engineering jobs, and their growth rates year over year, according to the Hired report.

  • Blockchain engineer (517%)
  • Security engineer (132%)
  • Embedded engineer (76%)
  • Data engineer (38%)
  • Back end engineer (33%)
  • Machine learning engineer (27%)
  • Mobile engineer (15%)
  • Full stack engineer (7%)
  • Front end engineer (4%)

What programming languages or other skills are best to learn to become a software engineer?

Software engineers typically have at least a bachelor’s degree in software engineering or information technology. Those in the field are often well versed in software development, and have extensive experience working with various programming languages such as Python, Java, and C++.

The fastest-growing skills in 2019 for software engineers include experience with Flutter, Android design, NUXT.JS, continuous integration and development, and angular material, according to a LinkedIn report.

For software engineers in management positions, or those trying to reach management level, soft skills are becoming increasingly important. To fuel high-performing teams, software engineering managers skill sets must include people management, leadership, team management, team building, and strategic planning, the LinkedIn report found.

What is the Average Salary for a Software Engineer?

Software engineers are projected to be one of the highest-paying tech jobs of 2019. As of April 2019, software engineers in the US earn an average of $107,972 per year, according to Indeed. Software engineers just starting out in the US have a median base pay of $88,280, according to data from Glassdoor.

For software engineers looking to make the big bucks, here are the most in-demand software engineer job positions, said a Triplebyte report:

  1. Full stack generalist software engineer
  2. Back end software engineer
  3. Front end software engineer
  4. Data engineer
  5. Android engineer

What are the hottest markets for Software Engineer Jobs?

The five highest paying cities in the US for software engineers in 2019 and their average salaries, according to ZipRecruiter, are as follows (as of this writing):

  1. San Francisco, CA ($109,175)
  2. San Jose, CA ($105,052)
  3. New York City, NY ($102,010)
  4. Seattle, WA ($101,175)
  5. Boston, MA ($100,955)

What are Typical Software Engineer Interview questions?

Some questions that a software engineer can expect during a job interview, according to Indeed, include:

  • What programming languages have you used in the past? What are your top two programming languages?
  • How much are you coding on a daily basis? If you do not code on a daily basis, what is typical in your role?
  • How comfortable are you in a startup environment, or do you prefer working in a more established company?
  • What distinguishes a great software engineer from a good one? Do you feel you have those qualities?
  • What’s the most important thing to look for or check when reviewing another team member’s code?
  • In your opinion, what are the principles of good software engineering? What are some basic principles everyone should follow?
  • If needed, how would you go about designing scalable applications? Walk us through your process.

Where can I find Resources for a Career in Software Engineering?

There are many different paths to becoming a software engineer, and most take the one less traveled, according to Hired’s previously mentioned 2019 State of Software Engineering report.

While 46% of respondents start their software engineering careers by earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science, one in five said they are instead self-taught. Some 13% of respondents said they took a more hybrid approach, taking advantage of developer bootcamps through companies like General Assembly and Hack Reactor, the report found.

In terms of learning top programming languages, sites like GitHub offer plenty of guides and resources to get started.

Coding bootcamps have proven to be extremely beneficial for software engineers: 76% of bootcamp graduates said the courses helped prepare them for their software engineering job. Bootcamps are a great resource for software engineers looking to reskill, upskill, or break into the field, the Hired report added.

For prospective software engineers who want more in-depth knowledge on the topic, EdX offers plenty of courses and degree plans for software engineers. The best part is all courses are online, which could be helpful for working professionals and parents. EdX has introductory courses to software engineering, as well as advanced certificate programs.

Top Skills for Software Engineers

Having these talents and technical abilities can make you more marketable to employers.

A whole lot of software engineers will be hired in the coming years.

Computers touch nearly every part of life. For that, you can thank software engineers. They’re the ones responsible for developing, designing, testing, writing, modifying, and debugging software based off specific requirements. Although there are plenty of full-time software engineering jobs out there, it can also be a flexible position, with contracting and freelancing opportunities commonly available. 

To keep up with the world’s ever-growing interest in new and better computer programs, a whole lot of software engineers will be hired in the coming years. If you’re hoping to excel in this industry, you will need to keep up, as well.

“The industry evolves quickly, so you have to keep your skills current,” says Anima Anandkumar, professor of computing and mathematical sciences at Caltech.

Looking to outshine the competition for any of the more than 1,000 software engineer jobs on Monster? You’ll want to focus on developing these core skills.

Computer Programming and Coding

Anandkumar says this is one of the fundamental soft engineering skills. “Computer programming focuses on algorithms, which have become a part of our daily lives,” she says. There are a number of computer programming languages, and job requirements can vary depending on the position you’re applying for. Coding bootcamp website Coding Dojo says the five most in-demand programming languages of 2019 are:

  • Java
  • Python
  • C#/.Net
  • Mean
  • Ruby

The good news is these skills can be acquired through online courses or tutorials that teach programming languages, says Christine Julien, software engineering professor at the University of Texas at Austin. That may explain why the coding school industry continues to grow rapidly, with student numbers rising by 52% in 2017, an annual report by third-party bootcamp resource site Course Report found.

Software Development

Software development entails being able to analyze users’ needs and then design, test, and develop software to meet those needs. College students can gain experience in this area by taking relevant coursework and completing an internship at a software company. Software development skills can also be honed by working with real systems and among other high-caliber software engineers, Julien says.

Software developer jobs are projected to increase by a whopping 24% from 2016 to 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. One driving force behind this rapid job growth is the advent of new applications on smart phones and tablets. Also, more computer systems are being built into consumer electronics.

Object-Oriented Design (OOD)

“For the last 30 years, there has been a very strong push toward programming using object-oriented design,” says David Garlan, professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University and co-author of Software Architecture: Perspectives on an Emerging Discipline. This approach involves the process of planning a system of interacting objects for the purpose of solving a software problem.

Object-oriented design encompasses four key principles:

  • Abstraction
  • Encapsulation
  • Inheritance
  • Polymorphism

If these sound like foreign concepts to you, don’t worry—online courses through platforms like Coursera and Udemy can equip you with basic knowledge of OOD principles.

Software Testing and Debugging

Although many new artificial intelligence (AI) programs are focusing on automating software testing and debugging, job seekers still need these skills, Anandkumar says. Indeed, testing and debugging account for a large share of the time and cost of a software project, Julien says. “They’re also skills that become a little more like ‘art’ than generating lines of code,” she says. Software testing and debugging require you to think analytically about how a system is put together.

There are software testing and debugging classes online, but “these skills are more craft that require honing through experience,” says Julien. Translation: Testing and debugging software is generally learned on the job.

Problem Solving and Logical Thinking

“These are skills that absolutely differentiate great software engineers from good ones,” says Julien. Software problems can arise from even the smallest of errors, and programmers spend a high percentage of their time debugging rather than writing code. Therefore, being able to not only pinpoint software problems but also use deductive reasoning to solve these issues is crucial to many software engineering jobs.

Written and Verbal Communication

Generally, software engineers don’t work in a vacuum—many interact with co-workers or clients. Hence, communication skills are top of mind for industry employers. “One of the important characteristics of a good software engineer is the ability to explain something technical or complex to a layperson,” says Garlan. “You don’t want someone who is going to say, ‘I fixed the problem. Don’t ask me how I did it though.’ You should always be able to clearly articulate what you do.” Communication will also serve you well when a customer has a problem with your company’s software.

One of the best ways to improve your written and verbal communication skills while on the job is to shadow a more experienced software engineer who works with clients or customers directly.

Teamwork

Interpersonal skills are crucial for software engineers, since they often work in teams. As a result, “having respect for others, having the ability to listen, having the ability to accept criticism, having the ability to empathize…those are all important skills,” Garlan says.

As far as learning how to become a better team player, “some [teamwork] skills can be taught, but others have to be learned over time on the job,” Garlan says.

Debug your Resume

As a software professional, you are in high demand. To prove that you’ve got what it takes to get the job done, you need to make sure your resume clearly and effectively presents your skills in such a way that hiring managers won’t have to second guess your qualifications. Could you use some help with that? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster’s Resume Writing Service. You’ll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume’s appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter’s first impression. Think of it as QA testing prior to launch.

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