Software engineering is an extremely exciting, sought after skill-set. It's also incredibly demanding as far as the knowledge and skills required are concerned. Getting a foothold in the industry requires a far more rigid path than many others. Other industries tend to have a variety of paths to choose from but, like the majority of science and maths-related careers, there is effectively only one course that gets you where you need to be.
In addition to a mountain of required qualifications, hiring managers looking to hire new software engineers demand a wide variety of skills, many of which are more difficult to obtain than a degree. Here's our list of eleven essential qualities every software engineer requires in order to land that coveted job...
At the core of all engineering degrees is a set of STEM qualifications. This stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Any undergraduate or postgraduate courses you complete should provide you with these key skills and help you amass a pool of knowledge for each area. Engineering is, at heart, essentially a series of logistical and mathematical problems that need puzzling out and resolving in the most efficient manner possible.
Going hand-in-hand with those problem-solving requirements is the possession of an extremely analytical mind. The majority of your tasks as a software engineer will require you to think analytically in order to develop a solution that meets all the requirements of a particular conundrum, with as little risk during development and implementation as possible. You will likely also need to test and experiment with various methods before you begin, in order to guarantee a successful solution before resources are committed.
Projects in software engineered are extremely complex. The sheer number of details you need to keep straight to ensure success is staggering. Have one tiny thing out of place and the whole project can go horribly wrong. As a result, being detail-orientated throughout the planning and development of a project is vital. Success or failure hinges on your ability to mind the details.
Keeping abreast of changes and innovations in your industry is the hallmark of any professional, but in engineering, it is particularly vital. Technology and techniques are constantly evolving, and if you are to remain at the cutting edge, capable of delivering the best quality and value, you need to have a serious love of learning. Demonstrate that you're fully up to speed on all the latest methods and developments in the industry, and completely capable of not only working with the latest tech but anticipating where future developments might go. This is one skill that will give you a great edge when applying for a new position.
There is a great deal of technical language in the engineering industry. Whether you're talking to clients or colleagues, you need to be able to discuss your art in the appropriate manner. For professionals that means technical jargon, complexity, but also succinctness. For laymen, it requires the ability to put complex concepts in terms they can easily understand, without patronising or under-informing them. The ability to communicate well is also vital for working well within a team.
Arguably the driving force behind software engineering is creativity. It is increasingly being acknowledged as the most important form of capital. This is even more important in such trying economic and political times, where money isn't always the most important currency in town. Engineering as an industry runs on the ability to think creatively about a problem or situation. Businesses depend upon creative genius and big, passionate ideas. Employees that can bring this to the table are more valuable than gold dust to an organisation. Creativity is the magic go-go juice that fuels everything else. It may be considered a 'soft skill', but it is absolutely vital.
The engineering world is riddled with problems, challenges and issues. Any given work day has the potential to throw just about anything at you. As a software engineer, you need to be fully capable of rolling with the punches, taking the hits, and batting a thousand. You need to be able to adapt, come what may, and easily identify problems as they arise. It's vital that you're able to adjust and modify your approaches based on the changing nature of your situation and environment. This level of flexibility is one of the increasingly sought after skills hiring managers look for when scouting the best talent for a role. The ability to demonstrate professional adaptability will require you to show yourself capable of assessing problems, thinking on your feet, and swiftly and efficiently finding solutions. More than this, those solutions will need to be well-thought through, rather than knee-jerk reactions or temporary fixes. With the technological frontier rapidly reshaping the software engineering industry, businesses are increasingly required to consistently implement internal change in order to keep up. A willingness and easy capability to face unexpected developments is increasingly necessary.
When it comes to the production of knowledge and innovation, teams consistently dominate, making the ability to function and thrive within a team one of the most vital skills you can hone as a software engineer. Gone are the days of innovations coming at the hands of the lonely inventor. In almost all fields, team research has replaced the solo developer. You may view this as collaboration, cooperation, or teamwork. Whatever label you put on it, make it a priority to demonstrate your ability to effectively work with a wide variety of people from a range of backgrounds.
While the classes you will take in software engineering will, for the most part, cover standard calculations, programming and concepts, the driving force of the industry is innovation. Marching hand in hand with the need to be highly creative, engineers require an innovative spirit. They are responsible for developing new ideas and improving existing conventions. The aesthetic and functionality of their products and projects are just as vital to their design as anything else.
In itself, leadership is truly a blend of a wide variety of skills, many of which have already been mentioned on this list. You need the ability to work in a team, to communicate effectively, and to have a detail orientated, creative and innovative approach to problem-solving. But leadership is about far more than the sum of these parts. You also need the ability to inspire and motivate your team to success. Much of what makes an excellent leader is based on character. As an engineer, you can develop and hone the attributes and skills required to become a good leader, and ensure you have the professional and personal chops to succeed.
Above all else, remember that people do business with people. You need to be more than the sum of your parts, more than a list of skills and qualifications that look good on your CV. To truly excel as a software engineer you need the ability to form career networks. To do this you will need to effectively network with top employers, cultivate connections with the best talent, and demonstrate that you have more than earned the right to be considered a part of their illustrious ranks.
Georgina has in-depth expertise within tech and innovation. You can find Georgina using her skills to help fellow creative industry leaders through inspiring research pieces or lecturing at Oxford College of Marketing.