Insights

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How to kick-start your software developer career
Lyle Petersen
BI consultant at DVT

How to kick-start your software developer career

Thursday, 21 April 2022 06:41

Digital transformation drives the need for software development skills

Every company is a software company. Every software development career is impacted by this mantra, which demonstrates the scale of digital transformation and the importance of technological best practices in supporting business strategy. The pandemic has hit us with this reality – as we see the demand for digital services such as online shopping, digital payments and remote collaboration.

It is not surprising that Evans Data Corporation – a leading software development market research consultancy - predicts a 75% global growth in software developers over the next decade. Gartner predicts that by 2024 – 80% of tech will be built outside of IT. Some may even say that every employee will adopt a software developer career path in some way one day. In line with global trends - custom software development skills are one of the most in-demand skills in South Africa. It also plays an essential role in the rest of Africa, where software developers are seen as assets in the drive to create disruptive businesses, basic services and competitive digital capabilities.

Contemplating how to become a software developer or thinking of ways to meet opportunities in this field. For some, it may seem like a tug of war - swimming against a strong current of ever-changing market demands without a clear direction.

Young developers are seizing the software developer career path in Africa's tech gold rush, leveraging valuable software development skills. Google reports that accessibility has soared, with 33% university trained, 31% self-trained, and 20% through online courses and boot camps. This diversity in training sources underscores the range of opportunities in the field, emphasising the significance of on-the-job experience, training, and mentoring for honing industry-ready skills.

Crafting a flexible career strategy aligned with market demand becomes a vital lifejacket, enabling you to remain central to digital transformation. This approach ensures relevance while developing the products that serve as the currency for change in the dynamic landscape of a software development career.

What is a software developer?

Discovering how to become a software developer unveils a dynamic software development career path filled with impactful software development skills. Everywhere you look, software developer products shape our daily experiences, from calendar apps to virtual assistants suggesting products. This role offers the chance to engage in diverse tasks like designing, developing, installing, testing, and maintaining software solutions.

To excel, you'll need proficiency in multiple programming languages, along with analytical and technical skills. Effective communication is key. Successful developers possess strong abstract and logical thinking, meticulous attention to detail, and essential soft skills such as time management, self-learning, communication, and collaboration. While it might seem like a 'mystical unicorn' role, these skills are cultivated with the right mindset and strategy over time. Embark on your software developer career journey now!

Mapping your software development skills path

Taking ownership of developing your skills and building a career roadmap is essential in your software development career journey. It involves the continuous awareness of your desired core competencies and current and future market demands. You would then be able to identify the resulting skills gaps for development.

In the quest to understand how to become a software developer, navigating the software developer career path is crucial. The demand is for individuals equipped with diverse, marketable software development skills, transforming them into high-performing outliers. In today's labour market, skills, not just job titles, serve as the new metric for success. Your LinkedIn-endorsed skills validate your abilities, emphasising the significance of varying skills required for the same job title across different corporations, industries, or locations. Degrees lag behind in keeping pace with dynamic market trends and the ever-evolving landscape of relevant software development career skills.

Software developers also understand that skills are specific and nuanced – forming the building blocks to create your unique profile. Your challenge would be to map your existing and desired skills to showcase your value for projects and effectiveness in cross-functional teams.

Agile team environments are becoming popular due to the need for quick value delivery. Here, multi-skilled developers often stand out as the best performers. These high performers are usually defined as 'T' shaped or 'M' shaped employees, showcasing the importance of a diverse skill set in the software development process.

Deep core skills characterise the 'T' shape in a system or discipline overlayed with broad competencies such as communication or critical thinking, which apply across skills. It is the glue that makes the software developer able to perform within a team context.

An ‘M’ shaped or ‘Comb’ shaped employee is similar – with multiple core skillsets often less developed than the core skills of a ‘T’ employee. Having multiple core skillsets allows for flexibility and adaptability, allowing the 'M' shaped developer to take on non-expert tasks and fill in team gaps easily.

Listing your desired skillsets as ‘T’ shaped or ‘M’ shaped may look something like the following:

Mapping your desired competencies in such a way creates flexibility for opportunities. You may focus on being a software developer, but you can also highlight transferrable skills that allow transitions into other roles. It eases ownership of your career and puts you in the driving seat.

Software development can form the foundation for many career paths

With the rise of automation, software development and coding can begin the fabric of most career paths – with many jobs requiring technical understanding.

Software developers create the backbone of business operations, a malleable force adapting to changing requirements. Understanding software development lifecycles is pivotal across the business spectrum, enabling employees to measure impacts and manage expectations. Managers with insights into software contribute to better business value assessment and cost savings, enhancing the software developer salary and career prospects. Business analysts proficient in developing and coding dive deep into data for decision-making. Navigating the software developer career path requires skills honed through degree programs and a strategic approach to learning how to become a software developer.

A software developer will naturally have this knowledge and can, therefore, traverse various career paths. Working in software development teams and honing communication skills in this dynamic environment eases collaboration in the challenging modern organisation.

The benefits of specialising in your software development career path

Embarking on the journey of how to become a software developer opens doors to specialised roles, a trend that's increasingly prevalent and rewarding in the dynamic landscape of the software developer career path. As teams and organisations evolve, the role of a software developer becomes more influential. Senior developers, in particular, experience the benefits of a sustainable lifestyle due to high skills demands and the evolving nature of teams. In the realm of modern, disruptive companies with flat hierarchies, decision-making agility thrives, fostering self-managed teams. Here, a specialist software developer job involves more responsibility and accountability, showcasing the impact that skilled individuals can have as software developers create the foundation for organisational success.

Another incentive to specialise in software development is the flexibility in the ways of working. The pandemic has sparked the demand to work remotely or in a hybrid environment.

Remote working is increasingly seen as the new normal for developers, with many preferring to work this way. They cite the benefits in concentration and focus while digital collaboration and communication tools fill the gap when working in a team context.

As software developers can do technical work online, development and developer tools are often remote-friendly for easy collaboration. Many software developers thrive in this remote-work environment – drawing on the benefits of less commuting, more flexibility, better motivation and productivity. In this way, they can benefit from improved work-life balance.

Measuring Software Development Market Demand and Skills Trends

Understanding the skills market will help the software developer understand demand and discover skills gaps. Once you have identified the skills you have or desire, it is helpful to compare this to what the market demands. Identifying the gaps allows you to focus your self-development and prepare for opportunities. You want to be ahead of the curve.

Crucial to this process is having up to date information on skills trends. Tech advances, global forces, and resource pressure often change the naming and definition of job titles and skills – new jobs emerge, and old jobs change. Examples would include an ETL developer, now referred to as a Data Engineer, or a Statistician as a Data Scientist.

There are many tools to aid you in your Software Development career

The LinkedIn Economic Graph is a digital representation of the global skills force economy. Using the digital map is like tapping into the interpretation of LinkedIn's massive repository of real-time workforce data. It provides one of the best skills taxonomies - which defines and describes current and emerging skills.

The LinkedIn Career Explorer is the best way to interact with this powerhouse. Enter the desired job title, and a list of matches is displayed. It may indicate job titles that may be relevant to the skillset as well as areas of potential skills development. It is an excellent way to keep abreast of the trends in job descriptions and the appropriate skills expected – enabling you to focus your skills development.

There are also open-source skills taxonomies available. ESCO is a library developed by the European Commission, and the US Department of Labour sponsors O*NET. These resources provide regional specific skills definitions, but they may align to broader global trends.

The Microsoft Work Trend Index is another excellent resource. The insights and reports presented draw upon labour data in Microsoft 365 and Linkedin – combined with expert qualitative research. The tailored information provides megatrends describing the direction software development may be headed. This combination of vast labour data and expert industry research offers a good foundation for reliable trends.

You are probably familiar with Google Trends – especially if you are involved with SEO. This is a free tool to analyse google search queries across Google Search, Youtube, Shopping and Images. Think of it as a way to explore the trends concerning what people are searching for in real-time.

This tool can even be used for monitoring jobs and skills trends. For instance, using the tool to compare the search terms 'Remote work' and 'Office work' yields interesting results. Since the pandemic hit, one can see an increase in interest in 'Remote work' and a decrease in interest in 'Office work'. This correlation may indicate a trending shift in work patterns. Trends can be focused on a particular region or category, such as 'Jobs and Education' – which makes the service even more powerful.

Gearing to be future-fit in this way should be a rewarding and fun exercise. You have the tools and resources – and with the right focus – you can pursue self-development and more opportunities. We all strive for improved quality of life – which may mean different things to different people. Software development opens you to work-life balance, personal growth, and sustainable living opportunities, shaping a fulfilling journey in the dynamic realm of a software developer career. Maybe someday, being future-fit may mean anything we wish it to be in this world.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on 21 April 2022, and was updated on 5 December 2023