4 Most Important Skills for Software Developers

Last Sunday I was teaching English at my local English club and the theme that we had for the session was about job skills. What are the skills that we need today in order to be successful at our jobs?

We all mentioned the skills we think are important and needed for jobs, but at the end we all agreed that skills needed for one particular job are different from another job. For example, while an accountant needs to have great number crunching abilities, a translator/interpreter needs to have excellent language skills. But there are also certain skills that are important for every job, like being able to work with others.

So what are the most important skills needed by software developers to be successful in their field? Here are the top 4 skills I think are of most important.

1. Problem solving

Software developers are problem solvers. Nearly all tasks assigned to developers require finding a solution to a problem. Good software developers know how to define problems well, break them down into smaller problems, and find an optimal solution using the resources available. They have a systematic method of approaching a problem. Actually there is no code to write if you don’t even know what to write.

Problem solving is a skill that can be learned and improved. After learning a programming language, it is good to learn about Data Structures and Algorithms using that programming language. It would really beneficial to know basic data structures like arrays, linked lists, trees, and graphs, and common algorithms like binary search, DFS, BFS and sorting algorithms. Although you may not always use them in your day-to-day tasks, knowing data structures and algorithms will help you solve problems differently from those who don’t know them.

There are plenty of resources to learn DS and Algorithms online. I usually use Udemy to learn with videos, but you can also find many other resources on the internet. I mainly code in JavaScript, and here are some of the best courses on Udemy about DS and Algorithms using JavaScript:

There are many online platforms, like HackerRank, LeetCode, and CodeSignal, where you can practice and improve your problem solving skills.

2. Communication Skills

Although software developers spend most of their time in front of the computer, they still have to talk to real human beings. They have to report to managers and supervisors, attend meetings, talk to clients, and also ask help from other developers. It is therefore crucial to communicate effectively in order to avoid misunderstandings.

There is a saying that a problem well stated is half solved. You will not know everything, and at some point you will have to ask for help from people who are better than you. If you are able to clearly express yourself, they will easily be able to help you.

When you have great speaking skills, you may be called to speak at developer meetups and conferences

Written communication skills are also important. Writing documentation is part of the software development. As a software developer, you may be required to write documentation for an API or user manual for users of the software. The documentation must be clear and easy to understand.

3. Working with others

When I was still in school, I used to work on software projects alone. They were small in scope, so working alone wasn’t a problem at all. In the corporate world, however, software projects are done in teams. You have to collaborate with designers, frontend developers, backend developers, managers, product owners and other stakeholders of the projects. Everyone has a certain role in the success of the project. If you have an attitude and you only want to do things your own way, you are going to put the project at risk.

Creating software is supposed to be a team effort. It is like playing football. You have to play as a team and not as individuals. Even if you have the best player in the team, you will not win any match if the players of the team don’t work together.

So learn how to work with others.

4. Ability to learn new things

The software world is moving extremely fast -- new frameworks, tools, platforms, programming languages . You will be left behind if you don’t know how to learn new things. On the other hand, if you are willing and able to adapt to the changing software development market and technologies, you will have significant advantage over others who aren’t willing to adapt to change. You will also always be in demand, and you will get more opportunities come to you.

However, I would also like to say that you have to learn the right things. You cannot learn every new shiny technology that comes out every month. There is simply no time for that and it will kill your productivity. Instead, try to focus your learning on the tech stack you are using. For example, if you are a JavaScript developer, learn stuff related to the JavaScript stack (frontend stuff such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript frameworks, and JavaScript in backend such as Node.js).

Conclusion

These are the top 4 skills I think are important for software developers to be able to progress in their career.

  1. Problem Solving
  2. Communication Skills
  3. Working with others
  4. Ability to learn new things

All these skill can be learned and developed. Do you already have these skills? Are there other skills that need to be added in the list?

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© 2020. Naina Razafindrabiby