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Soft skills for devs

March 01, 2024

16 Essential Technical and Soft Skills for Modern Developers: Staying Ahead in a Rapidly Evolving Tech Landscape
byArif BharakdainTips

Software development is one of the hottest industries to be working in. Its average salary is almost £50,000, making it highly rewarding.

Additionally:

  • It’s a high-demand job, which is why it makes up over 10% of all jobs advertised for in the UK.
  • You can start freelancing and become your own boss if you know your stuff. 
  • It’s a job you can easily do from home.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • Seven essential technical skills you need to become a successful developer, plus nine highly recommended soft skills.
  • How to choose a niche within software development (you can skip this part if you already know).

Choosing a software development niche

You’re interested in software development because you like building things and are innately gifted with problem-solving skills. That’s the common denominator that unites us all.

While there are broad skills and a commonly shared basic understanding you need when venturing down this path, it can be quite beneficial to find a niche because it affords you time to specifically master one area when you de-prioritise others, making you highly desirable and in-demand compared to a generalist.

To help you choose a niche, try your best to answer the following questions:

  1. Which programming language do I enjoy the most? There’s HTML, Java, Python, and much more. Some of these work together, but they all have areas where they shine.
  2. Which area do I enjoy the most? Is it web or app design? Maybe it’s game development or cyber-security. Each area requires a different set of must-have skills.
  3. What specific role do I see myself enjoying? There are front-end developers, back-end developers, full-stack developers, and so on.
  4. Which industry would I like to work in? They all have unique challenges and demands, from health and law to finance and retail.
  5. What’s my preferred front-end language? Reach and Angular have always had an interesting battle.

Seven essential technical skills

Technical competencies are those required to perform the job well day in and out.

Know your programming language and framework

Knowing your programming languages is foundational to becoming a skilled software developer.

Each language has its unique syntax, strengths, and use cases, making it crucial to choose and learn languages that align with your career goals and interests.

For instance:

  • HTML, CSS, and frameworks like the previously mentioned Reach and Angular are good for front-end development
  • Languages like Ruby and Node.js and frameworks like Django and Flask work well in back-end development.
  • SQL and NoSQL for those interested in database management.
  • Swift or Kotlin are key for iOS and Android app development.
  • Java is widely used in enterprise applications.
  • JavaScript is essential for web development.
  • Python is favoured for data science and AI.

Fortunately, we live in a time where access to information is rife, so it’s quite easy to build strong coding skills. Here are some practical steps:

  1. Certification from a formal college: Take, for instance, Campus.edu, a community college offering A.A.S. Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud Administration associate degrees. Campus.edu serves as an AWS Academy and empowers students with a curriculum meticulously prepared by AWS, which provides both theoretical knowledge and practical, industry-relevant skills.
  2. Build your project: Start with small projects and gradually increase complexity. Building your projects is crucial to the development process because it helps solidify your understanding and showcases your skills to potential employers or clients.
  3. Join online communities: Participating in forums like Stack Overflow, Reddit programming communities, or specific language forums can be beneficial. You can ask questions, share knowledge, and stay updated with the latest trends.
  4. Open source projects: Contributing to open source projects on platforms like GitHub can provide practical experience. It’s a way to apply your knowledge in real-world scenarios and collaborate with other modern developers.
  5. Coding practice platforms: Engaging with platforms like LeetCode, HackerRank, and CodeSignal can be an excellent way to practice coding problems and get familiar with the syntax and nuances of a language.
  6. Online tutorials and courses: Websites like Codecademy, Coursera, Udemy, and freeCodeCamp offer structured courses in various programming languages.

Remember, learning a programming language is like learning a regular language. You need to learn the syntax side of things combined with consistent practice.

Data security

Nowadays, modern developers need to know techniques for securing data, both their own and that of their clients. Precisely because of this and the fact that the technology environment is rapidly evolving, familiarizing oneself with data backup and recovery solutions is critical. 

These skills not only increase confidence in managing large amounts of data in the cloud but also ensure that the applications and services developed are robust and reliable.

UI/UX design principles

User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) principles are crucial for front-end and full-stack developers, as they directly influence how users interact with a website or application. UI design focuses on the visual aspects of an interface, including layout, colors, and typography, aiming for an aesthetically pleasing and intuitive interface.

UX design is about enhancing the user’s overall experience by making the interaction smooth, logical, and user-friendly.

Both principles rely heavily on understanding user needs and behaviours, emphasising ease of use, accessibility, and efficient navigation. An effective UI/UX design not only makes a product appealing but also functional and easy to use, leading to better user satisfaction and engagement.

A great place to understand the fundamental design principles is on YouTube channels such as UX Mastery, AJ&Smart, and The Futur, which provide video content ranging from tutorials to expert interviews on UI/UX topics.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

An understanding of the basics of SEO is helpful if you’re going to be coding websites. The following factors will need testing as they’ll determine search engine rankings:

  1. Compatibility on common screen sizes and browsers.
  2. Mobile-friendliness.
  3. Page load speed.
  4. URL structure. 
  5. Site hierarchy.

Testing

Proficiency in testing is a crucial aspect of software development. This includes:

  • Integration testing (ensuring components work together).
  • System testing (testing the complete integrated system).
  • Unit testing (testing individual components).

Using testing frameworks like JUnit for Java, pytest for Python, or Mocha for JavaScript, developers can automate these tests, making the process more efficient and reliable.

Cloud computing

Cloud computing skills are essential for building and deploying scalable applications. Proficiency in services offered by platforms like AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform is highly sought after.

These platforms provide a wide range of cloud-based solutions, including virtual servers (EC2 on AWS, VMs on Azure), managed databases, AI and machine learning services, and storage solutions. Skills in these services enable modern developers to design, build, and manage applications that are scalable, reliable, and secure, leveraging the cloud’s vast resources and capabilities. 

Understanding cloud infrastructure and mastering these platforms’ tools and services can greatly enhance applications’ efficiency, performance, and cost-effectiveness in diverse computing environments.

This proficiency is particularly valuable in domains such as cloud contact centers, where the utilization of scalable resources and advanced services optimizes communication systems for enhanced customer experiences.

Data and analytics

Developers need to know how to access, analyze, and visualize data from various sources and platforms and how to use the insights to create better products and services. One of the tools that many developers use for data and analytics is Power BI, a business intelligence platform from Microsoft. 

However, Power BI isn’t the only option available, and developers should know the alternatives to Power BI that might suit their needs better.

For example, some of the alternatives to Power BI are Tableau, ThoughtSpot, Qlik Sense, SAP BusinessObjects, and Sisense Fusion. These tools offer different features, capabilities, and pricing models, and developers should compare them based on their specific requirements and preferences. 

By exploring the alternatives to Power BI, developers can expand their data and analytics skills and find the best solution for their projects.

Nine recommended soft skills

Soft skills aren’t directly related to the job, but they’ll make you much better at it. Here are nine important soft skills and why they’re important:

  1. Building in public: Using social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn to publicly share your developer journey, which can attract collaboration opportunities. Think of it as online networking.
  2. User-centric empathy: Understanding and prioritizing the user’s experience and needs in software development, especially when catering to users with disabilities.
  3. Critical thinking: Assessing various solutions to a problem and choosing the most effective course of action.
  4. Communication: Clearly articulating ideas, concepts, and technical details to team members or clients.
  5. Adaptability: Staying flexible and adapting to new technologies, tools, and methodologies.
  6. Attention to detail: Ensuring precision in coding and catching errors before they lead to bigger issues.
  7. Time management: Balancing multiple tasks and priorities while meeting deadlines. Using task or project management systems can help you stay on top of your work.
  8. Innovation: Coming up with innovative solutions and thinking outside the box.
  9. Networking: Building professional relationships that can lead to more work.

Further listening

Whether you’re a newbie or an experienced developer, we hope to have given you much food for thought as you navigate your way through the world of development.

It’s always helpful to learn from the experiences and follow the stories of those who have reached the pinnacle of their careers as modern developers–and that’s exactly what our Developer Nation Broadcast is all about, so do have a listen.

Good luck!

Author bio

Arif Bharakda is a versatile writer passionate about marketing, technology, and B2B insights. With a keen interest in personal growth, Arif brings a relatable perspective to complex topics, making them accessible to all readers.


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