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Engineering Analytics

How Can You Become a Software Engineer?

Arnaud Lachaume
Suraj VishwakarmaLink to author's LinkedIn profile
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July 11, 2022
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Software Engineering Roles and Tips

Software engineers must be proficient in one or more  programming languages to develop applications. Software engineers have skills such as:

  • Writing code using a programming language
  • Designing a solution applying high levels of logics before coding
  • Developing and deploying software
  • Communicating with other developers, stakeholders and customers

Software engineers most populars job titles are:

  • Frontend Engineer
  • Backend Engineer
  • Full-Stack Engineer
  • DevOps Engineer
  • Security Engineer
  • Network Engineer

There are more jobs that are related to software engineering. 

Main Programming Languages Used by Software Engineers

Learning at least one programming language is essential to become a software engineer. You can find yourself a developer job quite easily if you are proficient with any popular programming language. I emphasise  the word “popular” because it will match  a large number of jobs available in most cities, while the least used programming languages will have a low number of job openings. 

Here is the list of the most used programming languages among developers worldwide, as described in a study published in 2021 by statistica. Unsurprisingly, JavaScript is the most used language, which is widely used in Web Development. HTML/CSS are combined with JavaScript for web development. The required skills to become a software developer vary compared to a software engineer.

Tips to Help you get a Software Engineer Job

The beauty of software engineering is that you don’t necessarily need years and years of studies and work experiences to become a good software developer. I met, during my career, multiple talented software engineers you can call “self-made”. The most important skill to do this job is having a passion for coding and observing the beauty of the code in action: an up and running project / software. To kick start your software engineer career:

  1.  Learn the ins and outs of ” a programming language. There are plenty of free online courses and Youtubers that can help you learn the basics and get started with projects.
  2. Add some basic SQL knowledge to your courses - while it’s not mandatory, most applications (if not all) deal with data, so learning how to query data is standard in the role.
  3. Create personal projects using the programming language and build your own portfolio.

Armed with a few certifications and a portfolio of projects, getting a job as a software engineer will be a lot easier. Creating projects also strengthens your knowledge in the programming language and allows hiring managers to gain a greater confidence in your abilities.

Roles and responsibilities of a Software Engineer

Once you take up the job as a Software Engineer, you need to perform a variety of tasks. So, let’s take a look at  the roles and responsibilities of software developers to understand the job more precisely. .

Creating and Improving software

The primary job of a software engineer is related to code creation, which includes coding, but most importantly architecting the code and designing the logic of it. A Software Engineer deals with the creation of software applications. They have to develop software according to the client’s or organisation's requirements. They also work on existing software to make it better through code base improvements.

Designing

Software developers also design the software in terms of planning, tech stacks to be used and most importantly they define the logical way to go about implementing the solution and creating the code That latter step is critical to ensure your code performance will be to the highest possible standard, which is increasingly becoming a must-have requirement given the nature and usage of applications these days. The software design will help developers to create software by taking references. This designing process is required before writing code or you would be at risk of starting on a weak basis, which is akin to randomly baking a cake without logical steps - it rarely produces good results.  

Software design can differ on the basis of software requirements and platforms such as desktop, mobile, or Web-based application.

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Testing End-User Application

There are 3 types of testing where the software engineers are not only actively involved, but actually testing themselves:

  • Unit testing: test functions individually.
  • Manual testing: tests a chain or sequence of functions, without automation
  • End to end testing: tests a chain or sequence of functions in an automated manner

It is to be noted that sometimes it is not possible to conduct an exhaustive end to end automated testing. Therefore, the manual testing should never be bypassed.

Unit testing is a fundamental concept for software engineers, and one that saves time and helps ensure a greater level of quality of the code produced. It belongs to the framework called Test Driven Development (TDD). Concretely, it consists in writing the tests first - before writing the code - for a given function. The engineer then implements the function in a rough way, meaning their code is not necessarily refined or optimised, but contains all the key elements for the function to work.

They then run a first test session based on their test scripts. The test status should switch from red (initial state) to green. If not, they need to correct the code of the function. This is also an opportunity to refine the test scripts. 

Assuming success, the software engineer then goes back to the function and refactor it, to refine the coding - paying particular attention to the notions of optimization, performance, quality, etc. 

They run their tests again, and their status should stay green, which concludes the “red - green - refactor” process, which is the best practice for TDD. 

It is important to understand that unit tests cannot cover all the possible cases. They aim at covering “families of cases” - manual testing will investigate potential edge cases. 

If a unit testing is too big or cumbersome, it probably means the function is too broad and trying to achieve too much at once. The solution is to split the function into smaller ones, and re-apply the TDD methodology on all smaller functions. 

Once all functions are tested and implemented with TDD, it is time to run the manual testing. This is where the software engineer tests all the possible user flows. Most importantly this is where they identify and test edge cases (e.g. if they plan to display a list, they will test the particular case where the list is empty). 

This is also where they remediate a large portion of the edge cases not identified during the TDD whilst testing with families of cases. 

This step informs what they should test in the end to end testing.

The last step is the end to end testing, which encompasses multiple functions at once and is automated. It tests the end result of a chain or sequence of functions. This is also where the software engineer will test the result of injecting an input into a sequence of functions and verifying the output is as expected. For instance, when testing an API endpoint, they will send an http request, and check that the http response’s content is as expected. This API call involves a chain of functions, including authentication, authorisation, business logic, etc.

Maintenance

After the development of software, software engineers have to maintain it to a certain level of quality, performance and security. The innovation in the tech world is quite fast, so it is important to keep the application up to date, useful and relevant. Failing to do so could result in security vulnerabilities, code obsolescence or simply functions not working anymore due to a too important divergence with the rest of the code.  

Software engineers work on parts of code or functions regularly to keep them properly maintained, in particular when introducing new code somewhere else that could impact legacy code. . Feedback from the end-user also helps in adding and updating features. 

Planning and Project Management

A Software Engineer has to plan a roadmap for the development of a software application or to collaborate with a product management team to do so. They have to create a plan that should follow the Software Development Life Cycle. This plan includes tech stacks, deadlines, project structure, assignments, etc.

The more a development is planned, the smoother it will be to carry out. It is one talent of excellent software engineers to be able to anticipate steps and difficulties as much as possible before starting the actual development. This avoids scope creeps, delays, inconsistencies or simply producing code that cannot be merged with the existing code base. 

Planning and anticipating are as important as designing and testing. Code production in itself can only properly commence when these steps are complete. 

Meeting and Discussion

Communication is one of the essential skills of a Software engineer. They have to communicate with the team and take part in discussion groups. They may have to communicate with the clients on project requirements and future updates on the project.

More often than not, communication within the team happens via instant messaging apps. It has nothing to do with the fact that software engineers do not like to talk or socialise, and everything to do with avoiding as much as possible disruptions, and keeping a trace of what is asked or needed, in order to avoid misunderstandings and confusion. 

Conclusion

As you can see,  a software engineer has to wear many hats and perform various tasks while keeping up with the tech trends. 

This is what makes this role so captivating and thrilling, but also so demanding. It does not just require coding skills. It’s a combination of hard and soft skills, of creativity and organisation, of imagination and absolute precision. 

I hope this article has helped you in understanding the different aspects of a Software Engineer. Thanks for reading!