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What skills do software developers need to be successful?

4 Aug 2021

Hays’ James Milligan spoke to several experts in software development recruitment to find out the skills that are key to success.

What technical and soft skills do software development professionals need right now? How can you future-proof your career? What development jobs are most in demand at the moment?

I recently spoke to some of our software development recruitment experts from around the world to find out the answers to these questions, and many more.

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

Has demand for software development professionals increased over the past year?

Max Wilcock, senior business manager in software development for Hays Technology in the UK and Ireland, said the need for software developers has never been as strong as it has been since the start of the pandemic.

“Whilst some companies have made redundancies and struggled through this period, others have surpassed this challenge by bringing timelines forward and releasing software off the back of increased demand, for example, in health-tech, logistics and software companies.”

Shaun Cheatham, chief sales officer for Hays US, said the demand has increased specifically in permanent hiring in the US. “With all the redundancies and furloughs during 2020, companies are trying to regain their core staff footing while trying to also meet the demand to compete in the market.”

Edward Fletcher, business director of software development for Hays Technology in Australia and New Zealand, is having similar experiences in his region. “Many organisations have backlogs of vacancies after putting positions on hold during the pandemic, which is now leading to heightened staffing demand,” he said.

“Add the high number of digital transformations underway, and it’s easy to see why the demand for skilled development professionals has increased so strongly. In addition, we’ve found that a lack of overseas talent resulting from border closures has resulted in organisations competing for a smaller domestic talent pool.”

What are the most in-demand jobs in development right now?

Wilcock said in the UK and Ireland, full-stack developers, regardless of technology, are most in demand. “People that can work at database level, back-end, or on the UI, and more recently with cloud (Azure/AWS in particular) and involving DevOps are massively popular,” he said. “Different languages ebb and flow in popularity, but JavaScript seems king currently.”

Juliann Deegan, business director for Hays Technology in the UK and Ireland, added that .Net developers and front-end developers are also very much in demand, especially with SMEs.

“I think this reflects the fact that there is renewed confidence and a desire to push through with projects that had previously been put on hold.”

Fletcher said full-stack software developers, software developers and mobile developers are in high demand across Australia and New Zealand, as organisations seek to improve their end customers’ digital channels.

In the US, Cheatham said front-end React developers have been the skillset in highest demand, followed by .Net and Java.

Edmond Pang, regional director of Hays in Shanghai and Suzhou, said the highest demand in Asia is for Java developers, full-stack developers and Golang developers.

Olivier Pacaud, national IT business manager for Hays in France and Luxembourg, said full-stack developers are also the most sought after in France, especially web stack. “There is also a growing demand for DevOps engineers and data scientists,” he said.

Click here to check out more on the Hays Technology blog.

What soft skills are needed to work in development?

According to Wilcock, the requirement for tech people to have good soft skills has been a growing trend.

“Tech is now the number-one enabler for a lot of companies, so it’s important developers can communicate with the business and make systems that are as user friendly as possible.”

Fletcher said to that end, he sees strong verbal communication skills, the ability to collaborate with different teams and stakeholders and good written communication skills as essential to excel in software development.

Pang added inquisitiveness and problem-solving skills to the list. “We’ve interviewed many tier-one software developers who may not have immediate solutions to problems, but would go to tech forums to read and seek suggestions from other tech gurus to help them with a coding problem,” he said.

“Being a team player is also important. Many of our senior clients seek this soft skill, as they want developers who are collaborative, and not just wanting to code in their own methods, but in the team’s direction.”

What technical skills are needed to work in development?

Wilcock said that while mastery in one language will offer a job in development, the ability and openness to move across technologies will offer a long career in development.

Deegan agreed, saying it’s hard to narrow down a specific technical skill as coding languages continually change.

When I started recruiting for software developers, a developer coded in a specific language, ie Java or .Net. But now, a developer who can switch between languages and who is agile may have more worth.”

In Asia, Pang said full-stack and Golang are the most sought after technical skills. “But there is also demand for Python Mobile (Flutter/React Native) and JavaScript (Angular/React/Vue/Node).”

Pacaud said it’s a similar situation in France, with technologies such as Java still in great demand.

“There’s also a growing demand for Python and the JavaScript environment with its many frameworks (specifically React JS). Finally, the Microsoft stacks are still very present, .Net Core in particular.”

How can software development professionals future-proof their careers?

When it comes to future-proofing, the recruiters across the board were in agreement that being prepared to keep learning new languages was key.

“You need to ensure that you are moving with the technology,” Wilcock said. “If you’re working in an organisation using bespoke or proprietary languages and frameworks, then make sure you are involved in projects with newer, emerging technologies. You can attend meet-ups to be sure you’re choosing the right ones to focus on.”

Pang said that development talent is scarce in Asia so picking up a second Asian language could open up a lot more opportunities globally. “For example, in mainland China, the big tech companies like Baidu, ByteDance, Alibaba and Tencent always welcome developers from overseas. And having the Chinese capability would increase your success rate in landing a job with them as you can communicate and work efficiently with their local teams,” he said.

Pacaud said it’s also important to keep an eye on technical developments and new innovation. “You can also be active on GitHub, Stack Overflow, and make sure your LinkedIn profile is optimised to showcase you and your work as best as possible,” he said.

By James Milligan

James Milligan is the global head of technology at Hays. A version of this article originally appeared on the Hays Technology blog.

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