A young woman working at a computer in an office, with a man in the background also working at a computer. They are software engineers.
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What key skills do software engineers need?

9 Mar 2022

Thinking about becoming a software engineer? Hays’ Alfie Whattam looks at the role in detail, from key responsibilities to current trends in the industry.

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Accelerated digital transformation in recent years means that software engineers are in demand at organisations of all sizes.

This trend won’t disappear any time soon and, as a result of the digital skills gap, there are roles out there for those interested in these opportunities.

Let’s look at what a software engineer’s responsibilities actually are, as well as the skills required to succeed.

What does a software engineer do?

In short, a software engineer is responsible for creating, designing and developing software programs. Consequently, they may also be referred to in job specifications as a programmer.

However, that isn’t always applicable, since this description overlooks the methods and principles that they use, which are associated with engineering.

Day-to-day tasks for a software engineer include identifying user requirements, developing projects, testing software and ensuring regular improvements.

Top skills for a software engineer

Regardless of whether a software engineer works on the front-end or back-end of technologies, they will need to be proficient in coding.

A front-end engineer will focus purely on the user experience. They will use technologies such as React, Angular and Vue, all of which are built upon JavaScript.

In contrast, software engineers on the back-end will need to code with programming languages including Java, C#, Python and PHP.

Some software engineers will work end-to-end – these are known as full-stack engineers. This role requires a combination of the skills listed above, although the degree to which this is important depends on the role.

A good candidate will have a strong understanding of the technology’s architecture and the overall project.

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Which skills are most useful for someone starting out?

As mentioned above, the most important technical skill needed to be a software engineer is the ability to write in several programming languages.

However, in addition to these technical skills, it’s also incredibly important to focus on developing your soft skills such as communication, collaboration and problem solving.

How software engineering has changed

Software engineers used to focus largely on desktop applications, before the move to web-based programmes. Nowadays, users tend to access these on mobile.

These developments in technology and user preferences have meant that engineers have had to adapt their thinking and the way in which they approach a project.

It appears that the next step will be to augmented and virtual reality, and the wearable hardware that supports the experience.

With the emergence of cutting-edge tech like Web3, blockchain and the metaverse, software engineers should be comfortable working in these spaces if they are to find roles in the near future.

By Alfie Whattam

Alfie Whattam is the UK and Ireland lead for Hays software development recruitment. A version of this article previously appeared on the Hays Technology blog.

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