Sean Keeley, software engineer at Oath
Sean Keeley, software engineer at Oath. Image: Connor McKenna

What are the essential skills for a software engineer?

11 Jan 2018

Want to be a software engineer? It’s about more than simply technical skills.

If you want to become a software engineer, you’re probably already on the way to completing a relevant degree or course, such as computer science.

You might even be done with that side of things and have already started looking for software engineer jobs, ready to wow them with your technical skills.

But there is so much more to software engineering than programming and technical skills. We spoke to Sean Keeley, a software engineer at Oath, about the other skills he uses in his role.

“Aside from my programming skills, I’d use things like attention to detail, analytical skills, design things – make sure things look nice,” said Keeley.

He also said teamwork is an important skill to have. “[There is] collaboration and cooperation with other people here in the office and across the world.”

At Oath, Keeley said his team is always trying to keep things new and fresh, so a need and desire to innovate would be important to those who want to be a software engineer.

“We’re always trying to learn new stuff, and that doesn’t always mean that there’s answers to things; you have to figure things out,” he said, indicating that problem-solving is another essential skill.

“Sometimes, you can have a problem and you’ve just got to keep going with it, and that can be frustrating.”

Along with his job as a software engineer, Keeley is also the co-intern and transition-year programme coordinator, so being able to stay on top of his workload is vital. He shared some of his top productivity tips with us.

“I really like working to a list,” he said. “That doesn’t work for everybody but it definitely works for me, and I also have a really nice piano music playlist that helps me concentrate.

“There’s often quite a bit of noise around, so it helps me zone in and filter out all the noise,” said Keeley.

Because every day is different for a software engineer, Keeley said it can be hard to describe a typical day, but he did manage to run through some typical examples.

“If we’re working on a big new project and we come in, there’s probably tasks assigned and we can see what has to be done. If we’re in day-to-day bug-fixing mode, we would just come in and see what we can fix,” he said. “We’re always trying to make things better.”

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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