The road to becoming a high-level software engineer is tough. It takes dedication to learn the processes and a can-do attitude to keep pushing through new and challenging problems. The combination of intense hard skills and often overlooked soft skills can be daunting to acquire.
How To Go From Coding Newbie To Top Engineer
Jobs titles such as software developer, data engineer, systems analyst, and quality assurance testers will apply to you. The outlook on these coding-based positions is fantastic, and with the following tips and guidelines, you can get there much faster.
We go through some of the fastest methods of pushing yourself from being a basic programmer to a learned software engineer. This information includes:
- Best practices to keep in mind while you learn software engineering
- Hard skills to improve and learn to make you the best software engineer
- Soft skills that make you more than just a good coder, but a desirable one
- Methods of testing your knowledge when you gain a new skill or prepare for job assessments
Keep in mind that as technology evolves, your efforts to learn should too.
Building good habits and following professional processes is an excellent way to start improving. When you ingrain quality skills into your routine coding, you’ll get better without even realizing it.
Focus on Quality
There can be a huge temptation to make code that only accomplishes the intended goal when you first start. Code that simply “gets the job done” is only the minimum of what professional software engineers have to write. You need to have readable, commented, efficient code.
The best place to start this is with your habits. Imagine having to read your code from someone else’s perspective. Take a look at old projects to see if you’ve been setting yourself up for readable, high-quality lines. Learning software engineering has a lot to do with working with other coders.
Fail Fast and Often
Bugs, unforeseen conflicts, and a ton of iteration will be a part of any job based on software. Lean into the idea that temporary failures are OK. The “perfect code” doesn’t exist. Dealing with problems that crop up early will make you a better overall coder prepared to work around any complication.
Being able to remain calm under pressure and finding innovative solutions to problems is key. Be prepared for the unexpected, and you’ll quickly move ahead.
Don’t Forget Your Goals
Your learning is going to be directly motivated by what you want out of the skills you gain. Are you shooting for a top-level position with a company such as Microsoft or Google? Do you want to start marketing your own software? Are you a dedicated hobbyist coder?
The final motivations for you can be diverse and are all valid. The most important part about motivation is to remind yourself of it at each available opportunity. Coding is a mindset that will ultimately work with you, but it takes time and effort to incorporate into your habits and methodology.
Remember why you started coding, and keep that in mind as you advance.
Hard Skills to Improve
A great overview of what it takes to be a software engineer comes from this Computer Science.org career post. The entire website is a useful resource for your learning journey, but the spotlights here are on skills you’ll need.
The more you learn about coding languages, the more your knowledge about inherent syntax and general logic will increase. While you shouldn’t go overboard trying to learn too many at once, unless it’s a particularly outdated or obscure language, it won’t hurt to understand it.
When you land a software engineering job, you might also be dealing with a proprietary or modified language or interface that can test your ability to learn new languages. Training your ability to learn is vital.
Practice Good File Hierarchy
The overarching occupation of coding requires a lot of organization. Time spent searching for the correct file is time taken away from your core tasks. This skill can easily affect others with whom you work.
The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard summarize it best by saying “organizing files is like organizing your room: it should be clean and easy to navigate through.” Even if it appears to make more work for you now, the ease of use in the future will more than make up for it, and others will appreciate it.
Whether it’s your code or that of a peer, the value of quickly finding issues and resolving them can never be underestimated. Finding problems can be just as tricky as actually fixing them. Many programs have debug modes and extra options specific to this process. Familiarize yourself with your coding environment to learn the most you can.
Using all of your resources when debugging is a great way to solve the core issue and learn at the same time. Most problems that exist in software engineering aren’t unique to your situation. Understanding your errors is a great first step at finding what questions you should be asking.
Soft Skills to Improve
Learning software engineering isn’t exclusively about hard skills, despite what some people might think. The essence of improving your coding and making you a more marketable candidate is a balance between hard and soft skills.
Communication Is Key
You’ll hear it from virtually every advice article or help guide regarding improving in your field of work or career, but it’s true. Familiarizing yourself with your peers or coworkers and understanding that they’re people just like you is a good place to start.
Working as a software engineer requires understanding the needs of your company, your clients, and your co-workers. Being able to explain the concepts you are working with to people inside and outside of your organization can only help you become better.
You’ll get a better understanding of what types of communication to work on as you become more acquainted with your daily tasks and regular duties. Talking with your boss can be a lot different than directly going over a client’s needs or assessing a report from a worker overseen by you.
Many of the jobs of a software engineer will involve downtime as tests are conducted or code is compiled. Pacing projects by tasks to complete and making sure to keep track of them as you go is a good way to start thinking about this often overlooked aspect of coding.
Managing your duties across different languages, programs, or even entire projects can be daunting. You’ll be supported by your hard skills as you learn more and more. The overall level of proficiency you can boast will allow you to cut down on the time it takes to switch between tasks and objectives.
It’s easy to fall into bad habits of crunch and overwork as a software engineer. Taking effective breaks means you’ll be able to work more effectively when you come back and keep errors down. It doesn’t need to be at the same time each day, but make sure to budget for breaktime.
Throughout your journey to learn software engineering, you should be testing your skills to assess your progress. The specific abilities you want to cultivate based on your desired position might differ, but your general proficiency still needs to be up to snuff.
One of the most coveted opportunities for a software engineer is landing a job at Microsoft. Even if you don’t intend to work for the tech giant, the Microsoft online assessment is helpful for understanding if you have the desired knowledge base.
There are also open question banks from Google and Twitter’s online assessments available on the same website. Each time you learn something new, integrating it into your methods of testing yourself improves your knowledge of the subject forward.
Using other resources such as the comprehensive Programming Skills organization website and this list of language quizzes will help round out your understanding. When testing yourself, you can easily find ways of crafting an assessment to your skill level but we recommend trying to take on subjects you aren’t always the most familiar with to keep stretching your potential.
A great test that you can try as you learn a new language is to code something you already made. This easy test is possible at any level of complexity and assesses your knowledge of languages. Incorporating a diverse set of languages into your tool kit makes you stand out as you learn more.
While you will focus on particular skills throughout your career as a software engineer, the jobs available to you will require you to always learn more. The continued evolution of technology in this job sector will necessitate continued practice and testing yourself every step of the way.