Digital advancement continues to disrupt the world – the way we live and work. And this change encourages people to form new habits, adapt new ways to work and design new ways to conduct work and collaborate. As organizations gravitate towards new and shiny technologies to unleash a new wave of competitive advantage, software engineers are faced with the question – “what do I need to do to stay relevant in 2020”?
This question is almost existential in nature today. The field of software engineering is only becoming wider and more open. There are hundreds of frameworks to learn, new technologies to master, new technology applications to consider… this list can be quite long.
Here’s a list of what software developers can do to navigate this ever-changing, shape-shifting landscape.
Evaluate the landscape
To decide on what to do next, first observe and identify what has changed and what has remained the same. Evaluating how architectures have evolved, where they remain the same, how databases have changed and how they are now being used, how the administration has changed owing to the technology impact, are good starting points. These areas have witnessed many upgrades but have not completely changed the way they operate and impact software development.
Technologies such as the cloud, on the other hand, have impacted software development phenomenally. It has allowed software development teams to improve the development process. It lends itself well to development methodologies such as Agile and DevOps. It gives developers greater computing power, opportunities for collaboration, scalable databases and services, and greater content delivery capabilities, amongst others.
Developers can thus look at improving their cloud capabilities and set up learning goals to understand how cloud programming tools work since these tools are very different from traditional systems. Developers should familiarize themselves with the cloud development environment and platforms.
Identify and solve a real problem at work
While signing up for an academic course to learn a new skill seems like the most usual suspect to amplify one’s expertise, it is by no means the only way. Academic courses help learn the ropes and develop understanding. However, the one big challenge of relying solely on an academic course for skill enhancement is that they look at things in isolation. The complexities, challenges, and craziness of the real-world business environment are rarely accounted for.
Instead, software developers can turn their projects into veritable learning grounds. Developers can identify a problem in a project, evaluate the different ways in which the problem can be solved, assess the right technology options and platforms, etc. and apply a new technique to solve that problem. Most importantly, they should take the project to completion.
Find a mentor/ guide
Mentoring is perhaps one of the most underrated tools to navigate today’s complex business environment. However, almost every successful person in the industry credits their success to a mentor. Since mentors are successful individuals from your line of work, they are the best people to go to for critical insights into how to best navigate your career, what skills will be of help to improve your career trajectory. They are also there to guide you when you have a critical problem to solve.
Mentoring enables continuous learning. Software developers applying new technology to solve existing project problems or looking at new ways of doing things can always circle back to their mentors to discuss, analyze, and evaluate solutions and implementation plans. This makes sure that along with taking the project to a successful completion, they also learn more.
Double up on the reading
The learning does not end when it comes to technology. Technology is also evolving in interesting ways. Technology applications are evolving. Frameworks and implementations are changing…there’s so much to learn.
I find great value in being a student for life and encourage the same for others as well. I would urge software developers to adopt a similar mindset for this year and read, read, read, and then read some more. Improve your knowledge about unfamiliar technologies, paradigms, and techniques. Then keep looking for opportunities to apply this learning to real-world projects.
Focus on developing domain expertise
Software developers need to focus on domain expertise to improve their career graph. As each industry becomes more software-driven, it becomes essential to not only be comfortable to design and work on a solution from a technical perspective but also a business perspective.
Strong developers who understand the core functionality of the product, understand how it will help the business, how it is expected to deliver business value, etc. and provide valuable feedback, suggest improvements, and become an integral part of the decision-making process.
Since domain knowledge brings business understanding, it also helps developers to think like end-users, understand each functionality from a business perspective, and eventually develop a great product or solution.
In conclusion, I’d urge developers to look beyond the cosmetic, latest tech, and shiny new object syndrome in 2020 and look out for opportunities that will help them drive value – both for themselves and for the organization.