Software Engineer Skills: Definition, Examples and Tips
Updated March 10, 2023
The primary responsibilities of a software engineer are to develop, design, maintain, modify and debug software. These qualities are a combination of both the soft and technical skills needed for efficiency in the workplace to help them create effective systems or software. Learning what skills you can develop or improve to succeed in this role can help you increase your qualifications and succeed in this career.
In this article, we explain what software engineer skills are, list some important ones to develop and describe how you can improve and highlight yours.
What are software engineer skills?
Software engineer skills are the abilities software developers use to create, maintain and operate computer programs businesses and organizations use. These skills comprise hard and soft traits. Soft skills are personal attributes that help people interact with others on the job. These skills can apply in any industry, and they often include communication, social and interpersonal abilities.
Hard skills are technical or practical skills software engineers use to build, maintain and repair software. Unlike soft skills, hard skills are industry-centric. and you can earn them in school or through industry experience. Examples of software engineer hard skills include software development, object-oriented design (OOD), software testing, debugging, computer programming and coding.
Examples of software engineer skills
Employers often expect software engineers to have technical skills and soft skills relevant to the field. The type of skills you possess depends on the type of job you're seeking. Here are some common skills you may see listed on job posts for a software engineer:
Communication is a soft skill that allows you to understand your coworkers and effectively convey your ideas to them. This skill involves friendliness, confidence, giving and receiving feedback, clarity and adapting to different communication styles.
Effective communication often includes asking relevant questions to gain more information, using active listening when others speak to you and exercising empathy to ensure your message and tone are clear and respectful.
Many software engineers work in teams to provide services and maintain systems. Teamwork involves discussing problems that arise with coworkers, being able to articulate the project's needs, having the ability to listen and accept criticism and having respect for other team members. Although software development often is a solitary act, it's helpful if you can work effectively with others in a team.
Read more: 7 Examples of Important Teamwork Skills
Computer programming and coding
Computer programming and coding is the process of writing a set of instructions that a computer or device executes. It's the basis of software engineering, and it's typically one of the top technical skills in a job post. If you want to pursue a career as a software engineer, try to learn at least one programming language. Here's a list of programming languages you may find on job posts:
Problem-solving is an essential skill in the workplace. It involves finding the source of a problem and developing an effective and efficient solution. Some tasks that use this skill include testing and debugging software. Patience, creativity, innovation and critical thinking are important components of finding the cause of a problem and developing solutions.
Multitasking is the ability to perform more than one task at a time. As a software engineer, you may work on multiple projects under a tight deadline while staying organized and prioritizing tasks. This time management skill allows you to remain productive and efficient with all of your tasks.
Attention to detail
This is the ability to achieve precision and anticipate possible outcomes. Employers expect software engineers to be thorough and accurate while handling complex code, documents and projects. This includes being able to analyze a problem, use a version control system to store your old work and employ thorough testing protocols in your code to ensure others can read it with ease.
Read More: Attention to Detail: Definition and Examples
How to improve software engineer skills
Improving your software engineering skills can increase your value in the workplace, possibly earning you leadership opportunities and a higher salary. Here are some ways to improve the skills needed as a software engineer:
1. Complete additional training
Consider advancing your technical skills through online courses or enrolling in a university certification program. To increase your soft skills, development seminars on workplace communication and employing team-building exercises with fellow engineers can help you promote collaboration and build rapport. Seminars also can be a good place for you to network with other professionals who may help you discover future training opportunities.
2. Read professional development books
To advance your career and develop leadership skills, consider reading books that discuss various leadership styles, motivation techniques and tips for improving productivity in the workplace.
Many industry professionals, including chief technical officers, inventors and successful software engineers, write their lessons for growing professionals to read. This can provide you with insight into why these skills are important and how you can implement them into your daily duties.
3. Get involved in a technical community
Try to get involved in side projects, ask questions on forums and meet with like-minded technological professionals. These can allow you to discover new ways to perform tasks, stay updated about the latest industry trends and identify areas you can improve professionally.
Consider joining online forums, attending local developer meet-ups or joining a professional organization to network and discover new techniques, tactics and skills.
4. Collaborate with team members
Collaboration often can help you succeed in your workplace. Understanding your colleagues' feelings, perspectives and ideas can help you build an effective team and achieve your goal. Try to accept constructive criticism and contribute feedback to others, so you can further develop your communication skills and practice creative and critical thinking.
5. Ask for leadership opportunities
After gaining experience with your organization's projects and work, consider asking to lead a new project or team to develop leadership skills and practice time management and problem-solving on a larger scale.
This can allow you to better understand how leadership roles function in this industry, and this experience can increase how much your team leaders trust you. These opportunities also can improve your qualifications and lead to career advancement.
6. Mentor newer software engineers
If you feel you're an expert at a certain task, project or other relevant skills, you can offer to help your coworkers. In this, you can teach them new tactics to improve their organization and multitasking abilities and become stronger critical thinkers.
For example, if one of your colleagues runs into a problem on a project, consider offering to assist them in troubleshooting the problem and collaborating on an effective solution.
Related: How To Be a Good Mentor in 12 Steps
Software engineer skills in the workplace
Here are a few ways you can use your software engineer skills in the workplace:
Help design new products. Using your knowledge of the software design process, you can provide valuable feedback about how to design a new product.
Answer questions from employees with non-technical skills. Employees without training in technical skills, such as programming, may have questions about what's possible and how it works.
Perform quality review inspections. With your attention to detail and multitasking skills, you can perform reviews of existing products while working on the development of others.
How to highlight software engineer skills
If you're applying for software engineer positions, you can highlight your software engineer skills on your resume, cover letter or in an interview. Here are some techniques to include these skills during your job search process:
Software engineer skills for a resume
Highlighting the right skills on your resume helps define who you are to the employer. Before listing your skills, consider reviewing the job description to identify specific skills the employer values, and use those to better align your qualification with the employer's expectations. You can include these skills as part of a skills section like this:
Technical skills: Python, C# and Java
Soft skills: Critical thinking, effective communication and problem-solving
Software engineer skills for a cover letter
In your cover letter, try to highlight your most important qualifications as a software engineer. You can describe your work experience and qualifications in terms of the skills you've used and developed throughout your career. For example, you might write:
As a software engineer at MogulWare, I collaborated with fellow developers on several finance tracker applications for our clients. I used my knowledge of Java and Python to customize functions, troubleshoot issues and debug platforms. I typically managed diverse tasks on seven to eight projects per sprint using a calendar and time tracker to ensure I remained on schedule with my responsibilities.
Software engineer skills for a job interview
During an interview, a hiring manager may ask you a series of questions to learn how you use your skills in the workplace. They might ask how you stay organized during a project or what you think are the most important skills for a software engineer to have. These questions are your opportunity to demonstrate the skills you possess and provide context to your experience. For example, if an interviewer asks you to describe your process for organizing a day's work as a software engineer, you can say:
“Each day, I spend the first 15 to 30 minutes checking which tasks remain in my sprint, communicating with my supervisor and fellow software engineers to see what tasks are ready for me to start. Then, I prioritize each task based on when it's due. Finally, I determine how long each task will take and ensure each task can fit within my hours that day.”
Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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