High-performing software engineers have a number of characteristics in common. We look at five qualities likely to make a software engineer a high performer.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
One of the biggest myths about software engineers is that all they need to know is how to write great code. But, a quick look at questions asked at software engineering job interviews shows that employers look way beyond candidates that are simply great programmers. Software engineering jobs today demand a variety of skills that combine coding with non-programming skills, practices, habits, and knowledge.
Here are the top five qualities that all successful software engineers should possess.
It goes without saying that any good software engineer or good software developer needs technical knowledge and technical skills. Not only is the software engineering scene constantly and rapidly changing with new advancements, but it’s also incredibly competitive—in spite of the fact that there are nearly not enough software engineers to meet the ever-growing demand.
To stand out in such a market, being a full-stack programmer helps. If that makes you worry that you are expected to know every single programming language in the world, don’t fret. Full-stack doesn’t mean "everything." It simply means "end-to-end."
A software product is made of several layers—front-end, back-end, server, hardware, network, and database. An excellent software engineer would not only be knowledgeable about the functionality of each stack, they would also have the ability to jump in and independently solve problems in any phase of application development when needed.
This is important because a software engineer’s job is not to make code work in isolation, but to make the software work on the whole.
A LinkedIn survey showed that programmers spend more time learning than any other professional—48% of software engineers learned a new skill recently, compared to 36% among all professionals. Continuous improvement is not just a good practice for the software, it’s great for the engineer too. Some of the key sources of learning for software engineers are:
While you don’t have to have an MBA to be a good software engineer, you can’t be oblivious to the business context. Knowing your software as it functions in the real world is a key skill for software engineers. And good programmers spend a significant part of their careers developing their business acumen by:
In fact, senior software engineers and leaders also take interest in marketing, sales, and revenue metrics of the software to gauge the overall value of their work.
To cram so much action into every single working day, a software engineer must be a master at managing their time. There are various tools and techniques programmers use to manage time and split up the long hours. Some common ones are:
Hired’s 2020 State of Software Engineers study shows that nearly half of the software engineers would rather come into an office every day. Software engineers are viewed as isolated professionals who work better alone. But in reality, they’re an active part of the ecosystem involving many stakeholders, business teams, and end-users.
The ability to meaningfully collaborate is a key quality that differentiates good developers from the best developers. Robert Half’s Salary Guide notes that as every piece of software development and maintenance edges closer and closer to complete automation, software engineers must spend the majority of their time strategizing and working with other stakeholders. Great software engineers know this; that’s why they prioritize improving their soft skills along with their technical knowledge. Great developers are team players with good communication skills, a positive attitude, and a good grasp of the collaborative process that goes behind the building of a product.
Key interpersonal skills that a software engineer needs:
To sum up, great software engineers not only enjoy building cool things, they also know to pick apart well-built things that work well so that they can learn and improve. They’re enthusiastic collaborators who know how to communicate effectively. Buggy code doesn’t defeat them; in fact, it drives them to perform better.
What makes a good software engineer is not merely writing code—but building products and delivering value to users' needs.
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