January 20, 2021

The Top 10 Things Every Programmer and Software Engineer Should Know

There are many reasons to become a software programmer or engineer. For one, it’s creative—programmers can take an idea and turn it into a tangible asset with real value.

Second, you’re always learning something new and evolving your skills to keep pace with innovation. And of course, being a software engineer or programmer comes with some universal perks: great pay and opportunities to work remotely.

3Pillar has been in the product development business for over a decade, openly collaborating with companies in just about every sector on hundreds of projects. Through the years, we worked through countless challenges–both technical and cultural–and learned lessons that can’t be taught in a classroom.

Below, we look at the top 10 things we believe every software engineer should know.

1. Understand the Customer’s Business

The first item on this list applies to any business: know your customer. You can’t design and deploy great software without understanding its purpose, use case, or end-user. If you don’t know the WHAT, you can’t decide the HOW. Understanding how your customer’s business operates and what they hope to achieve means you start the project with better requirements, a clear design, and a framework for implementation and testing. In turn, this enables you to create business value.

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2. Communication

Communication processes can make or break the success of any development effort. A software engineer isn’t responsible for the entire project. Each team member has their own set of tasks, making communication essential for delivering a cohesive final product. Even if you receive a minor change request in an informal discussion, it is still advisable to put these changes through official channels to inform everybody and document the changes for future use. Among the key things every software engineer should know is that it pays to fine-tune your people skills. We recommend setting clear expectations and getting comfortable with honest, upfront conversations to ensure projects head in the right direction.

3. Programming Languages and Scripting

Programming and scripting languages seem like things every software engineer should know. It’s basic common sense, but the importance of this can’t be stressed enough. As a programmer or software engineer, you must have familiarity with programming languages. Often, experience with a single programming language won’t get you very far. If you want to open the door to better opportunities, develop expertise in multiple coding languages such as Java, Python, C++, and JavaScript.

4. Databases

Databases provide a way to store, access, manage, and structure data. There are many choices such as Oracle, MySQL, SQL Server, and PostgreSQL. You should have familiarity with databases and know-how to manipulate data and write multiple queries to retrieve the data your application needs.

5. Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has become standard for businesses of all shapes and sizes. That means it’s now a basic competency for any software engineer or programmer. In recent years, organizations moved their systems to the cloud in large numbers, due to its many advantages, which include increased security, reduced cost, improved scalability, ease of deployment, and improved flexibility

6. Source Control

Source control is another concept every programmer should know. The term refers to tracking and managing code changes. The idea is, you have a real-time log documenting the code development process, which allows for fast conflict resolution when merging contributions from multiple sources. Source control also improves the development process by allowing different teams to work in parallel. Because you can work with a copy of the main repository, there’s no need to modify the original codebase. As such, you can commit to changes after they have been tested.

7. Testing Best Practices

Code testing is a critical part of software development. Skipping this step will only lead to problems down the road. You can perform different tests to detect errors and bugs before deploying your code. These include unit testing (positive and negative scenarios), integration and system tests, checks of performance and memory (with real-world data), static code analysis, measuring code coverage, load and stress tests, and peer review

8. Basic Project Management Skills

Working with project managers, scrum masters, and technical leads presents challenges if you’re not familiar with the terminology and processes that define your workflow. Learning the basic concepts of project management makes it easier to work on teams and organize your own tasks. These concepts can help you identify who is responsible for each task and what role each team member should assume. A great example of this is task estimation. If you ask a programmer or software engineer for an estimate, they’ll typically focus exclusively on the technical stuff, resulting in an underestimation for the holistic effort. By contrast, a project manager looks at the big picture: design, development, testing, reviews, deployment, building in extra time for unexpected problems.

9. Save Code Changes Constantly

Many software engineers learn this lesson the hard way–continuous backups save you from a lot of pain. We recall one incident where we spent an entire day rewriting a script in Oracle to fix a critical production problem. Often, developers get caught up in the process and forget to save changes. Plus, there are times when the system fails, undoing all that hard work. Even saving every few minutes isn’t always enough. Look toward cloud-based solutions that automatically backup changes to avoid potential rework.

10. Keep Learning

Finally, the most important thing every software engineer should know is that the learning process never ends. Most of us started working on monolithic systems, hosted by company-owned servers. Software came with high licensing costs and was written in bygone programming languages. Today, software engineers work on microservices projects using open-source software, cloud-based infrastructure, and collaboration tools that allow us to work from anywhere. There’s always something new to learn, whether that’s mastering a new programming language, sharpening your cybersecurity skills, or embracing innovations like augmented reality, the IoT, or edge computing. Technology runs faster than we do, and every software engineer should know that success hinges on their ability to adapt–or else they’ll become obsolete.

Mastering the Things Every Software Engineer Should Know

Companies that develop or rely heavily on software need a product development partner who understands the key concepts every programmer should know and continues to evolve their craft to keep pace with change. 3Pillar makes it easy for companies to collaborate openly with top developers that provide innovative solutions. Our globally-distributed business model delivers outsized impacts using proven Agile processes.

Our experienced software engineers can help your next project succeed. Contact 3Pillar Global today to learn how we can help.