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How to Improve Software Engineering Skills

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Team Interview Kickstart

There’s a huge difference between writing programs and being a great Software Engineer. 

Think of writing programs and coding as just an output of being a Software Engineer, and almost anyone, with a little training, can master the syntax and formatting of a language enough to start writing programs. 

So then, what makes a good Software Engineer? How do you go from writing codes and programs to the next level? Of course, mastering the fundamentals and getting the hang of the basics is important. While there are many ways, platforms, and resources to get hold of the basics of programming, there are also numerous supporting skills required for being a good software engineer. 

These skills are much more difficult to master and can only be learned with rigorous practice and daily efforts. No course can cover these things. That said, there are some things you can bring into your daily routine and habits as a programmer that’ll help you slowly inculcate the required skills and grow as a Software Engineer over time. 

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Create an Architecture of Every Software Application
  • Write Rigorous Test Cases
  • Document Your Learnings in the Form of Blogs and Articles
  • Familiarize Yourself With Version Control Systems
  • Use Kanban Boards
  • Explore Different Perspectives of Problem-Solving
  • Read Books, Research Articles, Listen to Podcasts, Conferences

Create an Architecture of Every Software Application

Make it a habit not to code any application without having a proper architecture design in place. You can use best practices like Design Patterns, SOLID principles, Domain-Driven Design, etc. The idea of working on architecture before developing the application is to save time in the future and minimize the frequency of spaghetti codes that make Software Engineering a difficult task.

With every new application you create or a piece of software you make, you need to get better at architecting the application. You’ll be more productive when you separate the coding aspect from the architecture aspect; that way, you’ll also have cleaner code at the end of the process. If you can learn how to separate your repository and your service layer into the application, you’ll be able to code things at a much faster pace. You’ll also be able to perform extensive testing with ease. 

Software Architecture will get even more important and obvious as you dive deeper into the MVC paradigm. If you’re working on creating large-scale enterprise applications, knowing how to create an architecture before getting down to code will give you a lot of clarity that many software engineers otherwise lack while working on an application. 

Recommended Reading: Best Software Engineering Jobs at FAANG

Write Rigorous Test Cases

Another important thing that must be inculcated if you wish to improve your Software Engineering skills is the ability to always write test cases for your application. Test-driven development (TDD) is extremely important when you’re writing your Unit Tests. 

The idea behind the TDD approach is to let the test cases drive the design of your functions and predict the output before you write implementations for it. It might sound confusing for beginners, but you’ll benefit a lot as a software engineer once you start practicing this approach. By following a TDD strategy, you’ll be writing clearer code to ensure that the applications you create are always manageable. 

At this point, it is important to note that it might not be possible for you to create tests for all scenarios. So, you need to develop the knack of knowing which scenarios are testable and which are not. For example, suppose you are creating a function for adding two variables, called Add(+). You can easily create different test cases for this and use the TDD methodology. However, if your program displays the information in ViewModel, you might not need to create test cases for that. 

All in all, this habit of creating tests will allow you to be better at refactoring your software application and architecture. It’ll also make it simpler for you to ship features with little to no setbacks. 

Recommended Reading: The Best Companies to Work for as a Software Engineer

Document Your Learnings in the Form of Blogs and Articles

The idea of keeping a note of your learnings and realizations can prove to be extremely beneficial to your long-term skill development. You can have a journal, blog, or website to keep track of what you learned related to Software Engineering. Writing articles about things you’ve just understood will solidify your knowledge and also introduce you to newer nuances that you might have missed. 

Research suggests that the more you write the information, the better you will retain and process the information better.  Further, when you write down your learnings and post it as a blog or on social media, you’re opening it up to feedback from all the programmers around the world. You can either learn from their advice and improve your workings or correct them if they’re wrong. 

Whatever be the case, you’ll have opened the doors of conversations for yourself, which will go a long way to helping you as a Software Engineer. You might have noticed that most Software Engineers working at top tech companies tend to write blogs to share their knowledge and learnings. Your goal should be to do something similar!

Recommended Reading: Why Software Engineers Need Personal Branding ft. Breaking Bad

Familiarize Yourself With Version Control Systems

Knowing version control systems is extremely crucial for you to level up as a Software Engineer. Whether you use GitHub or some other version control tool, the idea should be to familiarize yourself properly with version controlling and code management. As a Software Engineer, you’ll be spending a lot of time on version control systems - either while committing and updating your code or while downloading your teammates’ codes. 

Version control systems make remote work possible for Software Engineers. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with version control systems, you’ll be able to collaborate with any developer from anywhere in the world and seamlessly manage your code changes without any conflicts. 

Recommended Reading: Understanding Remote Software Engineering Jobs

Use Kanban Boards

Make it a habit of using Kanban boards to jot down all of your issues, bugs, ideas, to-dos, etc.  Using this tool, you’ll have a clear view of things such as Progress Items, To-Do List, Completed Items, Issues Arising, and more. You can also create your own boards based on the workflow you prefer to follow. 

When you’re working for a big tech company in a team of software developers, you'll most likely be using Kanban boards daily to manage most of your work. So, it’ll be beneficial for you to familiarize yourself with how these tools work and how you can find your way around them for increased productivity. From taking notes to organizing projects to creating to-do lists, there’s so much you can do using Kanban boards to enhance your productivity as a Software Engineer. 

Explore Different Perspectives of Problem-Solving

Software Engineering is mostly about solving problems. If you’re not solving coding problems on the job, you will be solving the problems of your teammates. One of the most important problems that Software Engineers solve is optimization, especially the optimization of algorithms that run a software. 

So, while upskilling as a Software Engineer, ensure to approach any problem with multiple perspectives. If a particular problem can be solved by using the array data structure, maybe try using lists and see if it optimizes the code or degrades it. This way, mixing and matching different things will allow you to think outside the box and explore new problem-solving. 

As a rule of thumb, always analyze the speed of your algorithms that run behind the code. Make use of Big O notation for consistency sake, and compare the time complexity of different approaches. If this habit is inculcated in you, you’ll exponentially grow as a Software Engineer and be increasingly better at problem-solving. It will also allow you to produce better output with little-to-no bugs.

Recommended Reading: Why FAANG Companies Test for Problem-Solving Skills in Their Interviews

Read Books, Research Articles, Listen to Podcasts, Conferences

This tip is all about increasing your knowledge as a Software Engineer. There are books, audiobooks, podcasts, lecture series, research articles, and so much more available on the internet today. All you need to do is research for relevant keywords and get learning and upskilling. 

The good old method of reading books is always the best, whether for upskilling or relaxing purposes. Likewise, for other forms of infotainment, as well. The more you indulge in books, lectures, and conferences, the more your thoughts will expand, and the better you’ll become as a Software Engineer.

Recommended Reading: Must-have Skills to Become a Software Developer in 2021

More Tips for Upskilling Yourself as a Software Engineer

Other than the steps mentioned above, you can look at the following things to do in order to improve your Software Engineering skills: 

  • Get active in online communities of Software Engineers. 
  • Find a virtual mentor to guide you through different phases. 
  • Study and analyze various success stories; see what works.
  • Study and analyze different failure stores, too; see what to avoid. 
  • Keep innovating with your codes and applications; always try something new. 
  • Try to learn and master new programming languages; open more avenues for yourself. 
  • Know the ins and outs of your technological stack properly. 

In Conclusion

Follow the above steps rigorously and see your Software Engineering skills improve before you know it. Software Engineering, after all, is all about problem-solving and knowing the right tools of the trade. The more you practice, read, study, and explore, the more you’ll know about what to do and what to avoid. Further, the more you know, the more skilled and experienced you’ll become. 

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