Some people pursue a career in software because they love math, some because they love logic and algorithms, and some because they love solving problems. Whatever your reasons, if you’ve chosen to become a software engineer, you’re in for a promising future.
The software industry comprised a small group of experts in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Today, it is one of the leading industries in the world. The combined market capitalization of the 5 leading tech companies, globally — Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google (FAANG ) — is nearly $7.1 trillion as of August 2021(Source: Investopedia).
Source: CompaniesMarketCap.com (as of Nov 2021)
Between 2021 and 2028, the global business software and services market is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.3%.
Software engineering helps companies reduce inventory costs, increase profitability, and improve their market positions through strategic decision-making. This has led to the increasing adoption of software technology in diverse industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, retail, transportation, and education.
The rapid expansion of the smartphone and tablet markets continues to drive demand for applications and software to cater to evolving user needs. The extensive adoption of cloud technology provides further impetus for the rapid growth of the software industry.
In this post, we’ll delve into the function of software engineering at some of the leading tech companies in the world. We’ll give you insights on what it means to pursue software engineering roles at Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google (FAANG), including how to get hired by these tech giants and what to expect when you choose software engineering as a career path.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- What Is Software Engineering?
- Skills Required to Become an Exceptional Software Engineer
- Typical Day of a Software Engineer at FAANG
- Career Levels in Software Engineering
- How Software Engineers Contribute to the World
- Software Engineering Best Practices
- Software Engineer Salaries in the US and Rest of the World
- FAANG vs. Startups
- How Hard Is It to Get Hired by FAANG?
- Understanding FAANG Technical Interviews
- How to Crack FAANG Technical Interviews
- Can You Become a FAANG Software Engineer?
What Is Software Engineering?
There are multiple stories about the origin of the term “Software Engineering.” One of the people attributed to coining the term is mathematician and computer science pioneer, Margaret Hamilton. While working on the navigation system for NASA’s Apollo Spacecraft at MIT Instrumentation Lab, Hamilton used “software engineering” to differentiate the field from hardware and other engineering practices.
IEEE defines software engineering as the development, operation, and maintenance of software. One of the earliest software engineers, Barry Boehm, says software engineering is the application of scientific knowledge toward the creative design and building of computer programs.
Software engineering entails understanding problems or requirements and designing, building, testing, and maintaining suitable software systems. The best software engineers are those capable of building high-quality software, i.e., efficient, robust, reliable, scalable, adaptable, and economically viable software.
Leading tech companies are always looking to hire the best talent because the best software engineers contribute significantly to cost reduction, earnings, and profitability. The opportunity to solve real-world problems and create a global impact and lucrative compensation packages, including excellent benefits and perks, are key reasons software engineers dream of joining FAANG companies.
Skills Required to Become an Exceptional Software Engineer
To land your dream job at a FAANG company, you must possess the right combination of qualifications, experience, knowledge, and skills. The best software engineers excel at both soft and hard skills.
Qualifications Required to Become a Software Engineer
Every software engineer is required to have a degree in Computer Science or a related field that includes either Computers or Mathematics.
Most leaders in the tech field also possess a master’s degree in Computer Programming or a related field and/or a master’s in Business Administration. The latter is more common among top-level executives such as CTOs, VPs of Engineering, and Directors.
Experience vs. Qualifications
While some companies are stringent about candidates meeting prescribed qualification criteria, many tech giants, Google for one, value skill over degrees; for example, Google no longer considers CGPAs as a hiring criterion.
With the right experience and skillset, you can get hired at FAANG even if you don’t have the prescribed educational degrees. Not having a degree should not cause worry as long as you can demonstrate your skill and passion for software to interviewers.
If you don’t possess the prescribed degrees:
- Create a work profile that makes for a compelling resume
- Participate in coding events and hackathons
- Contribute to open source projects
- Get active on communities on Github and StackOverflow
This will demonstrate to recruiters your interest in the software and technology ecosystem.
If you aspire to become an exceptional software engineer and get hired by top tech companies, focus on acquiring and nurturing required hard and soft skills. This will give you the competitive edge you need to succeed at FAANG tech interviews.
Hard Skills Required to Become a Software Engineer
These are skills required to design, build, test, and maintain software. These technical skills are domain-focused and can be acquired either at university, through online or professional courses, or through professional experience.
Some core technical skills required to become a software engineer are:
Excellent programming and coding skills are essential to becoming a software engineer.
Your algorithmic programming knowledge will be tested intensely at all technical interviews, especially at FAANG companies. If you’re not adept at programming, you can not only acquire the required knowledge and skills but also master programming and coding by pursuing the right courses.
To work at a FAANG company, you only have to be well-versed in programming languages preferred by FAANG companies as opposed to learning a number of different languages. FAANG technical interviews are usually conducted based on a candidate’s preferred language.
Data Structures and Algorithms
Organizing data logically to solve real-life problems through coding is a primary task of software engineers. To do this effectively, you should have hands-on experience using data structures and algorithms.
Most software engineers realize the importance of data structures and algorithms only after they begin their professional careers. However, building a strong foundation and enhancing your data structure and algorithmic skills at the outset of your career can give you a strong competitive edge over your peers and help you advance to senior positions faster.
Software Development or SDLC
Software Development or Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) entails understanding and analyzing software requirements to design, develop, and test suitable software solutions.
SDLC is divided into 7 stages as follows:
- Requirements Gathering
- Feasibility and Analysis
- Systems Design
- Integration and Testing
Undertaking the right coursework or gaining relevant work experience will improve your software development skills, transforming you into an expert developer.
Another skill you should focus on within software development is cross-platform compatibility — developing software that can work on a diverse range of devices and systems to enhance user bases.
Domain-specific skills are technical skills specific to certain domains. For example, Object-Oriented Design, Data Analysis, Encryption, Testing, Debugging, and Networking. These are essential skills for certain software engineering roles. These are supporting skills that help you develop better software. For example, the ability to test your own code helps in developing software with few bugs.
General Technical Skills
- Text Editor – Whether you’re a new or seasoned developer, working knowledge of text editors will make you a more productive and smarter software professional.
- Source Control – Source control can be used to systematically manage and store your code, taking into account version control concepts and Github.
- IDE – Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) are used to write, compile, run, and debug code. They help developers streamline their work. Some of the best IDEs, and the programming languages they work with, are Visual Studio (C, C++), PyCharm (Python), Eclipse, NetBeans, and IntelliJIDEA (Java).
- Databases – As a software engineer, you should be well versed with data operations, including create, read, insert, update, delete, etc., as well as data security. Knowing how to write basic SQL queries and knowledge of common databases such as PostgreSQL, Oracle, MongoDB, etc., will add significant value to your technical skill-set.
- Operating Systems – Knowledge of operating systems, including memory management, communication with other systems, and tools, is an essential skill. Linux, Windows, and Mac are the most commonly used operating systems.
- Networking – Most software systems today are based on client-server architecture. This makes knowledge of networking important for any software engineer.
To start building your technical skill-set as a software engineer, visit our Learn page for a repository of resources on different software engineering concepts that you can learn, practice, and master.
Soft Skills Required to Become a Software Engineer
Programming and coding are core skills tested during all FAANG tech interviews. As you progress in your career as a software engineer, the weightage assigned to programming and coding skills may be less than that assigned to behavioral skills for senior software engineers.
Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving
Problem-solving tops the list of skill requirements for software engineers. Software engineers at the biggest tech firms in the world are essentially problem solvers and work on developing solutions to some of the most pressing problems.
Problem-solving skills are tested quite intensely during technical, i.e., coding and behavioral interviews. A good problem-solver will have strong research, analytical, decision-making, and communication skills, as well as the willingness to learn from others. Nurture your problem-solving skills to help advance your journey to becoming a software engineer at FAANG.
Some key communication skills software engineers should possess are the ability to:
- Ask relevant questions
- Listen empathetically
- Gain clarity and understanding
- Give and receive constructive feedback
- Express thoughts, ideas, and opinions with confidence
Communication is extremely important for software engineers because they work with a team on multiple levels (team members, project associates, project managers, technical leads, etc.) as well as with different types of clients. Communicating ideas and technical decisions with clarity is a critical aspect of a software engineer’s role.
As a software engineer, you may face challenging situations requiring conflict resolution or engaging in difficult dialog with your peers. Strong communication skills can help you navigate these situations successfully.
Teamwork and Collaboration
Being an excellent team player is important as software engineers tend to work in teams. Respect, empathy, reliability, listening skills, being open to criticism, and team building are some of the traits of a successful software engineer. These are all crucial aspects of working as a part of or handling a team.
Leadership does not just mean working in managerial roles and leading a team. It also means being proactive and taking complete ownership of the tasks you’re responsible for, as well as for the project you’re a part of can distinguish you from your peers.
Technical leads and project managers are always on the lookout for software engineers with leadership capabilities. Problem-solving, conflict resolution, mentorship, delegation, decision making, reliability, and adaptability are skills of a good leader. Practice and internalize these skills to succeed as a software engineer at a FAANG company.
Creativity in software engineering involves seeing what others don’t see. You should be able to connect the not-so-obvious dots through careful and deliberate observation, attention to detail, and experimentation. Creativity can be cultivated through dedicated practice. It can also act as a strong competitive advantage.
FAANG and other top-tier tech companies prefer software engineers who constantly upgrade their skill-set and focus on learning and growing. They prefer ambitious engineers who go the extra mile to achieve results even if they lack experience in a particular domain or task.
This is particularly important for software engineers because technology is constantly evolving, and it’s very easy to become redundant in such a dynamic ecosystem. Finding opportunities to learn and grow is the only way to stay relevant and become a sought-after software engineer in this competitive space.
Find out how you can enhance your skill-set to succeed as a software engineer.
A Typical Day for a Software Engineer at FAANG
Software engineers are broadly classified as Application Developers, Web Developers, and Systems Developers, and these roles define their daily responsibilities. Software engineers typically work on coding assignments. They may also have to take on other tasks as well. Working collaboratively with the team on the entire software development process, working with stakeholders and product owners to understand requirements, ideating software concepts, testing, and maintenance of software are some of the other major responsibilities of a software engineer.
A typical day might include one, two, or more of these tasks as well as meetings, SCRUM (for agile development), and other activities depending on the company. At FAANG companies, no two days of a software engineer are the same. While work cultures differ between companies, work-life at FAANG companies tends to be challenging and fast-paced.
The responsibilities of a software engineer at a FAANG company typically involve improving the performance of existing products and solutions, developing new products or product features, and developing tools to solve recurring performance and other issues.
Additionally, software engineers have to deal with tricky problems and situations either with or without the help of a team. You’ll seldom have a dull day working at a FAANG company. At a FAANG company, projects you work on will directly impact millions of users across the globe, making work challenging and interesting.
Career Levels in Software Engineering
In this section, we walk you through the levels of software engineering in big tech companies.
If you’re wondering how to get started on your journey, this article details the career path to becoming a software engineer.
Here’s how your career path can look like at a FAANG or any large tech company. There are about 10 software engineering levels starting from junior-level software engineer roles to the Chief Technology Officer.
We’ve divided them into 3 stages as follows:
Stage 1 – Early Software Engineering Career
According to Indeed, the national average salary for early-career software engineers in the US is approximately $99,315.
The early stage of a software engineering career features the following 3 levels:
Software Engineer I
Level 1 software engineers or junior software engineers are new college graduates who focus on developing their technical skills. Their key responsibilities are troubleshooting code and fixing software problems. Typically, software engineers remain at this level for the first two years of their careers.
Software Engineer II
Level 2 software engineers or entry-level software engineers have a good foundation in programming and software development. Their key responsibilities include working on code reviews, troubleshooting, and testing software systems. Software engineers remain in this role for about 2 to 3 years before progressing to the next level.
Software Engineer III
These are mid-level software engineering roles focused on developing coding best practices for software. At this stage, software engineers can code in multiple programming languages and have considerable knowledge of software development tools. At this level, software engineers have about 3-6 years of experience.
Stage 2 – Senior Software Engineers / Technical Specialists
The national average salary of a senior software engineer in the U.S. is $122,590.
This stage of a software engineer’s career is about gaining technical expertise and being promoted to more senior software engineer roles, as described below.
Staff engineer is the next step after having served as a software engineer for about 3-6 years. Some engineers may progress to the role of staff engineer earlier than this. However, some engineers may want to explore less technical, managerial paths instead.
A staff engineer works on sophisticated programming tasks and implements software systems. The nature of this role is highly collaborative and might involve leading a team or mentoring junior software engineers.
Senior Staff Engineer
This role requires a minimum of 7- 8 years of experience. Senior staff engineers are expected to be able to handle large projects and programming tasks independently. Level 5 engineers work as technical leads for client projects and often guide or mentor other staff engineers.
Principal engineer is the highest level you can reach following a technical career path as a software engineer. Principal engineers are responsible for making crucial product decisions and strategic decisions involving their teams and dictating the direction and scope of products.
Stage 3 – Managerial Levels
The national average salary of a software engineering manager in the US is about $133,344.
Software engineering managerial paths progress through 4 levels:
Engineering managers or software development managers have about 7- 8 years of experience. Their primary responsibilities include leading and managing software projects and teams with respect to assignments, workload, and performance. Engineering managers require a sound understanding of the design and development of software products and solutions.
Director of Engineering
A Director of Engineering manages various software development teams and works closely with engineer managers on multiple software projects. Directors of engineering have around 10 years of experience in the software development space, including at least 3 years of experience in leadership roles.
Their responsibilities include aligning project pipelines with company goals and business objectives. They require a sound understanding of design, development, troubleshooting, and programming to be able to lead software teams at various levels of the software development life cycle.
VP of Engineering
A VP of Engineering works with multiple software development teams, engineering managers, and directors of engineering to ensure quality and timely delivery of products and solutions. This role requires more than 10 years of experience as a software developer, manager, and leader.
They are responsible for ensuring deliverables meet clients’ expectations and company standards. This role requires someone with a strong background in strategy, management, and leadership. This high-level role involves making critical decisions for the company.
Chief Technology Officer
This is the topmost position in the technology and engineering function of a company. CTOs typically have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in software engineering and a master’s degree in business administration. Expertise in strategic management and leadership, in addition to an eye for innovation, design, and software development, are critical for this role.
CTOs are responsible for the overall performance, delivery, and growth of the company’s technology division and the development and growth of employees within their departments.
Most career paths are non-linear and depend on each individual’s career goals, skill-sets, and hierarchy levels within each company. Learn more about the different software engineering levels at Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google to help you get hired at FAANG.
How Software Engineers Contribute to the World
There are multiple ways software engineers can contribute to the world socially, environmentally, and economically. In today’s digital-first world, software influences everyone’s lives. The extensive usage of the internet and smartphones globally provides scope for software engineers to positively impact society through technology.
Social media stalwarts such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have already proven how technology can impact social interactions. With an increasing number of people getting connected through the internet, the potential for technology to create an impact keeps growing stronger.
As a software engineer, you can build applications that make the lives of individuals, businesses, and industries better. You can build solutions to make people’s lives easier, more comfortable, meaningful, connected, and engaging.
If your existing job doesn’t offer the right opportunities, switch to a FAANG company that provides ample opportunities to create an impact. You can also take up side projects to find solutions to problems that matter to you.
Unlike other professions, software engineering offers you the chance to create a massive impact on society and the world with just a computer and a few lines of code.
Software Engineering Best Practices
Thousands of candidates apply for jobs at FAANG. The competition is stiff. If you’re serious about getting hired by FAANG or any other big tech company, you need to be a top-notch software engineer. FAANG and other top tech companies are keen on hiring software engineers who demonstrate a high performance level.
- Develop Your Own Coding Style – Create a well-thought-out coding style of your own, borne out of your own preferences and experience. Make your code distinct and comprehensible. For example, the proper use of spaces, descriptions, systematic naming, or containerization of programs.
- Use Version Control – Version control comes in handy during system crashes or dealing with a newly identified bug. It also facilitates collaborative work across teams. The best software engineers always use version control.
- Use Test-Driven Development — High-performing software engineers leverage TDD to validate their code quickly, test its functionality, and fix it if the automated test fails.
- Right Development Methodology – There are quite a few developmental methodologies in practice in the software community. Agile, Waterfall, Rapid Application Development, DevOps, etc. Analyzing each of them based on its pros and cons will help you determine the best one to use for a project.
Your chances of getting hired by the best tech companies increase significantly if you develop your own strategy and methods. It exhibits ownership, experience, and confidence in your skills, traits that big tech companies look for in engineers.
Additional reading: Find out what top-level software engineers do differently to become excellent software engineers.
Software Engineer Salaries in the US and Rest of the World
The average salary of a software engineer in the US is around $110,000. This is the highest in the
world. In Silicon Valley, this number almost doubles, especially if you’re a bootcamp
The US is followed by Switzerland ($95,394), Denmark ($72,151), Canada ($52,567), New Zealand ($46,229), Norway ($64,202), and United Kingdom ($42,394) (Source: Daxx).
We have good news for those of you looking to switch to these domains and gain expert-level knowledge!
In addition to our ‘Interview Prep Masterclass,’ Interview Kickstart has launched 17 new domain-specific courses. Mastering one or more of these high-paying, in-demand domains will boost your chances of getting hired at FAANG. Find out more about these courses here.
FAANG Vs. Startups
We all know working at FAANG can earn you a reputation as an elite software engineer, not just in the US but all across the world. However, FAANG may not be the right fit for every software engineer. Depending on your career goals, you may find working for a startup more suitable than working at a FAANG company. You may prefer working at a startup if your goal is to found your own startup someday or if you resonate with the idea of a particular startup and want to work closely with the founders.
FAANG companies are mature organizations with established systems and processes that offer stability. On the other hand, most startups feature dynamic processes and operations.
Knowing your priorities can help you make the right decision about your career. Understand and compare the different aspects of FAANG companies and startups before deciding which type of company is the right fit for you.
How Hard Is It to Get Hired at FAANG?
Getting hired by a FAANG company is a fantastic career upgrade for any software engineer. However, can you really get into a FAANG company which only hires about 1-2% of all applicants?
As hard as it seems, it is entirely possible to crack a FAANG interview and land your dream job! At Interview Kickstart, we have helped more than 9,000 software engineers land jobs at FAANG and other big tech firms, with a 95% success rate.
Technical interviews at FAANG are tough to crack. To understand what makes FAANG interviews so tricky and the different ways you can significantly better your chances of cracking them, read “why is it so hard to get hired at Amazon, Apple, and Google?”
Understanding FAANG Technical Interviews
Technical interviews at FAANG gauge your programming and coding skills as well as your attitude as a software professional to determine if you’re the right technical and cultural fit for the company.
Before understanding the technical interview format of the company you’re interviewing for, you should thoroughly understand your prospective role and the company.
Here are some ways to achieve this:
- Read the job description completely and carefully
- Read about the company extensively; understand projects they work on and their business strategy and goals
- Understand their interview and selection processes
- Align your interview prep with the interview process of the company
To crack technical interviews at the world’s largest tech (FAANG) companies, you should:
- Improve your coding, programming, and domain-specific skills
- Create a compelling online profile on LinkedIn
- Create a well thought out prep strategy 2 or 3 months before you start applying for jobs
- Strengthen your candidature by participating in Hackathons and other coding events
- Contribute to the coding community and open source projects on Github and StackOverflow
- Learn salary negotiation techniques and methods to land the best offer possible
A typical interview process at a FAANG company comprises the following rounds of interviews:
- Technical Phone Screen
- Remote Coding Assignment
- On-site or In-Person Interview
- Behavioral Interview
The behavioral interview tests your soft skills and attitude to determine how well you fit into the company’s culture.
The weightage given to technical and behavioral rounds depends on the interviewing company and prospective role.
At a FAANG company, when you apply to entry-level software engineering positions, the focus is more on your technical prowess. For senior technical and managerial positions, the focus is on behavioral competencies since your leadership, problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making skills are crucial for these positions.
How to Crack FAANG Technical Interviews
Cracking technical interviews at FAANG is all about two things:
- Your preparation for the interview
- Your performance at the interview
Your performance at the interview depends largely on how well you prepare for it.
Most candidates who take the self-study route fail FAANG interviews because of a lack of proper strategy, guidance, and direction. They often focus on all the wrong aspects of the interview, which yields poor results.
Here are some techniques to help you crack technical interviews at FAANG and other leading software companies:
Before the interview – Prep Stage
- Allocate 2 - 3 months for your interview preparation
- Master a programming language of your choice (or as required by the company)
- Build expertise in data structures and algorithms (we cannot emphasize this enough!)
- Use hackathons and programming websites to solve challenging coding problems
- Practice mock interviews (preferably with industry and technical experts, else with peers)
- Solve problems at varying levels of difficulty
- Make brushing up an important part of your prep strategy
- Customize your prep for a specific company or role
- Go through interview archives and videos
- Interact with engineers working at FAANG
- Focus on behavioral interviews
During the interview
- Understand the problem presented to you (ask clarifying questions)
- Choose the right algorithm to solve a problem
- Explain why you selected a particular solution (consider time and space complexities)
- Think out loud when developing solutions (explain your thought process to interviewers)
To help you get started with your interview prep, here’s a cheat sheet to crack coding interviews for software engineers and engineering managers.
Can You Become a FAANG Software Engineer?
Yes, you can! We’re confident we can help software professionals like you uplevel your career.
Through research, analysis, and first-hand experience, we understand why most candidates fail to crack FAANG tech interviews. Interview Kickstart’s interview prep masterclass is developed to counter this.
We offer customized courses to strengthen your candidature on all fronts. Our constantly upgraded coursework keeps up with changing times. We offer:
- One-on-one mentorship
- Up to 15 live mock interviews with actual hiring managers from FAANG
- Extended support for up to 6 months
- Salary negotiation support to help you get the best offer you can
Register for our free webinar, hosted by our Co-Founder, Ryan Valles, to find out how Interview Kickstart can help you uplevel your career.