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Software Engineering Skills: Definition and Examples

Last updated by Swaminathan Iyer on Apr 01, 2024 at 01:15 PM | Reading time: 15 minutes

Here's what this article will cover:

  1. Technical skills and disruptive innovation
  2. Must-have software engineer skills
  3. Soft skills vs. hard skills
  4. Technical skills for software engineer
  5. Developing computer programming and coding
  6. Software engineer skills in the workplace: Soft skills
  7. How do I highlight my software engineer skills?
  8. Must-know tips to become better software engineers

"I feel like I'm only learning different frameworks rather than general concepts."

The mystery surrounding software development skills can end up being a roadblock for many. Experienced and fresher alike, software engineers have often complained that they are learning aimlessly rather than conquering the practical extent of their knowledge.

To help in this regard, the following is a specific roadmap that will help you conquer every skill needed for software developers; skills that you can take anywhere in your career.

Dedicate the next 15 minutes to building a solid foundation now.

Technical skills and disruptive innovation

Gone are the days when you could be ignorant about technological advancements in the world. With rapid advances due to the introduction of new technologies in various industries, technical skills, in some way or form, is an essential section of any individual's resume.

Here's a term business owners like to throw around a lot: disruptive innovation. It's when a small company creates and launches a product or service that disrupts the market and topples big-shots from the top spot. Only by accepting change can you disrupt the market.

Therefore, irrespective of your experience, you should know how to implement modern-day technologies into your codes.

Must-have software engineer skills

By definition, software engineers are responsible for the entire process of designing, coding, maintaining, and debugging software. In the modern-day and age, the skillset of a software engineer is a combination of both soft and hard skills, each contributing equally to a better working environment.

Not sure how? Let's see.

Soft skills vs hard skills

Soft skills are your personal competencies, and will likely stay with you till the end of your professional career. These define who you are as a professional, how you will fit into the company culture, your work ethics, and your social and interpersonal skills.

Hard (technical) skills, on the other hand, are the skills needed for software engineers which will land them a job. These skills basically refer to the practical application of theories that an employee needs to perform at a job, such as design, build, and maintain an application.

Unlike soft skills, which are your personal skills and do not change whichever industry you are in, hard skills are industry-specific. A professional learns and hones his/her technical skills through years of experience in a field.

Examples of technical skills for software engineers include computer language programming and coding, software testing, debugging, OOD, database management, etc.

Technical skills for software engineer

At the end of the day, what languages and skills you learn and master entirely depends on your area of interest. As multiple languages and platforms are coming out regularly, being versed in more than one skill has two main advantages:

One, you have the edge over your competitors for a position. Employers will always select an applicant who possesses a more comprehensive technical skillset.

Secondly, you take your first steps in the process of disruptive innovation. You can incorporate more modern-day advancements into your codes and designing, meaning you can achieve results faster and efficiently.

That being said, here are the primary skills that employers demand in a recruit these days:

  1. Data Structures and Algorithms

A successful software engineer knows how to organize data according to various parameters, and these structures can be used to solve various real-life problems as well. Essentially, data structures and algorithms are the heart and soul of programming.

If you are an engineering student, willing to succeed in the software engineering field, pay special attention to data structures and algorithms (DSA) such as arrays, binary trees, linked lists, etc.

  1. Programming Languages

After you have organized data based on predetermined parameters, how do you bring it into effect? As a programmer, you will implement the algorithms using one or more programming languages.

A decent software developer has proficiency over at least one programming language, while experienced ones can effortlessly use even more than one to bring about practical solutions. Based on various studies, JavaScript is one of the most sought-after language skills, closely followed by HTML/CSS, SQL, Python, and PowerShell.

  1. Text Editors

Text editors may definitely sound boring to some, but these are the backbone of many companies around the world. These are essentially the slate you write on to change the world.

From coding to taking notes, a software developer should be proficient with a few text editors, such as Visual Studio Code, Notepad, Brackets, Atom, etc. Additionally, take some time to learn all the keyboard shortcuts so that you can finish up your tasks efficiently.

  1. Version Control

Now that you know how to write a programming language by heart, how will you track the changes made to the software? Version or Source Control is a system class that is responsible for easy tracking of changes made to an application, computer systems, documents, web pages, etc.

Version control is one of the most essential software engineer skills in the 21st century. Most IT companies look for a software engineer who has a firm grasp of version control and using tools and repositories like GitHub, Apache Subversion, Mercurial, etc.

  1. IDEs (Integrated Development Environment)

IDEs are a step above text editors. These SAAS products allow a software engineer to design, compile, test run and debug the code within one 'integrated' environment. Proficiency in integrated development environments is one of the most important technical skills for software engineers.

While most organizations have their choice of IDE application, it comes down to personal preference at the end of the day. While solutions like Visual Code and Code Blocks can handle almost every language, there are also language-specific IDEs such as PyCharm, Spyder, Eclipse, etc.

  1. SDLC (Software development life cycle)

The systematic framework of designing, developing, and testing top-quality, high-priority software is referred to as an application's software development life cycle. By intricately following SDLC, a software engineer aims to create software that satisfies user intent and exceeds customer expectation.

From demand collection to deployment and maintenance, a software engineer should be fluent in each phase of SDLC. Organizations will be looking for engineers that can effectively apply practical skills to prevent mishaps while following a proper timeline.

  1. Databases

One of the crucial software engineer qualities is proficiency in using databases to streamline workflow. This is because developing an application and testing it is impossible without a working knowledge of a database.

SQL is no doubt one of the most popular domain-specific relational database systems, and writing raw SQL queries should be included in every software developer's skill set. In real-life scenarios, you will be working with databases like MySQL, PostgreSQL, Cassandra, MongoDB, Oracle, etc.

  1. OS and Cross-Platform Software

A working understanding of operating systems is a must-have software development skill for a software engineer. When developing an application or a service, you may run into various OS-level issues such as excess memory usage, tool conflicts, networking and communication problems, etc. that you must know how to resolve efficiently.

Additionally, a developer needs to program software that runs efficiently across multiple platforms. This is to primarily address the shift in device usage, as more and more users are shifting from web to mobile devices.

  1. Networking Basics

In modern-day enterprises, software engineers primarily work on server-client network models. The client (which can be anywhere in the world) sends a request to a server to access an application.

Since most applications today are web-based, possessing network skills is a prerequisite for many organizations. Employers look for applicants who understand the basics of the network model, and can efficiently resolve errors like HTTP request issues and 404 errors.

  1. Encryption and Cryptography

When developing an application that involves handling sensitive data such as banking credentials, the developer must incorporate secure channels and encryption keys to prevent data loss and phishing attacks.

Employers expect a software developer to know the basic functioning of a network system and how to prevent data theft using cryptographic methods. Candidates should be able to develop a secure database system that can send and receive data over a network securely.

Developing computer programming and coding

When you prepare coding interview questions, you can refer to various technical interview preparation guides and courses.

Usually, you will be taught programming languages such as the following:

  • Java
  • Python
  • C#/.Net
  • Mean
  • Ruby

Once you are confident in your technical skills, you can also conduct mock interviews online or offline with one of your acquaintances, friends and family. This prep for a technical interview will further boost your confidence so you can go and crush your interview.

Software engineer skills in the workplace: Soft skills

With soft skills gaining unprecedented importance in the 21st century, employers now look for candidates who can promote a thriving work environment boosting productivity. Thus, software developer skills should also include the following soft skills to complement their technical prowess.

  1. Communication

As a software developer, you might work on projects alone, or in a team, depending on the circumstances and requirements. Therefore, the ability to collaborate is one of the most sought-after software engineer qualities in workplaces.

However, mentioning that you can communicate well is often not enough. During the interview, make the session as interactive as possible, accept constructive criticism, and show that you can provide regular feedback through communication channels.

  1. Teamwork

Believe it or not, conflict is the new normal in almost every workplace. As a successful employee of any organization, you need to be able to handle team conflicts without promoting a toxic environment.

Learn how to be a team player, and handle challenges together. Become the living embodiment of the quote:

"None of us is as smart as all of us." – Ken Blanchard

  1. Problem-solving

Analytical thinking and problem-solving are the two qualities that differentiate the best from the rest. An efficient programmer is not only able to pinpoint errors with ease; he/she can also deduce stepwise solutions to the bugs at hand.

If you have been preparing Google interview questions, you must have heard of the GCA or General Cognitive Ability round. In this round, the recruiter asks questions that challenge the intellectual thinking of an employee.

Think questions like, "How many golf balls can you fit in a football field?" and "How many months have 28 days?"


  1. Multitasking

As you progress further in your career, you will have to handle multiple projects simultaneously, prepare reports, adjust code according to feedback, write and debug, all at the same time.

While this seems too daunting of a task, multitasking can be perfected using efficient time management skills. By appropriately prioritizing your tasks, you can remain productive for longer stretches and meet deadlines effortlessly.

  1. Attention to detail

The ability to achieve precision and anticipate possible outcomes is one of the most crucial software engineer skills.

Remember, we talked about version control above? As a software developer, you need to be able to learn sifting through a bunch of complex code and documents spanning multiple projects.


Improving attention to detail at work

  • Avoid overloading
  • Create a work plan or timeline
  • Plan in advance
  • Avoid distractions
  • Ask for help

How do I highlight my software engineer skills?

  1. On a resume

Your resume is often your first impression for a recruiter. Therefore, skills highlighted in your resume define you as an employee, directly affecting your chances of selection. A smart move will be to review the job description before applying, tailoring the skills in your resume to match the ones the employer expects.

For example:


Applications, Customer Support, Debugging, Design, Development, Implementation, Operating Systems, Systems Analysis, Technical Support, Testing, Troubleshooting

  1. In a cover letter

The cover letter should provide a solid introduction of who you are as a person and an employee, highlighting your skills in a straightforward yet concise manner. Additionally, backup your answer with instances where you used the said skills to solve real-life problems.

Write something along the lines of the following:

During my employment at XYZ, I specialized in helping resolve technical issues surrounding mobile operating systems for clients handled by the company. I was praised for my communication skills, my easy-to-approach nature, and my versatility with technical topics.

  1. During an interview

During the interview, look especially forward to the behavioral round. In this round, you will be asked questions concerning your workflow and ethics, making it the perfect opportunity to show why YOU are the ideal fit for the role.

To a question like "How did you handle conflict at work?" you can start with your thought process and provide a situation where you handled a skirmish with your team member, offering them lunch, etc.

Must-know tips to become better software engineers

Improving your skills even after you land a job makes you a valuable resource in the workplace, paving the way for leadership opportunities and a salary hike. Mentioned below are some tips that will help you in your quest to become a better software engineer throughout your career.

  1. Understand your customer's business

Understanding customer needs is the foundation of every successful business. Irrespective of who you are writing for, be it B2B or B2C clients, gauge the consumer's motivation. It will allow you to identify essential consumer segments and customize the code accordingly.

  1. Refine basic project management skills

Along with software development skills, start developing your necessary project management skills if you are looking to advance further in your career. Learn the basics of mapping timelines, allocating resources and managing budget, communicating with stakeholders, and troubleshooting errors.

  1. Save your code changes frequently and get them reviewed

Develop the habit of saving your code changes regularly. Not only does this allow you to improve your version control skills, but you also learn to hone attention to detail and accept criticism.

  1. Keep a journal

A journal is probably one of the best ways to keep track of literally 'everything'. Write down the objectives, achievements, and overall progress regularly. Keeping a journal not only improves your writing and communication skills, but it also strengthens memory and reduces stress.

  1. Keep learning

One of the best ways to improve your software engineer skills is to keep learning as much as possible. Start by learning a new language. Read the source code of gold standard projects, understand the working mechanism, and find ways to incorporate these unique tweaks into your future endeavors.

In the age of digitization and rapid innovation, software engineers are always in demand in various industries around the world. Once you master the necessary skills needed for a software developer, the possibilities are endless.


Swaminathan Iyer

Product @ Interview Kickstart | Ex | Business Management - XLRI Jamshedpur. Loves building things and burning pizzas!

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