Software development companies are competitive places. Every day, new competitors try to break into the market and revolutionize how we do business, and every day software companies must innovate and be able to adapt in order to survive. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for someone with drive, ambition, and a bit of talent.
In this blog post, we will discuss what it takes in terms of skillset, personality traits, work ethic as well as the company’s culture to succeed in a software company. We will also discuss some common misconceptions about what it means “to be successful” in a software company since success is not just determined by how much money you make or work you have done during your time on earth.
What do we mean when we say “to win”?
When we say “to win”, we are talking about making a positive impact in the world and in the lives of those around you. What does that mean for a software developer? It means, to us at least, that your work should be changing things for the better. Your work should be opening doors to new opportunities and creating a better future for our fellow human beings. That’s why we work so hard to give back to society in terms of knowledge sharing through this blog, giving talks at different conferences, attending meetups with other aspiring developers and evangelizing Ruby on Rails wherever our feet take us.
On the flip side, we believe that a lot of software companies are just development companies, and not “software development companies”. It means you’re just a cog in the machine that is there to produce a product for someone else’s vision. If this is what you are looking for, then you might want to read this article on what it takes to be successful as an employee in a software company.
To put it another way, if we were competing against another software company at some sort of hackathon / programming competition, would we beat them? Would they beat us? Or would we both lose because we were both solving different problems? To us at least, being one-dimensional means losing.
So, what differentiates winning software development companies from losing ones?
Let’s take a look.
There is no doubt that you need to be insanely talented as a software developer in order to be successful. First, you need to have the technical skills and knowledge needed to do your job well, and also be able to communicate with others at your company in order for them to understand what it is you are trying to build for them. If someone doesn’t understand what it is you are trying to build, then chances are they might not use it or they won’t know how whatever it is you built can help them or their business.
Now that we have covered the “you need both technical skill and communication skills” part, let’s look at the other two parts. You will need to be good at:
– Tests: You have to be able to write tests that can ensure your code works as intended. This is fundamental to being a good developer, and arguably one of the most important skills a software developer can have. The more tests you write, the better.
– Implementation: This is another fundamental skill that will take you far. If you can’t implement the requirements in a good and clean way, then the code isn’t going to be maintainable by anyone else.
– Learning: To have fun, and to be successful in general as a software developer, you need to always challenge yourself. You need to learn new things regularly since that’s usually how new opportunities are found. Things like taking courses on Coursera, going to meetups or conferences are all great ways to keep your skills fresh even if they don’t directly build up your technical skillset. Do what you enjoy most as a way of learning. It will make the process of learning more fun and less like work.
– Be useful: If you are constantly flaky or irresponsible, people will stop relying on you. They will either find someone else to do the job or they will do it themselves (which might not be the best idea). We suggest that you always be reliable and deliver your work on time if not before. No matter what happens, your responsibility is to the company you work for and the clients they serve, not yourself.
– Stay humble: If you think you know it all, then you will never learn anything new. A good developer doesn’t need to know how everything works in order to be a productive member of the team. A good developer needs to be aware of when they need to ask questions, is willing to follow instructions and always tries to do the right thing. Maybe this isn’t for you if you are arrogant or lazy.
– Be trustworthy: One reason software companies exist is because we need trustworthy people that can help our businesses grow by giving them software that helps them run more efficiently. So, if you are not trustworthy then your company will not be able to do the same for theirs.
– Be an open-minded developer: A good developer is not afraid to learn from others or to try new things. The best developers are always willing to learn new things and work with different teams and technologies in order to stay on top of their game. They don’t let their pride get in the way of them doing what they are being asked to do by the employer.
To be a good software developer, you have to be able to communicate effectively with other team members and clients. There are a ton of ways to communicate effectively, but one of the most useful is to use chat apps. If you are going to be working predominantly with other developers, then you should consider joining a Slack team or code chat room. There are plenty of options for these so just pick one based on what is most convenient for the team members.
If you are going to be working primarily with clients, then it is important that you can communicate effectively by email and that you understand basic information security practices. You should also be able to explain clearly what it is that you are doing and why in all of your communications.
Operating Systems and Software Applications
You should also be familiar with the operating systems that they are used on. These include Apple’s OS X, Linux, Windows as well as Android for mobile development. As a software developer, it is incredibly important to understand how all of these operating systems and programs work and how they interact. There are a ton of ways to accomplish this but one great way is by using live virtual machines. This way you can switch between operating systems without installing anything on your hard drive and you will never have to reinstall any software that you already have installed.
Another great idea when it comes to operating system familiarity is to get your hands on some physical hardware so you can see what exactly is happening with these devices. This can be done by either using a service like Google’s hardware kit or by getting your hands on some old computers that you have laying around and trying to figure out how they work.
Software Testing and Quality Assurance Process
If you are going to be working in the software industry, then you are going to have to know how the software testing process actually works. This is why it is important that most software developers are certified in some form of these processes. There are many different certification programs available but if you want to get specific then there are basically two options for finding one: through an organization like Technical Excellence or through the CVSA’s partnership program.