It’s important to know whether a career in software engineering is right for you.
You don’t want to invest a lot of time learning to code only to find out that programming is not a good fit for you.
Overall, if you enjoy problem-solving, constant learning, and have an analytical mindset then software engineering is for you. With an average salary of $87,580, software engineering is perfect for those wanting a stable, well-paying career.
However, a career in software development is not always easy. There are downsides to the job that some people may dislike.
We’ve taken a look at the different traits you should possess to get the most out of a career in development. We’ve also put together a short quick that will help determine whether software engineering is right for you.
Should you become a software engineer?
- Start with free resources like freeCodeCamp to determine whether you enjoy the analytical challenge
- Build something small to get a taste of development. Learn HTML and CSS, and then put together a personal site for practice.
- Utilize your free time to delve into newer technologies and see if you enjoy the industry as a whole.
- Try putting together something in Python to get an idea of whether you’d like to be a frontend or backend engineer. Or go even broader and program a Raspberry Pi to see if robotics may be more your thing.
- Take an intro to CS course. Harvard CS50 is awesome and free, as are plenty of cheap courses on Udemy. If you’re having fun learning the basics you’ll likely enjoy the more difficult stuff down the line.
We’ve put together a quiz to help determine whether software engineering is for you. Check it out below and get an idea of how much you want to be a programmer.
Is software engineering right for you?
Some jobs require certain personality traits and preferences.
Doctors and nurses tend to care and want to help people. People in sales are generally competitive and results-driven. Artists are creative beats who enjoy bringing things to life.
You can enjoy a job even if it isn’t a perfect fit for your personality. The list below isn’t exhaustive and programmers come in all shapes and sizes. But I’ve tried to put together things that will indicate whether software engineering is for you.
Let’s take a look at some of the traits you need to find a career in software engineering fun.
1. A passion for learning
If you are someone who enjoys learning then software engineering is a perfect fit for you.
The world of programming is constantly evolving. Best practices change and the industry as a whole matures over time. If you want to stay competitive and keep the money rolling in then you need to stay up to scratch on the newest technologies.
It’s easy for your skills to become out of date, especially in front-end development where framework fatigue can creep up on you.
Even at big corporations most of the training you do will be self-taught. You may pair up with other programmers from time to time. But generally, you will have to decide on the best ways to upskill.
Some people find the idea of having to stay on their toes exhausting and scary. If that’s you, avoid a career in web development.
Otherwise, dive in and you’ll love it.
2. Dedication to improvement
Aside from having to keep learning and enhance your skills, you must have a keen eye to improve the things around you.
Whether it’s streamlining processes in your team, or keeping an eye out for buggy behavior in your app, constant improvement is crucial.
Many products are released as minimum viable products that are improved over numerous iterations. Having an eye on improvements is key to enjoying development.
3. An analytical mindset
As your progress as a developer, you will write less and less code. Instead, you’ll spend more time breaking down and analyzing issues.
By having an analytical mindset you can take complex issues and figure out the best solution. You become a lot better at making logical rather than emotional decisions.
As you climb the ladder, the ability to make decisions based on the information you are provided with will serve you well when leading a team.
If you are someone who enjoys logic games, chess, or riddles, then you will find software engineering fun.
4. Attention to detail
Hand in hand with an analytical mindset comes sharp attention to detail. If you write sloppy, error-prone code, it is going to cost your employer money.
Clients will complain and developer time must be spent fixing the defects. It’s one of the reasons QA and testing have become such a large part of the development lifecycle.
A keen eye for detail goes a long way in programming. If you are someone who enjoys precision and is happy to go other things with a fine-tooth comb you are going to enjoy software engineering.
5. Working with others
There is a cliche in the media of the lone coder working long into the night. However, every modern tech company is built on teamwork.
The development lifecycle can’t exist without each section of the business working together to produce an excellent product.
You need a team of talented engineers to get the best products built. So get used to working alongside some incredibly capable people. For those of you wanting to work alone, a professional software development environment is not for you.
6. Happy to job hop
Gone are the days of people working for one company for their entire lives. Most people are getting more and more familiar with switching jobs.
The changing nature of development means there are always new opportunities to pursue and niches to enter. You also don’t want to get stuck at a company that is using an out-of-date tech stack if you aim to remain on the cutting edge.
There is also a shortage of software engineers, so switching jobs is the easiest way to guarantee continual pay increases.
Most companies expect an internal promotion as the basis for a pay rise. But you can easily double your salary in some cases by being smart with the company you move to.
7. Problem Solver
We’ve already mentioned an analytical mindset above. However, problem-solving deserves a special mention.
If you thrive on not knowing parts of a problem and using your previous experience to solve that issue, then you’ll love software development.
It can be incredibly frustrating to take on a problem that can span days or weeks. Poor documentation or sub-standard code from previous developers are just a few of the snags you’ll face when fixing things.
When you first start, you can spend hours finding a solution to a simple problem. So if you get frustrated and give up easily, it is probably not the best career choice for you.
There are plenty of different ways to build a particular feature or product. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages.
To enjoy a career in software engineering you are going to have to be open to other people’s suggestions. Those with more experience than you are likely to know substantially better ways to build things, especially at the start of your career.
You’ll often be proved wrong by a teammate. It’s best to not take it personally, as it’s rarely meant that way.
The entire process of pull reviews and pushing code means you must be open to criticism and thrive on feedback.
9. Mentoring is your thing
At the start of your career, you are going to need a mid or senior-level developer to take you under their wing and mentor you.
They give you insight into their problem-solving ability and teach you how to break down problems.
Aside from teaching you how to code, the most important thing you can learn from a mentor is how to approach problems. Paired coding will give you insight into how other people arrive at a solution and workshops will make it easier for you to do the same.
You’ll need to be open to mentoring a junior member of the team when you are finally ready. It will help you progress up the corporate ladder and broaden your skillset.
10. You don’t mind change
We have discussed the fast-paced nature of the tech industry and how you have to keep up to stay competitive.
If you are someone who likes a steady ship then software engineering isn’t for you. Things change all of the time and you have to be prepared for that.
Expect there to be:
- Change in the languages and frameworks we use
- Changes in project goals
- Changes in business direction and focus
- Change in product and sprint focus
- Change in hours around the deadlines
Get used to a fast-paced environment where you need to be flexible. It’s important to not be overwhelmed by change when you work in software development.
Determining whether software engineering is a career you want to pursue can be difficult. If you have some of the traits or interests we’ve discussed then you are set to enjoy programming.
Hopefully, the information from our quiz has helped you decided whether you should become a software engineer.
Take the plunge today and get learning!
Nathan Britten, the founder and editor of Developer Pitstop, is a self-taught software engineer with nearly five years of experience in front-end technologies. Nathan created the site to provide simple, straightforward knowledge to those interested in technology, helping them navigate the industry and better understand their day-to-day roles.