Thinking of Becoming a Software Engineer? Here's What You Need to Know

Thinking of Becoming a Software Engineer? Here's What You Need to Know
Jobstreet content teamupdated on 15 February, 2023

You can't deny that technology has taken over every aspect of life. From the moment you wake up to check your phone to the moment you shut down your laptop for the night, you’re bound to access something digital every single minute of the day. It’s no wonder that the people behind the various digital processes you utilise daily – software engineers – have become very in demand. In fact, tech is the highest-paying industry in Singapore.

Software engineers are crucial to developing a digitalised landscape, as they help build software programs, applications, networks and operating systems. Their significant contributions – supporting your favourite ride-hailing app, creating the algorithm on your streaming platform, automating work processes – are endless.

In Singapore, the demand for tech talent continues to rise despite layoffs from tech companies. Companies in other sectors, such as banking and insurance, are also looking for tech hires, as they look towards strengthening their digital capabilities.

If you’re looking for a highly challenging, dynamic, and lucrative role, perhaps becoming a software engineer is for you. Read on below to find out what being a software engineer is about.

What Is a Software Engineer?

A software engineer designs and develops computer software. They apply software engineering principles (e.g., mathematical analysis and computer science, to name a few) to create programs that tell computers and devices what to do. Because of the wide variety of output a software engineer can create, there are different types of software engineers, including:

Product Engineer

Product engineering involves creating solutions to user problems through the development of software. Product engineers negotiate a product's entire lifecycle, working with design, production, and other teams to create the optimum product that meets the client’s needs.

Infrastructure Engineer

IT infrastructure engineers design, build, deploy, evaluate, and maintain IT infrastructure. They also ensure all IT systems that support businesses function smoothly.

Data Engineer

Think of data engineers as millers. You can’t immediately use the grains after picking them out. The miller has to prepare them into flour so bakers can ready them for consumption. Data engineers build systems that collect, manage, and convert raw data into usable information for data scientists and business analysts to interpret.

Site Reliability Engineer

Site reliability engineering is defined as “a software engineering approach to IT operations.” These engineers use software to manage systems, solve problems and automate operations tasks.

Quality Assurance (QA) Engineer

Imagine sending out an email to everyone only to discover it’s riddled with typos. You need someone to check and recheck your work to make sure it’s as flawless as can be. QA engineers work like that. They find and fix bugs in a product or program before it gets launched to the public.

Mobile Engineer

Mobile engineers develop and build software applications for smartphones and other mobile devices. They are also responsible for troubleshooting problems and ensuring that the app performs properly.

What Skills Do You Need to Become a Software Engineer?

Software engineers are essentially problem solvers. They use their technical expertise to help find answers to various issues, generating output that will address their client’s problems. Like most roles, being a successful software engineer requires technicalandtransferrable or soft skills.

Technical skills

Software engineers must understand basic programming languages, such as Python, JavaScript and SQL. Other technical skills include learning about:

  • Fundamentals of computer science
  • Data Structures and Algorithms
  • Source Control
  • Text Editors
  • IDEs (Integrated Development Environment)
  • Databases
  • Operating Systems
  • Networking Basics
  • Basics of building, testing and maintaining software
  • Cross-Platform Software
  • Encryption and Cryptography
  • SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle)
  • Information analysis
  • Debugging software

Soft skills

The work of a software engineer does not occur in a vacuum. It involves collaborating with different teams to help solve a problem, a task that doesn’t always rely solely on technical ability.

  • Ability to communicate, verbal and written
  • Problem-solving skills or working your way around an abstract problem
  • Organisation and project management skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Being a team player, openness to collaboration

What Do You Need to Study to Become a Software Engineer?

Those interested in software engineering should study computer science, computer engineering, or any related field in order. Because the tech field evolves so rapidly, the learning process never really ends after graduation. Job interviews for software engineering roles, which often involve on-the-spot coding, may require the applicant to study beforehand.

Software engineer Gayle Laakmann McDowell’s book “Cracking the Coding Interview” is a helpful resource for other aspiring software engineers, as it contains problem-solving tips, practice questions and core computer science concepts that can help refresh their brains and get them ready for the big day.

Common Misconceptions About Being Software Engineers

Software engineering, like most careers in the tech space, has a lot of common myths that need debunking. Here are just a few:

You have to be a born genius to be a software engineer.

Yes, software engineers are smart but they all worked hard to get there. As with other careers, the ability to be successful in the software engineering space requires hard work – a trait which anyone can develop.

There’s also a perception that you have to be good at math to be great at this job. While some specialisations are more math-oriented than others, there are specialisations, like web development, where math skills take a backseat. This field is broad enough to accommodate different skill sets.

Software engineering is tedious.

Software engineers are creative, out-of-the-box thinkers who use logic and reason to solve problems they come across every day. Studying Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics creates a foundation that you can develop into so many innovations.

Besides, with the rapid speed of innovation in the digital sector, these people need to come up with fresh ideas that have not been done before. Solving complex puzzles with original solutions? Definitely not a bore.

Only men can become software engineers.

Unfortunately, the tech space has long had issues bridging the gender gap between men and women. However, that doesn’t mean that only men can be good software engineers. Successful software engineers like Aditi Toshniwal, advocate for gender equality in the workplace, saying that diversity among employees can translate to diversity in ideas.

Organisations like Women Who Code Singapore provide a safe, supportive space for female engineers, offering workshops, hackathons and other helpful events that can inspire women to excel in their tech careers.

You must be a tech expert before even trying your hand at software engineering.

In the same way that you don’t have to be a natural genius to be good at this job, you don’t need to have all the answers either. Remember that these concepts keep changing as technology evolves, so you won’t know everything all at once. What you have to be good at, instead, is learning. If you can keep up with all the new updates that continuously get introduced in your sector, you’re good to go.

Software engineers work on their own.

A stereotype about people in tech is that they just sit in front of a computer. But communicating with others is an essential skill for a software engineer. They collaborate often with different departments or teams, so you must communicate effectively to get their point across. Networking is also helpful for software engineers because it helps open up their careers to new opportunities and knowledge from other people in their field.

Software engineering is all coding.

While coding is an essential part of the job, there’s so much more to the role than just that. Documentation, for instance, is a crucial part of what they do. It helps explain the process to their colleagues and can create references for future projects to come. A software engineer also has to manage the project, monitor its progress, check that it works properly, and so on. Like we said earlier, the profession requires a tremendous amount of creativity to innovate solutions to daily issues.

Becoming a software engineer involves a lot of hard work. But if you’re endlessly curious with a passion for solving abstract problems, then this may be the right path for you. With the high demand for software engineers these days, you’re sure to find many opportunities ahead of you. View our software engineer listings here to get started. You can also check our Career Resources page or download JobStreet’s app available on the App Store and Google Play to learn more about pursuing a career in this field.

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