7 things I wish I was told before becoming a Software Engineer

7 things I wish I was told before becoming a Software Engineer

Being a software engineer is not only about code and it may have its challenges. In this article, we gathered a list of aspects that can help you thrive through the software engineering field. 

Do you want to become a software engineer? Bear in mind that this is a journey that offers a world of opportunities, but it also involves plenty of challenges. As someone who has navigated the world of software development, I have compiled a list of things I wish someone had told me before I became a software engineer. 

In this article, I will share some insights into the realities of being a software engineer that can help newcomers better prepare for the road ahead. Being a software engineer is not just coding — it involves teamwork, keeping up technically, working well with communication and soft skills, etc.

Coding is just one part of the world

The most common belief regarding the work of a software engineer is that they only work with code, but it is not completely true. Although coding is the most significant part of software engineering, it is not the only aspect. 

Designing, testing, debugging, and documenting code are all equally important. Working on a team and interacting with all the members is also part of each member’s daily work, including software engineers.

Additionally, understanding the larger context of the project, such as user needs and business goals, will help you make more informed decisions as you develop software.

Soft skills and communication skills are just as important as technical skills

While technical skills are crucial, a software engineer should not underestimate the value of soft skills. These skills, particularly communication, are strongly related to teamwork and problem solving. Gone are the days when software engineers worked in isolation. Today, projects are often developed by teams of engineers with diverse skills. As a software engineer progresses in their profession, they will increasingly take on a leadership role.

Developing your ability to communicate effectively will make you a more well-rounded and successful engineer. The ability to effectively communicate complex ideas, collaborate within teams, and empathize with users is equally critical. Clear communication ensures seamless project coordination, efficient problem solving, and the translation of intricate technical concepts into understandable terms for both colleagues and non-technical stakeholders. 

Moreover, soft skills such as adaptability, teamwork, and time management empower engineers to navigate evolving challenges and dynamic projects with finesse. Recognizing that software development is not a solitary endeavor but a collaborative one, the cultivation of soft skills harmonizes with technical acumen, thereby resulting in a well-rounded and successful software engineer.

Collaborating effectively means understanding each team member’s strengths, communicating openly, and being receptive to feedback. This collaborative environment fosters innovation and ensures that the final product is of the highest quality.

Continuous learning

One of the most important things to understand about software engineering is that it is a field that is constantly evolving. Technology changes continuously. Programming languages have new releases almost every year with new capabilities and features. New frameworks and tools emerge frequently. 

Dedicate time to self-improvement, attend workshops and courses, and be open to new technologies. As a software engineer, you should be prepared to invest time in staying informed with the latest trends and updates to remain at the forefront of your field.

Problem solving is a daily activity

Software engineers are essentially problem solvers. You will encounter bugs, performance issues, and unexpected challenges regularly. Embrace this aspect of the job! Problem solving is at the core of what you do, and each challenge you overcome will contribute to your growth and expertise. Do not be discouraged by obstacles — see them as opportunities to learn and improve.

In my opinion, the ability to investigate and figure out what is causing the issue that is generating an unexpected behavior and the creativity to get the best solution possible are two of the most important skills that any software developer should have.

Write documentation as part of the daily work

Documentation tends to be underestimated by beginners, but it is a crucial part of the software development process. Code should always be documented to make it easier for you and others to understand, maintain, and develop complementary code. It should be taken as an investment rather than just part of the work. Clear documentation can save hours of frustration when revisiting code or passing it on to another team member.

Impostor syndrome is common

Imposter syndrome causes thoughts such as, “I feel like a fake in my area/job”. You feel like you are not as competent as others perceive you to be, and it is really prevalent in the software engineering field. Remember that it is normal to have doubts and insecurities, especially in a field where the learning curve can be steep. 

Celebrate your successes and remind yourself that growth takes time. You belong in the field just as much as anyone else.

It is not just about work

Balancing work and life is essential. A software engineer’s job is demanding, and it is easy to get caught up in work to the point of neglecting other aspects of your life. Finding a healthy balance between work and life is crucial for your wellbeing and long-term success. Burnout can have detrimental effects on both your personal life and your performance at work. Prioritize self-care, hobbies, and spending time with loved ones.

To sum up

Becoming a software engineer is not only about code. It is a rewarding journey that offers opportunities for growth, innovation, and contribution to the digital world. It may have its challenges, but being aware of these aspects can help you navigate them more effectively. 

Remember that continuous learning, communication and soft skills, collaboration within the team, the ability to solve problems creatively, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance are all key to thriving in the software engineering field. Stay curious and never stop improving both your soft and hard skills.

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