There’s always an outlier, but most companies see software engineers as invaluable to their business.
A software engineer is a creator and a problem-solver. They use their knowledge of computer science and programming languages to build complex systems and applications that make our lives easier and more efficient.
You know how we can now control the lights in your house with just a few taps on your smartphone, or be able to order food from your favorite restaurant with just a few clicks on your laptop?
These are just a few examples of what software engineers can do.
In the role of software engineer, you have the power to shape the world around us. You can use your skills to build the next generation of technology, from self-driving cars to artificial intelligence.
A career as a software engineer - if you're serious about putting in the work - can have more than a material impact on someone looking to transition their career. It can build a better future for us all.
But if you see it as a stepping stone out of your current career, let’s start with the most important question first.
What does a Software Engineer Do?
In short – A lot. The day-to-day job of a software engineer varies depending on the specific project they are working on and their company's needs. For the most part, however, a software engineer's job typically involves the following tasks:
- Analyzing user requirements to determine the appropriate design and development of software
- Writing and testing code to create software that meets those requirements
- Debugging any problems that arise in the software
- Collaborating with other members of the development team, such as designers and project managers
- Keeping up to date with the latest developments in the field of software engineering
Software engineers cost a premium for large companies because they are responsible for creating the software that powers many of the tools and systems that are essential to either the operation of the business or the actual product itself. This can include everything from bespoke applications used internally by the company to licensed software sold to customers.
In addition to creating new software, software engineers maintain and update existing software. This ensures that software continues to function properly and can evolve to meet the changing needs of the business.
Let’s dive a bit deeper into some hard examples.
Working as a Software Engineer on the B2B Side
One important piece of software that a software engineer may have worked on at a large company is an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. ERP systems are used by many large organizations to manage and integrate their business processes, such as accounting, supply chain management, and human resources. Think of the product as the gold and this software as the “shovels.” You can’t dig without first having the tools.
Software engineers who work on ERP systems are responsible for designing and developing the software, which may involve writing and testing code, debugging problems, and collaborating with other members of the development team. The ERP system that they create must be robust and reliable, as it will be used by many people within the organization.
In addition to creating the software, software engineers who work on ERP systems may also be involved in maintaining and updating the system over time. This can involve adding new features and functionality to the software, as well as addressing any bugs or issues that arise.
Overall, ERP systems are a critical piece of software for many large companies, and the work of software engineers who develop and maintain these systems is essential to the success of the business.
Another example of an important piece of software that a software engineer may have worked on at a large company is a customer relationship management (CRM) system. CRM systems are used by many businesses to manage their interactions with customers, including tracking sales and marketing activities, managing customer data, and analyzing customer behavior.
Software engineers who work on CRM systems are responsible for designing and developing the software, which may involve writing and testing code, debugging problems, integration with email and lead gen software, and collaborating with other members of the development team. The CRM system that they create must be user-friendly and intuitive.( Ask any member of a sales team what happens when it isn’t.)
In addition to creating the software, software engineers who work on CRM systems may also be involved in maintaining and updating the system over time. This can involve adding new features and functionality to the software (increased cloud capabilities, more integration with social media touchpoints, etc.), as well as addressing any bugs or issues that arise.
Software Engineering on the B2C Side
They also have roles that directly touch the end customer. For example, a software engineer at an online retailer may be responsible for developing and maintaining the website and online shopping platform & cart, while a software engineer at a mobile app development company may be involved in creating new apps for consumers.
Regardless of the specific tasks that a software engineer at a consumer-facing company is involved in, their work is essential to the success of the company. By creating software that is reliable, user-friendly, and meets the needs of the company's customers, software engineers help ensure that the company can provide a high-quality experience for its customers. This can help the company attract and retain customers, and ultimately drive the success of the business.
Software Engineering at a Gaming Company
Yup, Sony has software engineers, too. At a highly competitive AAA gaming company, a software engineer would be responsible for designing and developing the software that powers the company's video games. This would involve writing and testing code, debugging glitches (though they famously get through), and collaborating with other members of the development team, such as designers and project managers.
Some specific tasks that a software engineer at a AAA gaming company might be involved in include:
- Developing the game engine, which is the core technology that powers the game and controls its visual and audio elements. (Two good examples: Unreal or CryEngine)
- Creating the game's user interface (UI), which allows players to interact with the game and access its features
- Implementing game mechanics, such as character movements, combat, and puzzles
- Optimizing the game's performance to ensure that it runs smoothly on a variety of devices
- Working with designers and artists to integrate their work into the game
Examples of highly competitive AAA gaming companies include Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and Bethesda Softworks.
Overall, the work of software engineers at AAA gaming companies is essential to the success of the company. By creating high-quality, engaging video games, software engineers help the company attract and retain players, and ultimately drive the business's success.
The Career Path of a Software Engineer
A potential career path for a software engineer could begin with a junior role, such as an entry-level software engineer. (Salary.com lists the average range for the role as a range of 69k - 82k. However, this could be skewed higher due to NY and SF as outliers.) In this role, you would be responsible for developing and maintaining software applications, working closely with a team of more experienced software engineers.
As the individual gains more experience and expertise, they may advance to a mid-management role, such as a senior software engineer or a team lead. (Salary.com lists the average range for this role as $107k - $127k, but these may be skewed higher because of city outliers). In these roles, you would be responsible for managing and mentoring a team of junior software engineers, as well as continuing to develop and maintain software applications.
At the most senior level, a software engineer may become a Technical Lead or a Director of Engineering. (Salary.com lists the average for this role from $151k - $224k, but these may be skewed high due to large city outliers).
In these roles, you would be responsible for overseeing the entire software development process, from planning and design to implementation and maintenance. They would also be responsible for making high-level decisions about the direction of the software development team and the technology used.
Overall, a career in software engineering can be rewarding and challenging, with opportunities for advancement and growth. As a software engineer, you would have the chance to work on a variety of projects and use your technical skills to solve complex problems.
Be Comfortable Learning New Coding Language(s). It’s a Core Requirement
Learning a new coding language is a hard skill because it requires significant time and dedication to master. Coding is a complex subject for an aspiring developer that requires knowing the technical aspects of the programming language, but also being able to think logically and solve problems. It is also a constantly evolving field, with new languages and technologies being developed all the time.
Some of the most difficult coding languages to learn are those that are low-level and require a deep understanding of computer systems. For example, languages like C and assembly are difficult because they are very close to the underlying hardware and require a detailed understanding of how computers work.
Overall, learning coding languages is a central component of a long-term career as a software engineer. It allows you to solve complex problems using technology. While some languages may be more difficult than others, with dedication and serious practice, anyone can become proficient in the languages they need to achieve their goals. But prepare to invest the amount of hours needed.
|Operating System or Software
|Enables Developer to Do
|Android, Windows, MacOS
|Create mobile apps and desktop applications
|Windows, MacOS, Linux
|Develop web applications, automate tasks, perform data analysis
|Windows, MacOS, Linux
|Develop high-performance applications and games
|Create native iOS and macOS applications
|Develop interactive and dynamic web pages and applications
|Develop Windows applications and games
|Windows, MacOS, Linux
|Develop web applications, automate tasks
|Windows, MacOS, Linux
|Develop low-level systems and applications
|Windows, MacOS, Linux
|Perform statistical analysis and data visualization
|Windows, MacOS, Linux
|Develop scalable, concurrent systems and network applications |
Understand The differences between a software engineer and a computer engineer
The main difference between a software engineer and a computer engineer is the focus of their work. A software engineer is primarily focused on the design and development of computer software, while a computer engineer is focused on the design and development of computer hardware.
Software engineers use programming languages and tools to create software that meets the needs of users. This can involve writing and testing code, debugging problems, and collaborating with other members of the development team.
Computer engineers, on the other hand, are responsible for designing and developing the physical components of computer systems, such as processors, memory, and networking equipment. They use a variety of technologies and tools to create the hardware that powers computers and other devices.
Both types of engineers are in high demand in the technology industry, and many companies rely on the expertise of both software engineers and computer engineers to develop and maintain their products and systems.
The main differences between a software engineer and a computer engineer are as follows:
|Focuses on the design and development of computer software
|Focuses on the design and development of computer hardware
|Uses programming languages and tools to create software
|Uses a variety of technologies and tools to create computer hardware
|May be involved in the development of a wide range of software, including applications, operating systems, and video games
|May be involved in the development of a wide range of computer hardware, including processors, memory, and networking equipment
|May be involved in the maintenance and update of existing software
|May be involved in the testing and troubleshooting of hardware
Overall, while both software engineers and computer engineers are involved in the technology industry, they have different focuses and responsibilities. Software engineers are primarily focused on creating and maintaining software, while computer engineers are focused on creating and maintaining hardware.
Know the Differences Between Software Engineer vs. Software Developer
There's a difference between a software engineer and a software developer. While the terms are often used interchangeably, they typically refer to two different roles in the field of software development.
- A software engineer is someone who applies the principles of engineering to the design, development, maintenance, testing, and evaluation of software and systems. This involves writing code, but also using engineering techniques to plan, manage, and ensure the quality of software projects.
- A software developer, on the other hand, creates and builds software applications. This involves writing and testing code, as well as working with other dev team members to design, implement, and maintain software systems.
The main difference between a software engineer and a software developer is the focus of their work. While a software engineer takes a more holistic, engineering-based approach to software development, a software developer focuses on the specific tasks involved in creating and building software applications.
How to Become a Software Engineer
To become a software engineer, there are several steps you can take:
- Earn a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field. This is not a requirement for all software engineering jobs, but it can be helpful in gaining the knowledge and skills necessary for the field.
- Consider attending a coding bootcamp. Coding bootcamps are intensive, short-term training programs that can teach you the practical skills you need to become a software engineer in a short period of time.
- Gain experience by working on personal projects or interning at a software development company. This will not only give you hands-on experience, but it will also help you build a portfolio of work to show to potential employers.
- After your bootcamp, obtain industry-recognized certifications, such as the Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP) or the Certified Software Development Associate (CSDA). These certifications can demonstrate to employers that you have the knowledge and skills necessary to be a successful software engineer.
What Can I Expect to Learn in a Coding Bootcamp for a Software Engineer?
Introduction to software engineering: an overview of software engineering, including key concepts, principles, and best practices.
Programming fundamentals: the basics of programming, including data types, variables, control structures, and algorithms.
Object-oriented programming: the principles and techniques of object-oriented programming, including encapsulation, inheritance, and polymorphism.
Data structures and algorithms: the concepts and techniques for designing and implementing efficient data structures and algorithms.
Database design and management: the principles and practices of database design and management, including data modeling, querying, and data integrity.
Software design and architecture: the principles and practices of software design and architecture, including design patterns, architecture styles, and software quality.
Professional practices: the professional skills and practices needed to succeed as a software engineer, including project management, team collaboration, and communication.
While you don’t need a software engineering degree to transition into this career, but if you want to see the benefits, prepare to adopt the mindset that a coding bootcamp (and the amount of out-of-class practice it requires) will have similar rigorous intensity.
If you're looking to develop software engineering skills desired by the majority of global companies, get matched to the right coding bootcamp for you.