Software development is a powerful skill. You can create entire worlds, histories or tools. You can delight, inform, and aid society in many ways, big and small. You can also work for others, work for yourself, or create a single software solution that fixes something that has been missing for so long. The potential when you develop software is endless and it is one of the best skills to have. Below we outline what you need to do to foster a career in software development.
Software Development Pathways
There are two main pathways when it comes to software development. This doesn’t mean that things don’t overlap, or that you cannot learn one if you’ve already learned the other. It’s just that the processes are separate.
1. Application Development
App development refers to the creation of tools themselves, often for mobiles or tablets.
2. System Development
System development focuses on desktops and mainframe computers.
Choose Your Computing Language
To get started, you need to learn at least one computing language. They are all related, however, so if you are just starting, then Python is your best bet. You can learn from there and then choose the programming language that suits you best.
The C Suite
C is the oldest language and is the foundation for many of the other languages including Java. There are a variety of C languages and these include the following:
- C++ is the object-oriented version of the C language and is one of the most popular around the world. It has been used to create most of the internet browsers — if that gives you an indication of its power.
- C# is the Windows-only C language, and it is very similar to Java and C++ so you should be able to learn C# very easily if you need to.
- Objective C is the Apple version. Whereas C# is used to create Windows programs, Objective C is used to create Apple applications for iPhones or iPads.
Java is one of the big ones and is very portable. If you know any of the C languages, you should be able to easily pick up Java, as it evolved from C++. Java is most used in video games and business software models. It is considered essential.
Python is the easiest to learn and focuses mainly on web development. If you are new, this is the language to start with before moving on to the others.
Ways to Start Learning These Programming Languages
- Foundational Courses or Degrees
- Online Guides
- Practice on Your Projects
- Connect with the Community
Start Programming on Your Own
There is nothing to stop you from starting to program on your own. Personal pet projects are an excellent learning tool and allow you to put what you have learned theoretically into new applications.
This process can be done right alongside self-teaching, so start brainstorming from the start and work out what programs you can create using what you have learned. There is no reason to wait until you have a fully fleshed-out program or app; even small systems are great learning tools.
2. Write a Design Document
Design documents allow you to stay on track and ensure you don’t miss anything. Larger programs, in particular, will require you to refer back to this document throughout the development of your software.
3. Create the Prototype
Your prototype is your first draft. It is the theory of how your app will work. Don’t be discouraged if it isn’t perfect. It isn’t meant to be. Software is an organic thing that requires many iterations and evolutions before it is ready to be released.
4. Test, Test, Test
Test it out, try all the buttons, settings, and options you can. Make note of what works and what does not so that you can troubleshoot the issues.
5. Workshop the User Interface
Once it works, you will then want to start making it look pretty. This could include hiring or buying professionally made images if you are at that stage of your career where you are looking to start selling or distributing your software to the wider community.
6. Share Your Creations
There are many places to share your creations, but initially, a great place to start is GitHub, which will allow you to connect with other developers to workshop your project.
7. Distribute, Market, and Sell Your Software
When you have a great piece of software you can then distribute it, market it, and potentially even sell it. Your first projects probably won’t make the cut, but by making it a hobby, you could start your own company one day, or at least have a nice little passive income.
How to Advance Your Career Further
DIY and teaching yourself software engineering can get you fairly far, but there are a lot of self-taught software developers out there. Unless you stand apart from the rest with your raw skills, you are going to want to branch out and solidify your knowledge with an MSc in Computing Science.
MSc in Computing Science
The good news is that you can complete a computer science degree online. This allows you to learn at your own pace and from the best institutions without having to worry about things like where you live, moving, or even visas.
When looking for an MSc in Computing Science degree you will want to ensure it has optional foundational courses, just to ground your existing knowledge. This is especially important if your bachelor was not in computing science as well, but instead a related or similar field.
Computing Science Specializations
On top of furthering your computer science knowledge, you will also want a degree that allows you to specialize as you get further through the degree. After all, the only way up in your career is through specialization, which will enable you to enter smaller professional pools and market your skills for higher.
Institution Career Guidance
It isn’t just about the degree, either. The value of getting a degree is with the institution itself, which should have strong resources you will have access to as well as career guidance and even connections to the industry itself.
Maintain Strong Foundations to Succeed in Whatever You Do
Whatever you do and whichever pathway you take you must invest in ongoing training. Software and computing are two of the fastest-changing industries, with innovations and tools being created every single second. You cannot stop learning if you wish to continue working, much less succeed, so try to adopt new habits that allow you to brush up on your skills daily.