Software Engineering Career Paths - An Overview

Software Engineering

A big portion of IT developers are Software Developers whose primary responsibilities revolve around producing software. This field is called Software Engineering, whose main focus is develop software. Software Engineering can be further sub divided into sub fields based the certain aspects of Software Engineering they specialize in, which are:

  • Requirement Analyst
  • System Architect
  • Software Developer or Programmer
  • Quality Assurance Specialist and Tester
  • Deployment Specialist or DevOps Specialist

These reflect tasks that need to be completed at various steps of software development. For example, requirements analysis sets off a software development project because you need to understand what users want before even thinking about writing a single line of code. Software architecture is another important aspect and provides a structure germane to desired overall behaviors of software, such as performance and security.

Under the guidance of a software architect, software developers design their software solutions and implement them in code. Testing and QA insure that the implemented code conforms to the requirements, both functional and non-functional. Finally, the software is ready to be installed in a production environment and “deployment” refers to this process.

Careers in Software Engineering

Requirement Analyst

We develop software to solve our problems. But problems are continuously or our needs are continuously changing. So, even for a well known problem like hotel reservations, new systems are being developed daily. because our needs are changing.

When Hotel Reservations started in 1900s, there was no such thing as credit card and now we can rent extra rooms in our homes using services like airbnb.com

Due to this dynamic nature of what users want and their technology choices, understanding their needs is extremely important. Almost 50% of software projects fail or face cost overruns because they are solving the wrong problems, or a lot of problems at the same time.

So task of requirement analysis and elicitation is as important as writing the lines of code to develop the software.

This is why we need experts in eliciting software requirements and keeping track of them due to their ever changing property. We call these specialists Software Requirements Analysts. Remember that defining a problem and its scope is as important as designing a solution and implementing it. As a result, the importance of the role of Requirements Analyst can never be overstated.

Software Architect

The role of Software Architect is considered the pinnacle of software engineering. Software Architect is a person who has spent a lot of time in every aspect of Software Engineering.

He acts as Technical leader in team who works along side Project manager to provide necessary resources and making sure software is delivered on time. Common responsibilities of Software Architecture includes designing the architecture of the software, defining design visions, reviewing code and authorizing its inclusion in the working software.

Software Developer or Programmer

The role of a computer programmer is to interpret the design document put together by a software architect or a team lead into functioning code. The process of turning design into code is called implementation. Being a programmer means that you are a member of a large group of software engineers who are requirements analysts, software architects, QA engineers, testers, and deployment specialists.

This means that you need to be a collaborative team player. In a typical enterprise software development project today, it’s no longer feasible to be a jack of all trades. You’re bound to depend on other members of your software engineering team whose roles are complementary to your job as a programmer. Another important aspect of your position as a software engineer, is ability to use tools such as integrated development environments, or IDE, and design languages like unified modeling language, or UML, not to mention knowing multiple programming languages.

Knowledge in software development methodologies is also critical because more and more organizations are adopting them. Some of you may have already heard of scrum or the agile methodology, which is two of the most popular software development methodologies used today. So being a programmer means constant learning. New tools and methodologies, as well as programming languages are coming out all the time and you really have to be an independent learner to stay on top of your profession as a programmer these days.

Quality Assurance Specialist and Tester

Software quality is different from functionality. Your software may be perfectly functional, but its quality could still be poor. It may perform all of the functions but it may not be responsive, reliable, or intuitive enough.

More recently, privacy and security concerns are making the users worried about identity theft or malicious software or malware infection. This overall user experience, with respect to the quality attributes of software, such as performance, usability, reliability, and security, is what quality assurance, or QA, professionals address. They can act as the expected users of software and provide timely feedback to remove any major quality glitches before the actual customers start complaining.

QA specialists can closely work with the rest of the software engineering team to improve the quality of software throughout a software development process.

Testing is much narrower in scope. As a test engineer, your role is to attempt to break the software you’re testing. The goal here is to find as many bugs as possible so that the software doesn’t misbehave when it’s released and being used by the general public. Testers usually work closely with requirements analysts because they test their software against the software requirements produced earlier during the software development process.

Although different in their scope, both QA specialists and testers strive to increase the overall quality of software by scrutinizing it in their own ways.

Deployment Specialist and DevOps Specialist

Releasing the first version of software is a big milestone in the software development process. But, that’s just the beginning. We know that the first release is only the start of many more future ones to come due to changes in user requirements, bug fixes, library updates, upgrades, et cetera. This repeated and iterative nature of software releases
requires expertise and gracefully deploying software into it’s desired environment to avoid any potential hiccups and to ensure smooth transition from testing to production.

Depending on how smoothly the deployment process goes, the success or failure of your business is at stake. Because of this elevated importance of seamless software development, industry leaders are attempting to automate the deployment process in general. DevOps is an example towards this trend.

One of the goals of DevOps is to free deployment specialist from the mundane tasks of manually setting up environments and allocating sources through automation and constant monitoring. Although DevOps is a much more comprehensive concept than software release and deployment, it definitely has an impact on the job of deployment specialist which is now more about helping with the automation and monitoring of the deployment process.

Preparation Tips

To become a software engineer, the most conventional route to take is going through a formal education process, that being a college degree. Most colleges have computer science degree programs and even software engineering majors. At four-year institutions an engineering college often houses computer science or computer engineering degree programs. As its name suggests Computer Engineering focuses more on hardware while computer science programs are more about developing software.

Of course you don’t necessarily have to earn a computer science or software engineering degree to become a software engineer, many are self-taught. Regardless of your background it’s not too difficult to pursue a career as a software engineer.

There are a few reasons for this. First there’s a huge demand for software engineers out there. Second companies mostly care about your skills and what you’re capable of doing rather than what degrees you have. As long as you’re technically qualified with decent soft skills, you should be able to get your job. Finally unlike like other professions, there are so many online resources and communities that can support your pursuit of software engineering career.

All you have to do is making the efforts, which could be the biggest challenge.

Certifications

There are numerous available certifications in software engineering. Some of them are vendor-specific and others are not.

The IEEE Computer Society’s offering three vendor-neutral certifications which are

  • Associate Software Developer
  • Professional Software Developer
  • Professional Software Engineering Master Certification

Vendor-specific exams appeared to be doing much better. There are dozens of well respected exams that are driving and popular among software engineers. These include

  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer or MCSD,
  • Amazon Web Services Certified Developer
  • Oracle Certified Java Professional or OCP
  • Many others

As you can see there are so many certification opportunities in software engineering. You need to pick and choose the best ones for your own needs. Your job may require you to get certified and even pay for the certification exams. Your career plans should also guide you in the choice of certifications to pursue. If you’re thinking about transitioning into a new career path certifications can be a good stepping stone to build your credentials.

You may not need certifications to get a job, but it’s good to showcase your skills and credentials. Having one increases you chances of getting a good job by a lot.

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