Last year I reached a big time milestone in my software development career… I hit the 20 year mark (yes, I’m an old dude). So it’s only fitting that I write a retrospective blog today. It’s been a great journey and I’ve learned so much along the way. I’d like to give a little back to the community and offer some advice and insights that could help elevate your career… or even start one in software development.
In true gap intelligence fashion, I’m starting with the WHY behind this blog. There are a few things that I hope folks gain from this blog post. First, I want to help people understand how great this industry is and why you can still choose to be in the software game today, especially you young bucks out there. I will go over a few ways you can become a software engineer as well. The other thing that I hope readers get from this, is some good advice if you choose to go down this path in your career. I’ve worked with so many great people in this industry and have gained so many insights, that it’s only right to hand down some of this knowledge.
So Why Software Engineering?
Did you know that only 27% of college graduates work in a field related to their major!? That’s a crazy statistic if you think about how much it costs to go to college. It does sound about right though, because I’ve heard the story before… “So wait, you do what for a living? But your major was what?”
If you want to be a software developer, the outlook is very bright. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that the jobs in this industry are anticipated to grow by 24% in the years ahead. Oh, and by the way, the average growth rate for all other occupations combined is only 7%. This equates to an additional 302,500 software development jobs by the year 2026.
This industry is basically flipped upside down. There are just not enough developers to fill the open positions out there. Let’s check out some more interesting stats that prove this:
According to Code.org, there are over 500,000 open computing positions in the United States and they are projected to grow at twice the rate of other jobs. This could mean that in 2020, the openings for these positions will exceed qualified applicants by a million which could widen the gap even more. Code.org also claims that computing jobs are the #1 source of new wages in America (that’s 16% of all new wages). Let’s face the facts people, there is always going to be a need for technology, so why not choose a career path in it.
I’m sure by now you are wondering how much a software developer makes. Glassdoor reports that the average base pay for those in software engineering is at $107K annually. Even entry-level software engineers earn about $86K per year. In comparison, according to BLS, if you take all of the occupations in the U.S. and place them in a huge line based on earnings, you’ll find that the median pay is somewhere around $51,960 per year.
Did you know….in 2019, US News & World Report ranked Software Development #1 in its 100 Best Jobs survey. As I looked through this list of jobs, one thing stood out to me. The projected jobs for software development in comparison to the other industries out there. With over a quarter of a million projected jobs, there were not many industries projected near that number at all. You can check out the list here.
So you’ve heard some good statistics, now let’s get into some of the reasons why you’d want to pursue this career, like some of the perks. My favorite perk is job flexibility. I can pretty much work anywhere. All I really need is my laptop and an internet connection and I can be productive. Heck I can even do some work without an internet connection until I need to commit my work to the cloud. Work life balance is another great thing you get in this industry. With flexibility as a developer, achieving a good work life balance becomes much easier. Work environments are very comfortable as well, like shorts and sandals comfortable (at least here in San Diego).
There are many other reasons to be a developer, but I will end with this one. I personally love the challenges involved in being in the software game. If you like to be challenged and always learning, then this where you NEED to be.
How to become a Software Engineer?
What is great about this industry is that you can get there without a college degree. You can even self teach using resources on the web to get you started on this career track. There are tons of online classes and resources out there that you can leverage. I personally attended a community college, Coleman University, back in 1998 and got a certification in Computer Information Science. I landed a job soon after getting my certification and the rest is history. Another very popular option these days, are coding bootcamps. Coding bootcamps are essentially, technical training programs that teach the programming skills that employers look for. The goal of many coding bootcamp attendees is to transition into a career in software development.
At gap intelligence, we have several members of our team that attended a bootcamp to kick start their careers. Shout out to LEARN Academy. I think these bootcamps are a GREAT option for anybody considering starting a career in software development. There are a lot of companies looking for bootcamp grads. Once you get your foot in the door, your career will be off to a great start. You will get to build real world experience at that point, which is huge in this industry. In a few years you will become more valuable than any 4 year grad out there, and it won’t be close in my opinion. Check out this interesting video with some clips of some very successful people talking about the value of a college degree, or lack thereof.
Well, if you’ve gotten this far, you might be interested in software development. So I leave you with some advice/tips that will help you be successful in this career path:
- Learn from your peers. You will learn more from others than you will from picking up a book or from a website.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. This goes for anything in life, but will definitely help in software development.
- Always be learning! Explore new languages & technologies out there.
- Leave your ego at the door.
- Build a portfolio (update it throughout your career). A place where recruiters/companies can see your work. At the very least Github or a similar concept for your language of choice. A LinkedIn profile is a must of course.
- Explore all levels of the technology stack to find where your natural strengths are. For example, you might be really good at making web pages look beautiful and have creativity in you… then you might choose to specialize as a UI/UX designer.
- Work Life Balance. Achieving a good work life balance is key for your health and well-being, among many other benefits, like being more productive.
- Attend conferences. If you look, there is most likely a conference every year, all over the world, for your language/technology of choice. You can gain a lot of knowledge at these conferences. If you are brave you can even speak at these conferences.
- Blogging. Definitely not my favorite thing to do, but looking back, should have done more of it. It gives you exposure and is a good way to showcase yourself. It will help you learn faster and gain a better understanding of the topics you choose to write about.
- Write tests…ALWAYS!
- Read other developer’s code. Be active in code reviews and learn from others.
- Use Best Practices. Stay in tune with best practices used in your language/technology of choice.
- Give back to the community. Contribute to open source. Be active on sites like stack overflow. Attend local meet ups.
- Practice, practice, and practice some more. It’s simply the best way to learn, by doing!
- Stay hungry.
Do you have what it takes to be a gapper? Head over the careers section at gapintelligence.com to learn more about open positions.