It requires more than just coding for a software engineer
Career, Productivity

It requires more than just coding for a software engineer

If you’re a developer like me, it’s likely that you have a deep passion for coding and problem-solving. You can spend hours engrossed in your work, sitting in one place, contemplating complex problems, and using your coding skills to find solutions. This is when you enter your focus zone and experience your most productive sessions.

However, the life of a programmer is never easy. You might believe that your code will change the world, but the reality often falls short of our lofty expectations. As developers, we understand how to write code and we excel at it. But those who can write good code while also bringing value and effectively communicating with clients are the ones who shine.

“But the company pays me for my code, doesn’t it clear I should focus on technology?”

You might argue. It’s natural for developers to be passionate about technology and coding. We constantly strive to learn more about new technologies and frameworks. As a result, we often rush into the coding process without considering the business and human aspects involved.

But from a business perspective, your code is merely a tool that helps clients achieve their goals. It takes more than just your code to help clients reach their business objectives. You need to understand the bigger picture, the purpose behind the project, and how your code fits into the client’s overall strategy.

The mistake of beginners

At first, when you are just a beginner and trying to learn your first programming language, things are so difficult then when you have to follow the tutorial, start the project then trying to write and understand each line of code. Remember back then, everything is all about coding – and you didn’t pay much attention to clean code practices.

Then, you land your first job and everything changes quickly. You are driven into the existing codebase where all complex business logic and internal-enterprise framework are there for you to explore. You now have to learn and understand all this logic while trying to add some lines of code and hoping they will not break anything.

And the story does not end there. When you finished the task and are ready to deliver the code. The compiler suddenly throws the warning at your face saying: “This function only allows x lines of code”. Oh great! So now you are not only forced to understand the codebase, but you also must follow your company’s coding policies in order to keep all the source code as a whole.

New developers often become overwhelmed and frustrated when transitioning from learning basic programming skills to entering the real world of enterprise development. They never thought being a software engineer will be that hard.

But the harsh truth is, this is how software engineers belike and the core of our job is not writing code. Our role requires us to solve real problems using code as our tool.

Every developer knows how to build stuff. But the one who can build programs that bring tangible values is called software engineer

How to survive and become a professional software engineer?

Coding styles, scalability, and readability

Often, when you are a junior developer. Your job is to make the code work and that’s all. And that mindset will stick with you for a while (at least in your first year as a developer). Typically, junior developers don’t often follow common coding conventions.

Junior developers tend to focus more on technical aspects rather than human cooperation and communication.

So what can we learn from mature developers who understand their code not only for machines to run but also straightforwardly that allow anyone can understand?

Good software engineers think differently from beginner developers. The code they write will always follow clean code conventions, straight directly to the business point while keeping them on readability and maintainability.

The biggest mindset between a coder and a software engineer is that the engineer knows deeply about cooperation and their code should be responsible for the bigger purpose that serves business value and help people who work with the codebase easy to understand and maintain it.

Macro vision

Tasks assigned to junior developers tend to be simple that have a low impact on the whole system. They lack the macro vision of the whole system level and thus don’t often bring any design or architecture solution.

Meanwhile, a software engineer has the mindset of craftsmanship. They know behind every successful system is a good design from the architecture. Experienced software engineers approach their work with a holistic perspective. They consider the long-term implications of their code and how it fits into the larger system. They aim to create clean, modular, and scalable solutions that align with the overall architecture. Furthermore, as they have more knowledge about how each architect’s solution work and runs, they are more actively contributing and bringing better solutions to help improve the performance and quality of the whole system.

Communication and cooperation

Besides programming skills, the distinction between an immature developer and an expert software engineer can be observed in how they collaborate with their team members.

Junior developers are inexperienced and lack knowledge from a business perspective behind the tasks that are assigned to them. Typically, this can lead to frustration at first for them and sometimes leads to silly questions after the meeting is finished.  As a result, they often rely on more experienced team members to clarify and discuss the requirements further.

A software engineer knows what meeting they are attending, and what discussion they are following and can ask the right questions that validate and complete the requirements. This helps client consolidate their assumption requirements while bringing a clearer understanding for the development team to effectively implement the desired features.

An expert software engineer recognizes the value of effective communication and actively engages in discussions to ensure alignment between the client’s needs and the development team’s understanding. They can extract the necessary information from meetings, proactively seek clarification, and contribute insights that drive the project forward.

Shift the mindset

While all the technical aspects one beginner developer can easily learn and understand from time to time, having a mindset from a coder to an engineer can drastically improve your career. So consider the following points:

  • Pay attention to your purpose: Before driving into code anything, stop for 5 minutes and ask yourself: “Why am I implementing this feature? What value does it bring to the clients”.
  • Embrace Legacy Code: Don’t criticize the old code, if it works well and serves its purpose, there may not be an immediate need for quick changes. Instead, focus on maintaining and improving the codebase time over time.
  • Keep your code changes manageable: When modifying code, it’s important to keep the changes small and at least as impact as possible. This approach makes code reviews more manageable and ensures that changes can be easily shipped to production.
  • Pool of solutions: There is rarely a single, straightforward “correct: solution. Consider some alternative solutions in case the first attempt fails.
  • Consistency code: Consistent and well-structured code makes collaboration easier and enhances the maintainability of the project. Paying attention to code quality while following the organization’s coding standards is crucial.
  • Continues learning: Technology is huge. Therefore having a mindset of the mindset of continuous learning, and staying updated with the latest tools, frameworks, and best practices should be embraced.

Conclusion

While any developer can write code and create software. A good developer has an engineering mindset that extends further than just the technical aspects. He understands cooperation to solve problems should be taken care of while using his skills and experience to bring value to clients through system-level decisions.

And while Junior developers may not yet fully grasp the business value and focus more on the technical factors. Continually learning and following an engineering mindset over time can both enhance their technical and cooperation skills effectively.