As the world readies for a fully digital future, developers should prioritise skills that set them up for long-term success.

Now that the Covid-19 pandemic has forced digital transformation on organisations everywhere, people are starting to ask “what happens next?” As the world adjusts to the reality of doing virtually everything digitally, what skills should software developers hone now to stay ahead of the game?

We asked some of our expert technical directors which skills they consider to be table stakes for any developer seeking to advance in the coming years. Here, we share some of the skills they see as the most important.

Serverless

The need for speed, security and scalability in business has brought serverless to the fore. Serverless architectures free organisations to focus on event-driven development and business logic while a service provider such as AWS, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud manages their infrastructure, abstracting every layer from the bare metal to the software environment.

Although applications continue to run on a server, that space is managed by the provider, automatically scaling applications horizontally so that multiple instances of a function can run concurrently without impeding performance. The microservices that applications depend on are also hosted in the cloud allowing for more efficient testing and faster implementation of new features.

Serverless functions such as AWS Lambda mean the developer simply needs to provide a function with the exact business logic to handle a request. There is no need for them to initialise a server, maintain software or take care of other related tasks.

Developers and software engineers working with serverless don’t need an understanding of the infrastructure that runs the software they create, but there are several considerations they need to bear in mind when adopting a serverless approach. Understanding when and why to use the serverless services specific to each provider is an essential skill for developers, particularly given that serverless is a relatively new approach that not all developers may have.

Serverless technology was key to NearForm’s successful delivery of an optimised, scalable and extensible data processing, analytics and visualisation platform for the drone data collection and analysis company Skycatch.

The ability to understand serverless techniques aligns with the predicted increase in demand for cloud-native development skills, as organisations strive to achieve the agility required to maintain a development model that spans data centres and multicloud environments.

Cloud native

Cloud native is a holistic approach to development that leverages the distributed, scalable, flexible nature of the public cloud to streamline operations and refocus the organisation’s energies on developing performant, reliable applications that can be scaled automatically in line with demand.

Whereas cloud-based development relies on a browser to point to a cloud-based infrastructure, cloud-native development is grounded in containers, microservices and serverless functions — abstracting away infrastructure layers such as networks, servers and operating systems. It slashes time to market while making operations more efficient.

NearForm embraces cloud native infrastructures to create dynamic applications built on open source technologies that prioritise continuous integration and continuous development (CI/CD) in growing your product. Technical director Sergi Mansilla underlines the importance of cloud-native skills: “I can’t emphasise enough how important cloud native is — particularly embracing the tools and philosophy of your cloud provider of choice.”

With businesses increasingly moving to scalable cloud-native infrastructures, software developers can capitalise on an organisational shift to the cloud by honing their cloud-native development skills. Developers should be proficient in containerisation and how to deploy scalable apps to the cloud, and they should also understand microservices development and service mesh.

As businesses move to the cloud, developers will also need to understand how to leverage API-driven microservices and domain-driven design.

Security

Given the primacy of cybersecurity in recent times, every developer and software engineer should understand security across the ecosystem – from their application, code and software supply chain to the environment their tooling is run in.

Developers need to be proficient in integrating security testing in each domain of software development to identify vulnerabilities in a piece of software or system. The key areas of security testing are:

  • Network security
  • System software security
  • Client-side application security
  • Server-side application security

Developers should be able to execute all of the above tests on their technical output. This ensures that their work is of high quality and works effectively.

Without proper security practices, an organisation’s ability to innovate confidently can be hindered. This makes up-to-date security skills crucial. For the foreseeable future, it is likely that organisations will champion security principles with a return to threat modelling to identify risks and an emphasis on practical experiences to reinforce learning and enhance security literacy.

Data analysis and visualisation

Automating and scaling processes and operations to meet the needs of larger customer bases requires reliable data-driven intelligence. Companies are collecting and processing vast amounts of structured and unstructured data from business transactions, smart devices, industrial equipment, social media and other streams. That data is only as valuable as the insights gained from it, so organisations need people skilled in data analysis and application.

If you can help an enterprise leverage its data in the right way, you can generate valuable insights for streamlining operations and responding faster and more effectively to changing customer demands. To consume massive datasets, you will need to be proficient in data analysis and visualisation. The right visualisation automatically releases more value from your data because it becomes more accessible to a wider range of users. As data streams multiply and generate exponentially greater volumes of data, visualisations need to remain focused on making the information useful for as many users as possible.

Adaptability

When you sit down to audit your skills and marketability as a software developer, it is natural to start thinking about your proficiency in various languages. However, it is more important to be able to demonstrate transferable skills than a long list of accomplishments. Python, Javascript and Java may be in demand, but many hiring managers are moving toward language agnosticism.

“Some developers might be surprised to learn that soft skills are the most important consideration in any hiring decision,” explains Sergi Mansilla.

Learning a new language is a matter of practice and time, but learning to adapt quickly to new requirements and other changes is a lot trickier. Tweet this

So-called soft skills rarely appear in lists of sought-after proficiencies, but they are among the most important qualifications for any job. Are you a good communicator, a reliable team player, a fast learner? All of these skills help make you a valuable developer.

Adaptability is one of the most important soft skills you can demonstrate. Hiring managers look for people who can learn new skills and behaviours in response to rapidly changing circumstances and will often include it in job descriptions because of its importance for growth within a role.

If you can demonstrate adaptability as a developer, it means you are flexible and able to respond creatively when things don’t go as planned. You probably work equally well with your team or on your own.

With the world adapting to a fully digital future, now is the time to consider your toolkit as a developer. Do you have the accomplishments and experience to achieve your career goals? By prioritising key skills in your resume, you can ensure your path to career fulfilment is a swift and interesting one.

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