Chances are someone’s told you “learn to code” at least once in your life. It makes sense — with the world becoming more digitized every day, the need for developers keeps growing. Working as a developer can be a rewarding career path for people who get a rush from making and implementing creative solutions for real problems. But few of us have a clear idea of what developers actually do. Sure, it has something to do with writing in the terminal and drinking lots of coffee, but what’s really going on?
What Does a Developer Do?
Imagine you just moved into a new house with a big plot of land in the back. Great place to start a garden, right? So you start designing: the azaleas can go here, the succulents can go there, a trellis for the tomatoes… But once you plant your seeds and sprouts, the real work begins — pruning, reorganizing, figuring out why the hydrangeas are turning brown, plus all the daily maintenance to keep your garden in tip-top shape and wow your guests every time they stop by.
Being a developer is kind of like that. You start with a design, developing the structure of your software or website, going on to implement your plans with code. But it doesn’t end there — just like a garden, it’s the day-to-day work that makes or breaks a project. That means troubleshooting, debugging, maintenance, testing and all the little tweaks and customizations that keep things running smoothly. The pay off? Making your software users and website visitors feel like they’re at a garden party in the springtime.
Let’s break down what you can expect to do as a developer:
Make apps that solve problems
Maintain software through updates and debugging
Create customizations for specific needs
Test new programs
Make sure programs are secure
Adapt software to different operating systems
Another thing to remember about being a developer is that your field isn’t limited to tech. Just think about how many websites go live everyday — every single one has a developer behind it. As a developer, you’ll have opportunities to work in fields as diverse as digital marketing, finance, graphic design, health care and a whole lot more. Not to mention that developers often have flexible hours and the option of working remotely.
Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right? There aren’t many careers that let you flex that special combination of creativity and critical thinking. But before your career as a developer can take off, it’s important to acquire the right tools for the job. Let’s go through the basics.
The Skills It Takes to Become a Developer
Now that we know what developers do, it’s time to find out how they do it. What skills do you need for a career in software development? You might be surprised to hear that it’s not all about just knowing how to code. That’s definitely an important piece, but succeeding as a developer requires a mixture of hard and soft skills.
Hard skills are forms of technical knowledge — the know-how and expertise that you can rely on when creating solutions. Soft skills are personal qualities — the characteristics, habits and behaviors that prepare you to succeed in a dynamic and often demanding work environment. Let’s take a closer look at both of these skill sets.
Hard Skills for Developers
Express Back-End and React Front-End
Express and React are frameworks for working on web development in two different but related ways. Express is one of the ways developers configure the servers that power a website. React lets you create and replicate the components that appear to users of the site. Check out this helpful little guide to learn some more about both sides.
You know how instagram already knows that you’re thinking about buying some new headphones? Yeah, that’s data — and it’s getting collected all the time. A developer needs to know how to turn digital mountains of raw data into something meaningful, and ultimately valuable. Here’s a quick breakdown of data analytics.
Git and Github
Remember that garden we were talking about? Well imagine that instead of just you, there were dozens of gardeners involved and they all lived in different places — dropping seeds from drones and using little robot gnomes to do the weeding. The next time you check on the garden, how would you know what changes had been made? For developers collaborating on projects, Git and Github let you do exactly that, through software and a platform for tracking changes and coordinating work.
As a developer, you’ll often be involved in projects organized according to the Agile software development framework. Simply put, it’s a set of collaborative practices that helps teams deliver projects early and adapt what they’re doing in a way that’s, well, agile!
Soft Skills for Developers
Being a developer usually means being part of a team. It’s crucial to know how to exchange ideas and work productively with colleagues as well as clients.
A big part of working as a developer is time management. Being able to evaluate the urgency of tasks and get them done at the right time will make your career journey go a lot smoother.
Developers rarely just work on one project — you’ll have a lot going on, all at the same time. You’ve got to be able to handle juggling multiple tasks at once.
Attention to detail
A developer has to always keep the big idea in mind, while having a keen eye for detail at the same time. Paying attention to the little things helps minimize errors, improve efficiency and ultimately produce outcomes you (and your clients) are excited about.
How to Become a Web Developer
OK, that was a lot of information. Believe us, we've barely even scratched the surface of all things web development! But that's the great thing about a career in development...it's vast, rich, and full of surprises that'll keep you on your toes.
It's also much more accessible than you think. The path to a dream career is rarely straight, and thousands of people pivot to a career in tech every year.
Do you want to join them?
Check out our Web Development Bootcamps, available online or on-campus in one of our amazing tech hubs. Choose from part-time or full-time learning, with a course that's designed to fit into your life.