Emma Portman, Test and Training Manager at global engineering technologies company Renishaw, explains the studies and soft skills needed for a career as a software engineer.
Studies for software engineering
When students first consider software engineering as a career path, it is important to choose courses that suit the preferred software roles. Choosing subjects based around science and maths can give students a good introduction to the sector. Awareness of the course content is also important as students should ensure they have a high exposure to coding, either during their course or by personal research alongside their studies.
These courses will prepare a student for higher level learning in software engineering, however many students choose to incorporate work into their studies to strengthen their skill set.
To incorporate studies and work, students can choose an apprenticeship to focus on learning whilst employed, either during a placement year in their degree or studying during their career. This often involves a student choosing to split their degree into a sandwich course with an industrial placement in software engineering, enhancing their studies by incorporating real life experience.
Daniel Freeman, a software apprentice at Renishaw, chose a degree apprenticeship so that he could work towards a qualification while gaining experience at work four days a week. The skills an apprentice gains during their work can help contextualise their studies, allowing them to apply what they have learned to the projects they are involved in. Apprentices also have the opportunity to move around departments and work on a variety of projects to broaden their skills before they decide on a specific career path that best suits them.
University leavers can choose to apply for graduate schemes after university to put them on the career ladder straight away. Companies within the sector offer different ways to gain work experience so students can decide what best suits them in the balance of studying and working.
An investment in apprentices and graduates benefits large companies as they can help the business grow as they learn. Companies like Renishaw have seen a high retention rate amongst graduates and apprentices as they see the reputation of the company and the types of jobs available to them. All members of staff at Renishaw are encouraged to apply their knowledge and personal experiences to large projects, whether they are recruited as an apprentice, graduate or on a placement, as any input can benefit the company’s clients.
Soft skills for software engineering
To be able to contribute personal experiences to projects, candidates must rely on personal knowledge and skills. It is difficult to define the exact technical skills needed in software engineering because of the wide range of jobs, however, there are many soft skills that are needed across the sector, such as communication and teamwork.
In international businesses, a team may comprise of members from different offices and even different countries. Employees must be able to communicate easily to complete tasks and projects efficiently to benefit the company and its clients.
Employers will expect software engineers to handle pressure caused by time constraints and a demanding workload. They will be expected to be self-motivated and to work to short deadlines, with problem solving being a key factor within the role. Challenges will arise on a daily basis and an employee with an inquisitive mind will be able to creatively think of a solution. It is likely that employees will often have to deal with code or software that they are not familiar with and they must be driven to proactively solve the issue.
Employers can identify a candidate with an enquiring mind by how proactive they have been about gaining experience outside of their studies. Most people use software every day and a lot of information is available on the internet. Potential candidates can practice their skills on the internet by using coding to make their own apps and websites. It is also useful to be aware of current industry trends. Anyone can easily find the opinions of the technology community online to stay up-to-date.
- About Renishaw
- UK-based Renishaw is a world leading engineering technologies company, supplying products used for applications as diverse as jet engine and wind turbine manufacture, through to dentistry and brain surgery. It has over 4,000 employees located in the 35 countries where it has wholly owned subsidiary operations.