How to Become a Software Developer in 2021 [Career Guide for Beginners]
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How to Become a Software Developer in 2021 [Career Guide for Beginners]

Want to learn computer programming and become a software developer?

Well, your search for a software developer career road map ends here!

I remember myself wandering through forums to understand what software engineers do? It was super frustrating and confusing. 

And in this no-boring guide, I will cut off all the noise and show you exactly How to become a software developer in your career.

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Here are the steps to become a software developer

Step 1: Select mode of learning

Step 2: Pick a Technical skillset 

Step 3: Pick a Soft skillset 

Step 4: Start your learning

Step 5: Build your first project

Step 6: Get certifications

Step 7: Build your online portfolio

Step 8: Prepare to Crack Job Interview

Step 9: Apply for a Job

Stay with me; I will also reveal the three biggest mistakes every software aspirer makes, in the end.

People want to become software developers for many reasons

  • ➤ Passion for coding
  • ➤ Evergreen demand in the market
  • ➤ Various career options
  • ➤ Handsome income

Or..any reason

If you choose software development as a career, you’ll have two crucial learning phases

  1. Pre-job learning
  2. Post-job learning

Pre-Job learning is when you pursue a limited set of skills to clear interview rounds and get a job (start a career).

Post-job learning is where you gain in-depth knowledge through work experience and become an expert in some domains.

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In this post, you will learn how to plan your Pre-job learning phase with actionable tips effectively.

Let me answer a common question before jumping in!

What do Software Developers do?

Software developers Plan, build and maintain software systems and applications that run on gadgets like computers, smartphones, laptops, Tablets etc.

GTA, Excel, Notepad, paint, etc., every app you see today are once on a software developer’s table.

Mostly, their priority is to write high-quality, clean and functional code.

Alright! Can you explain to me a little better? - "uh! Okay"

 "Software developer" is a comprehensive term to explain.

Let me go out of context for a second to make you understand better.

For example, consider a film director. His primary duty is to direct the film. 

But the truth is, he will also have knowledge and involvement in the other crafts like cinematography, lighting, editing etc.

Why should he look into secondary crafts other than his duty? Because the director knows "The output is the product of all crafts." 

Just like a film, Software is a pipeline of systems. People interact and integrate the systems together to build the end product. 

Even though a software developer's primary duty is to write code, he will do more on the ground level.

That is why we can only give a generic definition for a software developer.

A good software developer will have better knowledge in his domain and border knowledge in other domains.

Note: I assume you own a few of these programming tools. Not all but at least required ones.

How To Become a Software Developer with No Experience

I assume you have no prior experience. By the end of this post, you’ll have your strategy to tackle a software development job.

Step 1: Pick a Mode of Learning

Three major choices

1. College of Bachelor Degree

Already out of college? No issues; check other modes to learn.

But, if you’re just passing 12th, consider joining a computer science degree.

Usually, the curriculum here lasts for years, giving you enough time to learn about architectures, programming languages, frameworks, etc.

Teachers might not have sound industry knowledge, but most are good, theoretically.

Nonetheless, this is an ideal way to begin your software developer career.

2. Self-learning: 

Self Learning suits the best if you want to learn things just out of passion.

But from a job search perspective, this may not be a great option.

Because companies look for certifications in the end. (Undeniable fact)

So, invest time wisely to learn things and earn certifications parallelly.

Youtube, books, and open source tools are common resources here!

3.  Online Courses

By today (2021), people's interest in online education has increased to 900% for two main reasons.

  • In most of the courses, Industry experts train you
  • ➤ Courses being cost-effective - Unlocks at a very minimal fee

Online courses are pre-recorded, or one to one sessions aimed to train you in a subject for a time frame. 

End to end courses, Coding boot camps, internships are the most common resources here

Online Learning flow tips:

  • ➤ Courses help to learn subjects from scratch
  • ➤ Boot camps, internships help polishing the known things

Correct way: Full course → workshop/intern → project → Job
Wrong-way: (Any pattern other than the above)

More on this in upcoming sections.

Step 2: Pick a Technical Skill Set

Hero of the story!

To become a software developer, You’ll need to acquire two sections of skill sets:

  1. Technical skills
  2. Soft skills

In the IT industry, Skills are the building blocks of your career. 

Fast forward to 2030; Now, Look back.

You’ll say, “Skills are what brought me here.”

First, we will see what technical skills you need to get started as a software developer

1. Technical Skills: Programming Languages

There are 500+ programming languages.

But below are the standard choices made by most of the successful developers

  • ➤ Python (recommended)
  • ➤ Javascript
  • ➤ Java
  • ➤ C# 

A Golden beginner Formula:
Learn any two, Master one.

Don’t make a mistake by choosing an experimental programming language suggested by some 10+ years experienced guy.

It may help him to stretch his career but not you who’s just beginning.

Alright! What to choose as my first programming language? 

In 2021, it’s Python. The second one is your wish.

According to Statista, “The future of software development is codeless design” (market hits $46.4 billion by 2026)

Python approaches were close to this idea, and it is strictly an object-oriented language.

Being a programming language, it also serves as a scripting language.

You can configure the server related flows with python commands.

One stone, two birds, right? You’ll know more about this while learning.

It is entirely Okay if you know other languages already, take the advanced challenges and try mastering them.

After all, there are 500+ programming languages; companies care about quality over quantity.

Do you know? Javascript is the most used language and it is ruling the world now.

But Python is the fastest growing.

Three good reasons to learn Python:

  1. Beginner friendly and easy
  2. Serves as a scripting language as well
  3. High demand in the market

Javascript helps you excel in the web area of software development. On the other hand, Java has been there for decades powering primarily for mobile applications.

Trending combos:

  • JavaScript - Front-End Development
  • Python - Data Science
  • Swift - iOS Engineering
  • C# - Microsofters
  • Kotlin - Android development
  • TypeScript - JavaScripters

Topics to be covered: (Any programming language)

  • ➤ Basic Syntax and data types
  • ➤ control flow statements
  • ➤ Loops and functions/methods 
  • ➤ OOP concepts
  • ➤ File handling
  • ➤ Graphical user interfaces (GUIs)
  • ➤ Integration with database
  • ➤ Frameworks and Patterns

Conclusion:

  • ➤ Learn any two programming languages and master one.
  • ➤ Make sure you include Python as one
  • ➤ Choose a course that was designed for software development

2. Technical Skills: Data Structures and Algorithms

Data structures are all about how you store and handle data in run time.

These days everyone is learning how to code. But the knowledge in data structures is what separates software developers from others.

I can list this under the programming languages section, but I pulled it out.

Because data structures play such an essential role in a developer’s career, They can pull and make you stand out from the crowd!

data structures infographic in software development
source: LinkedIn


Concepts to be covered:

  • ➤ Linked Lists
  • ➤ Stacks & Queues
  • ➤ Graphs
  • ➤ Trees
  • ➤ Binary Search
  • ➤ Sorting Algorithms
If you already know data structures, practising competitive coding at AlgoExpert or Leetcode can place you in top tier companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon etc. 

3. Technical Skills: Choose an IDE

  • ➤ Visual Studio code
  • ➤ Sublime text
  • ➤ Eclipse
  • ➤ Intellij
  • ➤ Netbeans

IDE stands for "Integrated development environment."

These are desktop applications in which you’ll write and run your code.

Typically, most of these are free to use. 

Here’s what happened when I chose the wrong IDE for a recent project.

I started to develop a Java swing application in Eclipse IDE.

I realized eclipse wouldn't support a few looks and feel libraries in the middle, which is not a problem with Netbeans.

It's a tedious job to shift right from the middle of the 8000 liner project.

I decided to compromise for that extra UI design and end up with an average looking application. (but working)

So always foresee the requirements and pick the right IDE

Beginner combos

  • ➤ Eclipse for Java
  • ➤ Sublime Text for Java Script
  • ➤ Visual Studio Code for c/C++
  • ➤ Jupyter for Python

Conclusion: Foresee the use case and choose IDE accordingly. 

4.  Technical Skills: Version Control Tools

  • ➤ GIT
  • ➤ Sourcetree

What if you lose your code right in the middle?

What if you mess up and want to revert to previous versions of code?

It’s painful.

Version control tools help you here!

These are cloud services which store all your code as repositories. 

Whenever you want to code something, You can clone a copy, work, and then merge those changes to the main repository periodically.

This way, your code will be preserved safely.

So, throughout the development process, you will see multiple versions of your work.

Github is an excellent place to create your first repository. It is free.

In companies, these version control tools keep team members in sync and make the development process robust.


5.  Technical Skills: Data Base Management Systems

In short, these are called DBMS

These are applications that provide a visual interface for users to interact with database tables.  

Imagine you are building a web portal to handle customers of a telecom company.  You will have to store thousands of user data like voice & data packs, expiry dates, usage stats, bill dates etc.

Where is all this data stored? -"In a database."

Okay, How is the data stored? As tables (based on DB architecture)

Super, Tell me a way to access that data - “Use SQL queries.”

Alright!

SQL is a short form of "structured query language" which is used to manage data in a relational database.

By writing SQL queries, you can read, write or delete data from a database. 

The scale of software projects that companies deal with is extensive. So obviously, the data will be significant.

Hence, learning database architecture is prominent.

Famous DBMS are:

  • ➤ Oracle
  • MYSQL
  • ➤ POSTGRESQL
  • ➤ Mongo DB

Ideal for beginners:

  1. Learn SQL (A language to communicate with databases)
  2. Oracle or MySQL  (A system that uses SQL)

6.  Technical Skills: Markup Languages

  • ➤ HTML
  • ➤ CSS 

In 2021, software development is not limited to desktop applications. It has roots in web app development too!

HTML & CSS helps you build the front-end of web applications.

Just so you know, Markup languages are different from programming languages. These are the most fantastic and straightforward I ever found in my learning. 

You don't even need super fancy setup to learn HTMl and CSS, just a simple browser based code editors are enough to explore them to advanced level.

If you want to go a mile ahead, add Html & CSS to your skillset.

7.  Technical Skills: Cloud computing platforms

  • ➤ Amazon AWS
  • ➤ Microsoft Azure 
  • ➤ G-cloud App engine
  • ➤ Hadoop
  • ➤ SalesForce

Do you know? The Cloud computing market hits $120 billion in 2021.

Cloud computing platforms provide a virtual computer with resources installed for your work. 

This reduces costs to companies as physical computers can be avoided. 

Companies are shifting to cloud services like Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure and asking employees to learn this stuff.

Trending platforms:

  • ➤ Amazon AWS
  • ➤ Microsoft Azure

7.  Technical Skills: Development Methodologies

  • ➤ Agile - 61.5%
  • ➤ Scrum - 23.1 %
  • ➤ Waterfall - 9.6 %
  • ➤ Others - 5.8%

Methodologies define the Timeline of development and delivery of a software or application.

No doubt! As of now, Agile methodology is most preferred globally.

It is good to have an idea, at least theoretically, as a beginner because you will be exploring this once you land your job.

Tip:

I recommend not to take any course to learn methodologies. However, referring to free resources should be fine for a beginner at this point.


Step 3: Pick a Soft Skillset

  • ➤ Problem-solving skills
  • ➤ Logical Thinking
  • ➤ Communication
  • ➤ Collaboration

Important: Do not take soft skills as a minor thing. Because as per good firm stats, the impact of less understanding & adapting to requirements is seen to be huge.

Challenges faced by software developers
source: Goodfirms.co

 

For a few people, these skills come naturally, but for most, this is a learnable skill.

1. Problem-solving skills:

This skill is the ability to understand and write an efficient solution for a problem. 

Tips to improve this skill:

  • ➤ Think and make a note of real-world problems.
  • ➤ Start thinking "What if" and collect ideas to form a solution
  • ➤ Do the research and convert ideas to conclusions


2. Communication

I found the below sentence at one of my favourite writer's desks.

“Let’s eat Grandpa.” 

“Let’s eat, Grandpa.” - “Commas save lives.”

Got the joke? Haha! Same way, your understanding may make or break the client’s end product.

Always learn to say "No" until you understand the project specifications.

Tips to be good at communication:

  • ➤ Be a good listener (listen to podcasts, interviews & grab the context)
  • ➤ Use short sentences to explain things
  • ➤ Read requirements of various projects and understand
  •  Subscribe to a coding blog that makes you feel good and read content

Pro tip:

If you’re a non-native English speaker like me, write something every day. It can be a blog, LinkedIn story..anything.

You’ll see a drastic improvement.

3. Logical Thinking

Again, this is a critical trait that power problem-solving skills. 

Tips to improve:

  • ➤ Perform code translation (Eg. Python code to Java code)
  • ➤ Try to optimize the number of lines in the code. (Use ternary operator, reuse variables etc.)
  • ➤ Work on data structures, multithreading, file manipulation etc.


4. Collaboration or Teamwork

Tom Limoncelli, a big man in the DevOps community, stated “Software is a team effort; nobody can do it all.”

As we discussed earlier, Software is a pipeline of systems. This needs collaboration with respective system experts.

Tips to be collaborative:

  • ➤ Involve in public communities like stack overflow, dev etc
  • ➤ Express and accept ideas from others

Nevertheless, chilling with a group of friends can teach this better! Agree?

Step 4: Start Your Learning

Learning can honour or humiliate your career in the long term.

In any quality online course, the topics are well ordered and beginner-friendly.

Resist the urge to skip lessons. Understand and do hands-on consistently.

One time Knowledge + Consistent Practice = successful learning

Tips for great learning:

  • ➤ Improve hard skills by practice
  • ➤ Improve soft skills by answering questions in communities
  • ➤ Be strict with your schedules
  • ➤ Try to understand things over remembering things
  • ➤ Never think, “I know everything.”
  • ➤ Never do practice in your mind. Do on-screen.

Step 5: Do Your First Project

Most of the courses cover projects too. However, I advise you to do a unique project.

The project not only builds your portfolio but also leads you to explore narrow sides of your learnings.

How to Do Your First Project?

Identifying the public pain points and building a solution is the finest way to start with.

This need not be super fancy, but at least as a feature enhancement of any existing application.

For example, consider the government voting system.  Fraud or duplicate voting is a pain point. Think what if you can implement fingerprint-based voting?

Like so, Inject your idea into available solutions and build a system.

Add value to yourself.

Tips for building robust project:

  • ➤ No one can build everything on their own. It is okay to depend on stack overflow or other sources. We are not performing; we are preparing.
  • ➤ Start with a plan. Figure out what classes, libraries, frameworks you are going to use at the beginning itself 
  • ➤ “If you don’t know WHAT, you can’t decide the HOW”.
Additional suggestion:

According to a recent survey by Good firm, Software companies receive 83% of enterprise applications projects.

So, incline your first project thoughts to the enterprise level!

Step 7: Build Your Online Portfolio

  • ➤ Resume
  • ➤ Website
  • ➤ Forum accounts
A strong online presence assures the interviewer that you're not a last-minute bird.

1. Resume

A resume is the only document that briefs the interviewer about you.

On average, the interviewer sees the resume for 7 seconds.

So, keep it crisp and to the point.

Highlights to be present:

  • ➤ Programming languages, frameworks, tech knowledge
  • ➤ Projects (Outcomes, benefits, challenges, your solutions)
  • ➤ Soft skills

2. Website

Do you know? I've invested just $5 to keep this blog up and running.

Get a decent one-page website and showcase your case studies, projects, certifications etc.

This not only backs your chance of getting hired but also keeps you motivated in the software development career.

Points to consider:
  • ➤ Highlight the project on the home page
  • ➤ Mention a contact page (You don't know from where the opportunity hits)
  • ➤ Write tech articles if you are interested (occasionally)

3. Forum Accounts

And you know this, none will consider our Instagram followers or Twitter tweets!

Active solutions in development forums are living testimonies of your knowledge.

Forums may bring you to surprise opportunities from strangers that you'll never imagine!

A few credible communities are Stack overflow, Freecodecamp, Codechef etc.

Tip:
  • ➤ Building an online portfolio takes little time and effort. When you see coding as a habit instead of a task, interest drives you into the crowd. Hence, your companionship will be created.

Step 6: Get Certified

Now, you know your expertise at the bottom of your heart.

But to make companies realize your talent, Certifications are necessary.

A College degree is great, but that will not make you stand out from fraud applications that HRs receive every day.

In order to avoid your profile slipping through such loopholes, get certified in whatever you learn.

➤ Join boot camps and internships organised by reputed companies

I mentioned the term "reputed" because certifications by reputed companies are more credible

Tip:

Step 8: Prepare to Crack A Job

This phase is both exciting and depressing at times.

Solve the maximum number of aptitude questions. Answer coding questions in forums and get knowledge.

Most of the companies covers:

  • ➤ Aptitude and reasoning
  • ➤ Math problems
  • ➤ Pseudo coding
  • ➤ E2E program

Educative and Leetcode are some of the finest resources to train yourself with advanced coding techniques.

Educative is used by learners who want to get placed in top-tier companies. They provide quick notes and interactive course content that brush up the skills what you've learnt by now. AlgoExpert can be considered as well.

It’s completely fine if you’re unable to solve even one out of ten. But spend time with the solutions. Look at the problem and debug the existing solution.

This way you will accept your lack of logical thinking and register the way to attain it right.

In the process, you’ll be able to solve and clear most of the coding tests.

Additional tips:

  • ➤ Take mock tests
  • ➤ Write algorithms on paper
  • ➤ Read and understand codes from codegrepper
  • ➤ Go through the top 100 interview questions in all the topics

Reluctancy is a common problem for most aspirers. Set a daily target

The ideal target is :

  • ➤ Two topics per week
  • ➤ 15 questions per day
  • ➤ one moderate coding every per day 

Step 9: Apply for a Job

NOTE: Start doing this step when you are with Step 8 itself!

If you follow everything right till now, getting a job is a piece of cake.

Because companies are looking for talent.

As a beginner, don’t set your focus on only Pay. Look for a company that's relevant to your learning.

  • ➤ Upload your resume to Job portals 
  • ➤ Post in LinkedIn
  • ➤ Ask your circle to recommend in companies.

Note: No secret job search, because you’re not a zero-knowledge person anymore. Be confident and make some noise.

Tips:

  • ➤ Be patient and stay motivated
  • ➤ Not all gonna recognize your effort immediately
  • ➤ Don’t look for other career options at this point in time

Last but not least,

I promised to present three mistakes every beginner software developer do!

Three Mistakes That Spoils a Developer's Career

1. Injecting Own Ideas apart from requirements

Beginner developers are eager to write a brain-bending logic and make the code feature-rich.

In the process, they miss the reference with requirements.

What if this happens? lemme handle it with an else statement. Shit! one more hole here -"lemme handle with a dynamic function".

- Dude!!! stop. They were not in the requirements.

2. Writing Code Without any Outline

Destiny doesn't work in programming.

See the future when you write code. The world is changing. Today's code may not fit for tomorrow.

Always, Outline and keep few doors open in the code. There are many technologies under construction. Sooner or later, you will have to integrate and upgrade your code.

3. Not Following Coding Standards

Someone said, “Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand.”

You don't know how long your code in the project lives on.

If you can make someone understand your code in your absence, then.."You did a great job!"

Use comments, naming conventions and other standard practices.

Conclusion:

Well, I tried to cover as much as a beginner needs to get started with his software development career. 

I wish you success.

If you have any doubts, contact me! I'm happy to collaborate with you, my reader!

FAQ:

How long does it take to learn software development skills?

A. If you are a beginner, it can take somewhere from six months to one year

Can you provide Outlook of Software Developer role?

A. It depends on the project. However, the primary duty of a software developer is to write and maintain functional code.

Is a computer science degree mandatory to become a software developer?

A. Not necessarily. There are many non-CS graduates working as developers today.


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