Career Roadmap for Software Engineers
With a huge demand for software engineers in today’s Irish job market, software engineering is one of the most sought-after skills you can have. Many engineers believe that coding is the universal language of the 21st century.
The great thing about a job in software engineering is that there are lots of career path options, so you don’t need to follow a linear route, the same cannot be said for other professions. Another appealing aspect is the career progression opportunities, as there are loads of avenues for growth. Career progression within software engineering can be fast-moving so you can take on more responsibility and reap the financial rewards. It’s not uncommon for a junior engineer to be promoted to senior within 5 years.
So, what exactly is Software Engineering?
Software engineering is the process of analysing user requirements and then designing, building, and testing a software application which will meet those requirements. They will add value to companies through their understanding of the fundamental principles of the software engineering process.
Software developers are focused on designing and shipping code, they execute without needing to see the “big picture”. Software engineers apply fundamental principles of engineering to software development and their focus aligns more with software architecture and always seeing the “big picture”.
Areas within Software Engineering
The focus here is on creating mobile applications for phones, tablets and other devices. Here engineers are expected to write responsive code and usually specialise in Android or iOS operating systems.
A front-end engineer's task is to own the user-facing elements of web application software. Their role will include creating, building and testing visual and user interface parts of websites and apps.
Engineers in this space are tasked with building the structure of software applications. They will write APIs and server scripts to be used by other dev team members.
The focus of a DevOps engineer is to manage tools, processes and practices through the software engineering cycle, coding to deployment and beyond. Operations and dev teams work in different ways, so a DevOps engineer is tasked with bringing processes together to produce brilliant, stable software.
A data engineer is tasked with finding trends in data sets and processing this data. They will work very closely with databases so SQL skills are a must. They focus on coming up with data insights to influence business decisions.
These are software engineers who focus on creating video games. They usually work in large engineering teams alongside designers. They are tasked with ensuring the visual and functional elements work as designed, across multiple devices.
Education, Training and Certifications
In today’s tech space there are a variety of educational options for software engineers. It’s important to keep up to date with the latest development versions, frameworks, and cloud offerings.
Check out courses on Udemy and Code Institute to continue learning modern tools and technologies. Many companies will have educational budgets for their engineering staff, helping with the high cost of some certifications. Popular certifications in today’s Irish tech market are cloud certs in AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.
Software engineers could also complete a master’s degree in Computer Science or a Management or Leadership degree, if they aspire to lead a team.
Software engineers aren’t standing still, with many constantly upskilling, here are the top 5 trending skills:
There is 63% growth in the number of people who upskilled in Kubernetes in the last year
60% more engineers are learning Microservices, a contemporary architecture style.
Front-End development skills in Typescript increased by 43%
There is a 38% increase in the number of people learning Azure and a 37% increase in the number of people upskilling in AWS. This shows the increasing popularity of cloud being used within software engineering.
For more info, check out this blog - Why Now Is The Best Time For You To Upskill?
Software Engineering Career Paths
Team Lead/Engineering Manager/CTO
This career path is more towards people management and technical leadership. A team lead will manage one team, an engineering manager will manage multiple teams and a CTO will lead the technical direction of the whole company. On this path you will move further away from hands-on software engineering.
This is a software engineer who focuses on becoming an expert in their skillset and someone who remains very hands on, regardless of experience. An individual contributor isn’t focused on leadership or people management, they are more focused on producing high quality code and following software engineering best practices.
Once a software engineer has experience under their belt, some decide to look for contracting/consulting work. These engineers will be very hands-on in the projects they work and usually work in 6-month stints. Contractors get the opportunity to work on a range of different projects and the financial reward of being paid 20-30% more than a perm software engineer.
Many Software Engineers love coding and do it as a hobby in their spare time. Some work on multiple personal projects to learn new skills or bring creative ideas to life. A small number of engineers will create their own start-up tech company to develop their own unique applications and try to take the tech market by storm.
Some technically gifted engineers may transition into technical architecture and design. They will focus on looking at the “bigger picture”, designing a technical plan for the engineers to follow. Some consider architecture as the pinnacle of a software engineer’s career.
Levels of Software Engineering
Junior Engineer/Intern (0-3 years)
Fresh out of university, with a computer science graduate you will begin their software engineering career. Junior engineers will work on putting theoretical knowledge into practice. They will develop their programming skills, learn from more senior engineers, and begin learning best practices in development and testing.
Software Engineer – Senior Software Engineer (3-10 years)
A more established software engineer will take on more responsibilities such as mentorship, customer relations and delivery timelines. At this stage, software engineers will have decided on their specialist area and will now be deciding if they would like to stay as an individual contributors or move into people management or perhaps architecture.
Principal Engineer/ Architect/CTO (10+ years)
These engineering staff are key to the success of a tech company. Principal engineers will remain as individual contributors and will play a huge role in project delivery, being able to solve difficult technical problems. Architects will map out plans on how to achieve business results and how they can best utilise technology, tools and resources. A CTO will drive the technical leadership of the business, their aim is to ensure engineering delivers to help the business grow while establishing a strong team culture.
Type of roles in high demand right now
At GemPool, we spend all day every day talking to candidates and also clients about their software engineering needs. From our unique perspective, I wanted to share what types of software engineering roles we feel are most in demand right now.
Senior Java Engineers: This is a senior level backend engineer who will have experience using java and related technologies. These days, most companies want to see this java backend knowledge coupled with some cloud expertise too. The level being senior is very popular as companies seek to build new products, features and capabilities for their applications. ~
It's no surprise that Senior Java Engineers are also the most populous senior-level software engineers that you will find on the market in Ireland. Companies like this stack as it's open-source and versatile, so therefore more candidates have acquired these skills to address this demand.
Senior React Developers: Again the senior level frontend developers with expertise using the react framework is a highly sought after profile. We see this for both permanent full-time positions, as well as contract positions. Interestingly, from a candidate's perspective, you will find more Senior React Developers who are contracting than that who would be willing to do a permanent role right now.
In both contract and permanent, the salaries for this skill set has grown quite a lot in the last 12 to 18 months. We would estimate they have increased by around 15%.
DevOps Engineers: We are seeing a high demand for mid level DevOps Engineers right now. We also see a lot of demand for senior level also. Many companies are growing their DevOps capabilities as they build scalable applications with short and fast release cycles. This was an emerging skill set a few years ago but is now widespread and growing. Again the salaries for these types of roles are also growing very quickly.
For more info on career progression, check out this blog - How to move up the ladder as a Software Developer
Software engineering can be broken up into many different areas of specialism, levels of responsibility and career paths. The decision is left with the engineer on which route they would like to follow and the level they aspire to aim for. Many engineers in the Irish tech market will try different avenues until they find their niche area and suitable level.
For example, an engineer may focus on front-end development then transition to back-end and then full stack. They might explore contracting as an individual contributor before returning to permanent employment to explore people management as a team lead or engineering manager. If you would like some more information, you can reach us through our contact page and you can read more of our career insights page.
With software engineering, there is no perfect path but more an opportunity to try new things, make mistakes and figure out the right career path for you. By keeping up to date with modern technologies and having a growth mindset, the world is your oyster.