What does a Software Engineer do?

Software Engineers combine technology and creative problem-solving skills to design and build a wide range of applications from games to word processors that serve our personal needs as well as those of business and industry. As society becomes even more dependent on computers, the demand for skilled programmers continues to grow with no sign of slowing down. 

Software Engineers design new programs and improve existing ones by analysing user requirements; studying functions and processes to help ensure software meets user needs, specifying, designing and testing the program.

Software Engineer job responsibilities include: 

  • Collaborate with other engineers and programmers to determine requirements and design components, using techniques such as whiteboarding and sketching 
  • Design and develop software applications to meet the needs of a diverse user community
  • Investigate computer system or component malfunctions to diagnose problems
  • Inspect program logic for errors in programming
  • Testing and debugging
  • Provide ongoing support to other engineers, programmers, quality assurance personnel or users
  • Designing specifications for computer software or hardware
  • Planning the operational details for specific computer systems
  • Developing technical illustrations of engineering designs
  • Assisting in determining project feasibility 
Software Engineers typically specialise in a specific area such as system software, programming tools, web development, database design or data management.

Software Engineers work for various organisations, including:

  • Computer systems design and related services firms
  • Software publishers
  • Finance, insurance and real estate companies
  • Management consulting firms
  • Healthcare providers
  • Schools and universities
  • State, local and federal government

What does it take to be a Software Engineer?

To be considered for a position as a Software Engineer, you must have strong programming skills. Beyond the obvious – being fluent in one or more of C++, Java, Python, Javascript, PHP or similar languages, for example – it is important to demonstrate that you can design and build something. Details about what kind of programming projects will be available to you will vary by employer. Still, they could include creating a game or developing software for an E-commerce site (for instance, building the shopping cart function or website back end). 

Software Engineers also need the ability to anticipate the ways people might use a system and consider that in their designs. They should be able to work with other engineers, QA technicians and users who will provide information about how the system works (or doesn't) in real-world situations. 

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What technology does a Software Engineer use?

Software Engineers use a wide variety of tools depending on the nature of the projects they are working on. Common tools used include: 

  • Operating systems like Windows, OS X and Linux for developing hardware and software applications
  • Programming languages like C++, Visual Basic, Java, Python or others depending on the needs of the project
  • HTML; SQL; Javascript; CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) for creating webpages
  • Integrated development environments (IDEs)
  • Version control systems like Git, Mercurial and Subversion for tracking changes in project files and folders
  • Source code management (SCM) repositories like Github and Bitbucket that help you manage your source code
  • Data mining tools to assist with complex data analysis projects 
Software Engineers frequently use cloud computing resources such as application programming interfaces (APIs) to integrate data from multiple sources, add third-party elements to their programs or features they need or develop new components using existing web services. 

What's in a Software Engineer's job description?

A Software Engineer job descriptions will vary greatly depending on the organisation creating it and what projects they are working on. 

The duties and responsibilities included in a typical Software Engineer job descriptions include: 

  • Designing software applications and programs according to user specifications
  • Writing code that directly impacts how users interact with their devices or digital media
  • Using programming languages specific to a particular platform (e.g., Objective-C for Apple iOS) 
  • Maintaining and troubleshooting existing software applications
  • Creating technical documentation to guide the development of other Software Engineers or provide information for computer system users
  • Supporting existing software applications through bug fixes and patches
  • Providing suggestions for improving application features based on user feedback

The hard and soft skills required by Software Engineer job descriptions include: 

  • Strong knowledge of programming languages + design and development tools
  • Understanding of the software development lifecycle (SDLC)
  • Familiarity with operating systems and other tools used for developing software applications
  • An awareness of the latest coding techniques and recent technological developments relevant to the project being worked on
  • Collaborative team working skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Methodical approach to problem-solving
  • Self-motivation and the ability to complete tasks without constant supervision
  • Strong interpersonal skills for communicating with fellow employees and clients

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