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Software Engineering Learning Path

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By: Olivia

August 2, 2017

While Cybrary focuses primarily on cyber security education, we recognize that cyber extends into every aspect of technology, including the growing area of software engineering. Many Cybrarians are especially interested in this area of study, which is not surprising, considering the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts “employment of software developers alone is expected to grow 22% between 2012 and 2022.”So what exactly does a software engineer do and how does one get started down that career path? Those are the questions I’m looking to answer and provide some of the resource Cybrary offers to help make your journey from beginner to programmer easier to navigate.

Software Engineering Overview

The BLS defines a software engineer as “the creative minds behind computer programs. Some develop the applications that allow people to do specific tasks on a computer or another device. Others develop the underlying systems that run the devices or that control networks.” Essentially, a software engineer designs, develops, and modifies software systems using mathematical models or scientific analysis.Typically, the majority of a software engineer’s time is spent writing code, as this is how the actual creation of software programs happens. This process starts with an analysis of the needs of the user/client, and moves into testing and developing software that will solve that problem. In the analysis phase, developers may map out the design, create charts, and write out various processes. Documentation is a critical element for future upgrades, testing, and collaborating with others.“Software engineers tend to specialize in a few areas of development, such as networks, operating systems, databases or applications, and each area requires fluency in its own set of computer languages and development environments. A small percentage of software engineers work alone, but most collaborate with other specialists in development groups all working together to create complex projects.”Because this is such a collaborative role, there are many core skills a software engineer needs including problem-solving, communication skills, and strong analytical thinking.A software engineer processes information by categorizing, coding, calculating and tabulating as well as verifying data. They do this by breaking down information into separate parts and identifying the underlying principles to best serve the customer.Additionally, software engineers identify and correct existing errors in the software and modify it to a higher functionality. They can help a company or customer in determining the practicality of cost constraints and a realistic timeframe for their development requests.It’s important to keep in mind there are various types of developers, and the spectrum ranges from front-end, back-end, and mobile to full stack. The work environment can vary based on the type of product you’re creating and of course, the organization.Despite the variation in software engineers, the average salary for this position in the US is $85,000.

A Software Engineer’s Perspective

On a typical day, I am either designing and writing new software or fixing problems (or 'bugs') in software used by customers. I am a member of a team that’s located elsewhere in the U.S., so I may be talking to one of my teammates by phone or attending a meeting that takes place via conference call. My company is multinational and I work with employees and customers all over the world. I receive 50-100 email messages a day so I spend part of my day responding to email requests and questions.One of the most frustrating aspects of my job is realizing that some code I wrote has a bug in it that has been found by a customer. In this case, I have to quickly find a better solution. Another frustration is encountering a problem that I can’t solve. In this case, I have to ask a teammate for assistance. Most software engineers like to find their own solutions and don’t like having to ask for help.Most people would view my job as stressful because there is little room for error, but I’ve been doing it a long time and have learned to deal with the stress. The field of software engineering is demanding and many people put in long hours, but after a few years I learned to limit the number of overtime hours per week that I work. This has helped me avoid total burnout and work-related problems in my personal life. I have become more efficient at my job (“working smarter”), so I don’t need to put in as many hours as I once did.I would rate my job satisfaction as 8. A more exciting work environment and more opportunities to travel would increase my rating. On the other hand, I am paid well and have flexible hours, so those are big pluses.My most rewarding moment in my current position was playing a major role in reinventing our product for the Microsoft Windows platform, which opened the door to more sales.
  • Julia P., Senior Software Engineer

How to Become a Software Engineer

While obtaining a degree is not an absolute requirement for becoming a software engineer, it can be a main hiring criteria, depending on the organization. For individuals without a degree, focusing on learning and improving your skills. Consider pursuing a relevant certification.Those interested in obtaining a degree that will allow them to become a software engineer should consider computer science or a related field.“Students need to develop a comprehensive understanding of programming, software architecture, and software testing. They may also take specialized courses in application areas, such as networking or embedded systems.”Whatever ‘formal’ education course you take, begin learning to program as soon as possible. Most likely, you will need to learn a couple languages and will be expected to understand how each functions.Programming languages typically requested of a software engineer include:
  • Java
  • Python
  • Java Script
  • C#
  • C++
  • Ruby
Continuous learning is a critical part of this position, as it is any. Software engineers in addition to formal education and coding will want to familiarize themselves with the mathematical algorithms that allow software to function. Work hands-on with various software and try out different designs and functionality. Always remember to consider your career goals with any skill you decide to learn.

Software Engineering Resources on Cybrary

There are a growing number of resources that are available for those looking to jumpstart or further their career as a software engineer. Take your skills to the next level, there's nothing stopping you!
  1. ISC2 Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP) Course
  2. Software Development Fundamentals Virtual Lab
  3. HTML5 Application Development Fundamentals Virtual Lab
  4. Java SE Programmer I Practice Test
  5. Java SE Programmer II Practice Test
Olivia Lynch (@Cybrary_Olivia) is the Marketing Manager at Cybrary. Like many of you, she is just getting her toes wet in the field of cyber security. A firm believer that the pen is mightier than the sword, Olivia considers corny puns and an honest voice essential to any worthwhile blog.
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