Advice, Software Engineer

Debunking Ten Common Myths About a Career in Software Development

Myths, inaccurate assumptions, urban legends, whatever you call them, there are many out there about a career in software development. If you’re a developer, some of these myths hold you back, some set you up for disappointment and some are just plain wrong that you can’t help but laugh. Regardless of the different reactions you may have about them, these myths need busting and therefore, that’s what I will be doing with this article today.

Myth 1: Once you’ve got your foot in the door, you’re all set.

I don’t disagree with the fact that the first job as a software developer is usually not the easiest one to get but it doesn’t mean that once you’ve got your foot in the door, it will be easy to stay in the industry and you can cruise along. The technology landscape is constantly changing and you need to be learning and updating your skills as often as possible to stay current in this industry. If you think you can sit back and relax after you’ve secured your first job, then you’re in for a disappointment.

Myth 2: You will learn everything you need to know at your job.

Like I mentioned earlier, the technology landscape is constantly changing and dare I say it, disrupting traditional ways of thinking. With that, many new technologies and methodologies have been introduced to keep up with this change. Does it mean technologies that your company is using will also be constantly changing and advancing? Yes and No. The truth is that not all companies have the capacity or appetite to stay at the forefront of the technology evolution. What this means is that you need to be responsible for your own learning, upskilling and staying competitive in your career.

Myth 3: Your technical skills will make or break your career.

Sound technical skills are absolutely essential for your software development career, but they are not the only skills required. Being able to communicate effectively, being able to collaborate well with others, sometimes, from across disciplines and being able to solve problems creatively are some of the equally important, if not more, skills that you need to succeed in your career. Just like you need to hone your technical skills, you need continuous nurturing of your leadership, communication, and other soft skills too.

Myth 4: You need to have a degree in Computer Science or similar to be a good developer.

Having the knowledge and understanding of fundamental computing concepts is important but the good news is, you can acquire this knowledge not just by majoring in Computer Science (CS) at a University. Some of the world’s top universities like Harvard and MIT are offering their basic CS courses for free which make learning accessible for anyone with a computer and an Internet access. And of course, a bit of self determination.

Myth 5: The more senior you are, the easier it will be for you to pick up a new technology or framework.

Gone are the days when the longer you have been in the industry, the less learning you need to do as you will already know the ropes. Technology is constantly improving and everyone who works with technology, therefore, needs to be learning and updating their skill set. What this means is that, sometimes, it is not as easy for someone senior in the software development industry to pick up and learn a new technology or framework than a newbie because they have to unlearn what they had already learned previously. Unless what they will be learning is similar to something they already knew, the process of learning a new technology will not be a quicker and easier process just because someone has been in the industry for longer. It’s a bit like learning to drive a car with an automatic transmission after driving a manual car for decades.

Unlearning is harder than learning.

Myth 6: You will climb the career ladder by producing beautiful code.

Writing elegant, maintainable and scaleable code is part of the responsibility of a good software developer but they are only part of it. Climbing the corporate ladder not only requires technical excellence but also excellence in behavioural and business matters. Some highly regarded skills to get ahead in your career are communication, collaboration, coaching, influencing and problem-solving. Technical skills and non-technical skills are not mutually exclusive for your career success.

Myth 7: You won’t need to spend much time looking for a job because there is a shortage of software developers.

This is partly true but party not. Yes, there are a lot of open jobs out there for software development roles but if you want to secure a good one where you will get to solve interesting challenges with a great team in a collaborative environment, while being compensated fairly, at the level the makes you efficient but at the same time, stretch you to reach your full potential, then you will need to (and want to) take your time to find the right one for you. Selling yourself short or settling for a less than optimal job offer because you’re in a hurry to get a job quickly is not something you’d want to do for yourself and your career.

Myth 8: You will need to know about every new technology as it comes out.

I’ve heard from a few developers on how overwhelmed they feel about new technologies and changes that are happening in software development industry. For example, in the recent years, there is a new Javascript framework every few months. There are also new ways of doing things like containerisation, horizontal scaling, continuous deployment, bundling and so on. However, you need to know that you don’t have to learn or use a new technology as soon as it comes out. It is also completely ok if you don’t know the names of all the technologies or techniques that are out there. So don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself. If anything, it’s a balancing art – not to be distracted by shiny new stuff but also keeping our eyes open and be willing to learn and change as required.

Myth 9: You should change your employer every year to maximise your learning and earning.

I’ve been asked a few times on how often I think a developer should change jobs in order to keep growing and was expected to be giving a specific time frame like 18 months, 2 years, 5 years and so on. But the thing is, there is no hard or fast rule on when someone should look for a new employment. It depends on many factors; sometimes you may have been with your employer for less than 6 months but you realise the role isn’t for you. Should you just keep going for a few more months so you could reach that one year mark before you resign? Probably not. On the other hand, if you’ve been learning, growing, enjoying your work and earning a fair compensation, even if you’ve been with the same employer for more than 5 years, why would you want to leave?

Myth 10: You will make a six-figure salary in a few years.

I’m not sure why, but there seems to be some obsession around earning a six-figure in our society. Six-figure income means anything between $100,000 to $999,999. Is it possible for a software developer to make a six-figure income after 2–3 years in the industry? Certainly! But is it common? Maybe not as common as many developers would like.

So there you have it; ten common myths about a career in software development. If you are looking to become a developer or start a career in tech and software development, I hope these myths open your eyes.

Career Guide for Software Developers