Software Developer essential skills

September 27, 20160

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For the last 7 years I’ve conducted over 250 interviews for various technical positions at ISD, evaluating experience and competence. I performed over 100 assessment meetings for the team members, analyzing the performance and abilities improvements over time. This led me to building a portrait of an ideal software developer. I picked 4 most important skills and drilled them down into sub-skills based on demands ISD has.

  • Efficient communication

    • Communication is by far the most important skills. Dealing well with people helps developers avoid misunderstandings, express the thoughts they actually want to express and it also creates a better connection with others.
    • Team player: Software development is most of the times a teamwork activity. Sports teams are perfect examples: one can not reach success when performing individually. Coping well and exchange information with your peers is a key factor in achieving development goals.
    • Assertive: Being assertive means being able to stand up for your own or other people’s rights in a calm and positive way, without being either aggressive, or passively accepting ‘wrong’. Assertive individuals will reach their goals without upsetting others.
    • English skills: English is the language of technology nowadays and there is no short-term premise for this to change. All the most recent information in the IT world expressed in books, articles, talks are in English. It is also widely used for most of the projects and international team communication.
    • Customer oriented: writing code is meant for solving someone’s problem. Achieving the goals of the customer should be always kept in mind when coding. Putting yourself in customer’s shoes leads to better software and a satisfied customer, and therefore increases the value of your contribution.
  • Teach yourself

    • This is the ability to learn new technologies and concepts. If you truly want to gain skill that will drive you through your software career, you should learn how to teach yourself.
    • Read articles, books: What has been useful and popular 10 years ago, nowadays is obsolete. A developer is forced to keep up with the developing technologies, being connected to the sources of information,reading books, articles, following courses, trainings, conferences is vital.
    • Quickly find information: There is no time to spend months on learning a new tool or development environment when there are tight deadlines. We often face situations when there is limited time to make decisions on domains that we don’t have a full picture yet. Ability to parse large amount of information and extract the necessary idea brings good value to the coder.
    • Flexible: This skill is especially important, because there is probably no other field that changes more rapidly than software development. Adapt fast to changing environments, embracing the change is of real value in diverse tasks a developer faces.
    • Critical thinking: You are often faced with a couple of possible implementation methods to achieve the same result. Critical thinking will allow you to quickly analyze each method mentally, before deciding on the most efficient one.
  • Proactive

    • Working for many years with Dutch people had a huge impact on the way developers at ISD act today. Being proactive is not just a ‘nice to have’ skill, it is a requirement for being part of the team. Having an opinion sharpens your contribution. If one joins a meeting and has nothing to say then why did he join?
    • Speak Up: Often people say nothing, sitting back when something really needs to be said. It could be , an observation, an idea, a criticism, a suggestion. Communication is not mastered by just knowing what to say, a crucial factor is knowing when to say it.
    • Problem solving Software development is mainly about solving problems. It really doesn’t matter what programming technology you use, you won’t be very good at developing software, if you don’t have a problem solving mentality.
    • Attention to detail: IDEs and compilers have become more tolerant to errors than ever. Suggesting and correcting mistakes works pretty well in most of the cases, still in programming, the details matter. You can’t be vague; you can’t write 80% of your program and then say “you know what I mean?”’ and have the compiler figure out the rest. You have to make sure you covered all the possible scenarios.
    • Fun: Software development is considered one of the most brain-intense jobs. There are enormous amount of data to understand and tons of decisions to make daily. One can stay efficient only when this process brings joy. The most successful software developers have fun while coding.
  • Technical skills

    • Despite the variety of programming languages and technologies we’ve learned, there is a set of hard skills that are common for every coder.
    • Naming: The creativity of a programmer in writing code translates into ability to name classes, methods, variables, etc. Similar to a book or an article, the author can elaborate thoughts in a “difficult to understand” language or the same idea could be formulated in an easy way. Misleading naming of a class could end in hours of investigation when reading someone else’s code. Any developer, even the one that you meet on the street, should be able to understand your code.
    • Tracking tasks: Tracking tasks for a project is an essential requirement that developers encounter on a daily basis. Every programmer should embrace the habit of tracking the issues he/she is working on, even for small personal projects. This helps better organize the job and also gives visibility to others on your progress.
    • Version control: It’s difficult to imagine writing code without using a version control system. Programmers must master the tools like SVN or GIT.

You have probably noticed most of the skills I’ve mentioned are not related to any particular tool or technology. Having a grasp over a programming language is essential, this is also an important aspect to consider during interviews. Still, my believe is, when mastering the skills above there is no technical challenge that can stop you.

For the last 7 years I’ve conducted over 250 interviews for various technical positions at ISD, evaluating experience and competence. I performed over 100 assessment meetings for the team members, analyzing the performance and abilities improvements over time. This led me to building a portrait of an ideal software developer. I picked 4 most important skills and drilled them down into sub-skills based on demands ISD has.



  • Efficient communication
    • Communication is by far the most important skills. Dealing well with people helps developers avoid misunderstandings, express the thoughts they actually want to express and it also creates a better connection with others.
    • Team player: Software development is most of the times a teamwork activity. Sports teams are perfect examples: one can not reach success when performing individually. Coping well and exchange information with your peers is a key factor in achieving development goals.
    • Assertive: Being assertive means being able to stand up for your own or other people’s rights in a calm and positive way, without being either aggressive, or passively accepting ‘wrong’. Assertive individuals will reach their goals without upsetting others.
    • English skills: English is the language of technology nowadays and there is no short-term premise for this to change. All the most recent information in the IT world expressed in books, articles, talks are in English. It is also widely used for most of the projects and international team communication.
    • Customer oriented: writing code is meant for solving someone’s problem. Achieving the goals of the customer should be always kept in mind when coding. Putting yourself in customer’s shoes leads to better software and a satisfied customer, and therefore increases the value of your contribution.


  • Teach yourself
    • This is the ability to learn new technologies and concepts. If you truly want to gain skill that will drive you through your software career, you should learn how to teach yourself.
    • Read articles, books: What has been useful and popular 10 years ago, nowadays is obsolete. A developer is forced to keep up with the developing technologies, being connected to the sources of information,reading books, articles, following courses, trainings, conferences is vital.
    • Quickly find information: There is no time to spend months on learning a new tool or development environment when there are tight deadlines. We often face situations when there is limited time to make decisions on domains that we don’t have a full picture yet. Ability to parse large amount of information and extract the necessary idea brings good value to the coder.
    • Flexible: This skill is especially important, because there is probably no other field that changes more rapidly than software development. Adapt fast to changing environments, embracing the change is of real value in diverse tasks a developer faces.
    • Critical thinking: You are often faced with a couple of possible implementation methods to achieve the same result. Critical thinking will allow you to quickly analyze each method mentally, before deciding on the most efficient one.


  • Proactive
    • Working for many years with Dutch people had a huge impact on the way developers at ISD act today. Being proactive is not just a ‘nice to have’ skill, it is a requirement for being part of the team. Having an opinion sharpens your contribution. If one joins a meeting and has nothing to say then why did he join?
    • Speak Up: Often people say nothing, sitting back when something really needs to be said. It could be , an observation, an idea, a criticism, a suggestion. Communication is not mastered by just knowing what to say, a crucial factor is knowing when to say it.
    • Problem solving Software development is mainly about solving problems. It really doesn’t matter what programming technology you use, you won’t be very good at developing software, if you don’t have a problem solving mentality.
    • Attention to detail: IDEs and compilers have become more tolerant to errors than ever. Suggesting and correcting mistakes works pretty well in most of the cases, still in programming, the details matter. You can’t be vague; you can’t write 80% of your program and then say “you know what I mean?”’ and have the compiler figure out the rest. You have to make sure you covered all the possible scenarios.
    • Fun: Software development is considered one of the most brain-intense jobs. There are enormous amount of data to understand and tons of decisions to make daily. One can stay efficient only when this process brings joy. The most successful software developers have fun while coding.


  • Technical skills
    • Despite the variety of programming languages and technologies we’ve learned, there is a set of hard skills that are common for every coder.
    • Naming: The creativity of a programmer in writing code translates into ability to name classes, methods, variables, etc. Similar to a book or an article, the author can elaborate thoughts in a “difficult to understand” language or the same idea could be formulated in an easy way. Misleading naming of a class could end in hours of investigation when reading someone else’s code. Any developer, even the one that you meet on the street, should be able to understand your code.
    • Tracking tasks: Tracking tasks for a project is an essential requirement that developers encounter on a daily basis. Every programmer should embrace the habit of tracking the issues he/she is working on, even for small personal projects. This helps better organize the job and also gives visibility to others on your progress.
    • Version control: It’s difficult to imagine writing code without using a version control system. Programmers must master the tools like SVN or GIT.



You have probably noticed most of the skills I’ve mentioned are not related to any particular tool or technology. Having a grasp over a programming language is essential, this is also an important aspect to consider during interviews. Still, my believe is, when mastering the skills above there is no technical challenge that can stop you.

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