Most Important Skill in Software Development and How to Develop it

In a hurry? Here’s a TL;DR: Tech world is constantly evolving and there will always be another language you can learn, another library you can import, and another skill you can master. What it comes down to is how fast you keep up with the changes. So the skill you need to master is not a specific task or a programming language. It is the ability to adapt to change quickly and effectively. Still interested in reading more? Continue reading below or listen to the generated podcast…

In my thirty thousand years of programming experience… wait, let me rephrase that, In my thirty thousand paragraphs of reading stack overflow experience, there is just one skill that I have sought after, honed, developed, tried to master and perhaps still need to improve.

If you are in the tech field, feel free to skim through the article and leave your thoughts in the comments. If you are a newbie programmer, this article may be useful for you and help you guide in the direction you may want to proceed. Most probably, if you have done any kind of programming before, there is a good chance that you have made use of this incredibly useful skill, however, the goal of this article is to give beginner programmers a direction to proceed in and share my personal experience with those who have been in the same shoes an mine.

So what is the most important skill in software development? Let me tell you first what it is not. It is not how many programming languages you know. It is not how well versed you are with a particular programming language. It is also not how many libraries you can make use of. It is not writing documentation and tests alongside your code (even though this is very useful if you do this 😉) and it is not how much knowledge of data structures and algorithms you have (even though this might help you with tech interviews, this is hardly the measure of your actual programming abilities). In my opinion, the real skill you need to master is the ability to transition. The ability to adapt to change.

The way I like to think about is that the world is constantly evolving. From low-level languages to fast-paced environments to a whole new system of a decentralized internet. The pace that which information is being created in this world is unimaginable and humungous. There is a massive explosion of data and information which is almost growing exponentially. And all this information is not the one that is difficult to source. It is so easily accessible that it has become almost overwhelming to absorb and retain everything. Think about it, when was the last time you wanted to learn something? How much effort would you have put into finding the means to learn something in 2010 vs. 2022? It is just a matter of a few clicks before you are presented with exactly what you are looking for and exactly how to achieve it. How how do you plan to keep up with today? The answer is rather simple. The focus needs to be shifted from learning to learning how to learn. learning how to adapt to change quickly. To know what’s going on around you. 

When you start a new job or change professions, your past experience only plays a small role in how well you would perform at that job. The thing that you need to do most at that time is to adapt to the new company’s culture, their development stack, libraries and their coding practices. The faster you catch up with that information, the faster you can start contributing. At that time, the skill you need the most is adapting! 

Honestly, I’ve hardly seen people having difficulty adapting. Everyone does eventually. The important thing is how fast you do it and that’s what matters. That is what is the difference between you and an average employee.

Now how does one do that? I have compiled below 3 actionable items that you can integrate into your lifestyle to help you develop this skill.

1. Stay in the know

It is crucial to keep up with the current technology. This not only helps you to understand what’s going on around you but also makes you a better developer by giving you important information about non-technical aspects of programming. Spend 15 minutes every day on a technical magazine. I usually prefer the technology section of Bloomberg or The Economist. Both magazines have reliable information and credible sources. This will keep you in the loop of what’s going on around the world in the field of technology

2. “A developer is not a job, it is a personality.”

Knowing a programming language or algorithms does not make you a developer. What is more important is your ability to find solutions to a given problem efficiently and effectively. A really good book that I use to practice brain-teasing problems is “Mathematical Circles” by Dmitri Fomin. You don’t have to practice brain teasers though. use the next point to learn anything as fast as possible

3. Jumping in the Ocean

Once in a while, if you decide to add a new skill set to your portfolio or to practice your skill of quickly adapting to a new skill do one of these:

  1. Set a weekend aside Go online and look for a project; for example, if you want to learn iOS programming; you can choose a simple timer project. Then go online and scour through as many resources as possible, look at other people’s code, and do whatever it takes to just “make it work” by the end of the weekend. By the end of the weekend, I promise you will have more knowledge about the subject than if you had taken a course and spent a month learning that skill. Immersion and actually doing is the best way you can learn something
  2. Attend hackathons – hackathons are the best way to gain new skills and practice team collaboration, team building, fast-paced development and entrepreneurial skills. You can look through my article about hackathons here
  3. Be on the lookout! – Always keep your mind open to problems. There are so many problems around. Always be on the lookout for new problems and ways you can solve them. I have found this exercise to develop my critical thinking skills and also helps me to increase my focus

Hope this article was of some help in your programming journey. If there is anything more you would like to know more about or want me to write about, do leave your views in the comments or send me a direct email!

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