Software & Web Development

What are this year's top developer skills?

This is a contributed piece from Sha Ma, senior director of software engineering at SendGrid


Any software company experiencing healthy growth will be on the lookout for top developer talent, and anyone who has hired someone for a developer team will understand the problem of ensuring you’re hiring for the right skills. The technology landscape is changing faster than ever before, and it’s very important to ensure you’re filling your open positions with people who have the right skills. Let’s take a closer look at the development landscape and see how it’s evolving in the current climate:


More developers working within start-ups mean more developers and recruiters in this area needing key skills for scalability. As a start-up grows, the core technology must move very quickly from core concepts and minimum viable product to the next level, with significant technological innovations required to keep pace with customer numbers. Today’s businesses are looking to hire developers who have experience both in scaling infrastructure and supporting a growing customer base with maximum uptime.

Core skills for developers today

For developers today it’s not enough to just come to the table with a strong technical knowledge, they also need to have a breadth of experience working across different projects. For example, as a front end developer it’s not enough to be able to write elegant code, businesses also need people in these positions to have product or UX experience. They need to be able to look at the product from a customer's perspective. In the future I see these kinds of “soft skills” being recognised as more and more important in hiring developers.

The developer community is one that’s also becoming more specialised. Developers looking to grow should identify an area they are passionate about and focus on developing additional skills in that area. If developers can demonstrate real expertise in a relevant field this will make them more likely to secure a second look at their application.

The hard tech to master

However, despite this growing appreciation of the importance of soft skills, developers still need the requisite hard skills and competencies in order to succeed. Mobile developers should ensure that they have good experience in native programming for iOS or Android using Swift, Objective-C and Java. Web front-end developers should have a solid background in HTML, JavaScript and CSS - there’s simply no excuse for having sub-par knowledge in these areas. Additionally, candidates for web front-end developers should have experience with responsive design, in order to be able to build a seamless UI experience for any website they’re working on.

For back-end development, having experience of data model or database experience relating to scalability is very important. I’m seeing growing demand for NoSQL solutions such as Cassandra, CouchDB or Riak in addition to more traditional data sources like MySQL. Middleware languages such as Java or Golang are also a key part of the developer’s skillset when building cross-platform services and APIs.

Recently there’s been a great proliferation of frameworks such as Backbone and Angular, but developers are (in my experience) finding it difficult to keep up with the constant arrival of new frameworks. Something that I think will happen soon is a consolidation of these front-end JavaScript frameworks into a single standardised platform.

Finally, in terms of cloud developer tools, we’re going to be seeing increased demand around scalability and fault tolerance. Amazon Web Services is a great example of this as they provide a robust infrastructure and are evenly geographically distributed. With AWS, organisations can navigate through different levels of traffic without incurring significant business costs. As many SaaS teams look to continually scale out their in-house engineering teams, it seems clear that in terms of the cloud, we’ll see an increased demand around developers who have experience in scalability and fault tolerance – something that can only grow in the near-term.

Growing a team of developers at a rapidly scaling company is of course an exciting and positive place to be for any company. However, this is not without challenges or risks: it’s key to remain focused on the skills that are required both at present and in the future, and what skills the current developer market is offering. With a solid understanding of the developer landscape, it will be far easier to find your dream candidate.


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