Whether it’s a soon-to-be STEM college graduate or an experienced developer looking for a change in scenery, the information age is upon us, and there is a large demand to fill these technical roles.
Last year, 38,175 computer science students graduated into a workforce where 604,689 jobs existed, according to Code.org. The Bureau of Labor predicts that there will be 1 million jobs in computing available by 2024. And even in 2016, these positions in computing and software engineering remain unfilled.
Initiatives to change these statistics increased this past year: from President Obama signing the STEM Education Act of 2015, to the annual Hour of Code, to Fullstack’s all-women coding school. The will to get more people into coding and programming seems unanimous.
(Related: How is the climate for hiring women in 2016?)
Experts in the industry and hiring managers highlight skills and experiences that can be emphasized to fill these jobs to become a hireable next-generation developer.
Learn the language(s)
According to a TIOBE Programming Community Index report for February 2016, some of the most popular languages include Java, Python, C++ and C#. Java even made it as the report’s programming language for 2015.
Point being, there are plenty of languages out there waiting for those lines of code. But what language will set one coder apart from another? Red Hat’s Chief People Officer, DeLisa Alexander, said that her company in particular is looking for strong fundamentals in coding and a variety of languages. She said that they look for new languages and old, and with the industry continuing to change, she suspects there will be plenty of languages emerging in the next year. Some languages Red Hat looks for on a resume are Python, Java, Ruby, C++ and Go.
Genefa Murphy, vice president of product and partner marketing for HPE application development and management, said that languages all depend on what the position entails. She said employees need to look at the type of organization they are applying to, because the kind of developer the company is looking for depends on what languages are emphasized. An enterprise developer might look for more traditional languages like Java or .NET, while a startup might be looking for languages that support modern technologies, like Go.
Murphy said it’s not enough to just mention that you have experience in a particular language. She said to take a look at the architecture of the industry and know that there are different development technologies and approaches. Having an understanding of what other developers are doing with those languages matters as much as the languages themselves.
“Yes, you want people who have got skills in Ruby, like Python, like Perl and Java, but you also want to look at the developers who have an understanding or acknowledgement/appreciation of things like PaaS, microservices and containerization,” said Murphy.
Most companies are working across a wide variety of languages, according to Stephanie Mardell, head of human resources at Button, a mobile startup company with an office in New York City. She said that getting exposure to a few different languages is “key to getting hired.”
“One of the things I look for is to see if someone has dabbled across a couple different languages,” she said. “It shows that they are curious and versatile and adaptable, and I think any great engineer can code across a wide variety of languages.”
Emphasize contribution in a portfolio
According to Murphy, developer designers aren’t the only ones that need to have a portfolio to showcase their work. Having a portfolio can be an easy way to demonstrate where a developer has applied his or her skills, what projects he or she might have worked on at previous companies, and most importantly, what their contributions to the open-source community might have been, she said.
Murphy said one of the things a developer or programmer can do while applying for a job is to show where they have applied their skills outside of a job. She said employers will look for contributions on Git or Stack Overflow, and it shows a company that the developer is keeping up with technologies and trends, and is remaining an active member of the dev and open-source communities.
“These are all things that we look for, so it’s not just what is [on] your official resume, but what you do in your spare time? How are you contributing back to the dev community?” said Murphy. “The portfolio of a developer looks at the actual deliverables and their work outside of their job.”
Button’s Mardell also recommends contributing to an open-source project. She said producing high-quality, publicly accessible code is “a great way to show off and there are so many [sites] to choose from.”
She said if she sees a developer writing and opens-sourcing cod, it gives them some credibility and respect.
“The beauty of software development is so many companies and so many teams are using open-source software today,” said Mardell. “I don’t know of any company—or I’d be surprised to see a company—not using an open-source tool.”
Red Hat’s Alexander said that open-source contribution is a way for candidates to differentiate themselves, especially if they are well-known in a particular community for their contributions.
“We are looking for people who produce value; we aren’t looking for titles,” she said. “We are looking for contribution.”
Go to boot camps
Coding boot camps seem to be popping up all over the place, but they’ve actually been a part of the technology boom for some time. According to director of admissions at Fullstack Academy, Huntly Mayo-Malasky, the total number of boot camp graduates has increased from 6,700 in 2014 to roughly 16,000 in 2015. Participation for boot camps has been higher, and according to Murphy, large companies are even using them as recruitment tools, getting teams together to work on projects, or using them as a way to garner new ideas.
“Immersive coding schools prepare people for jobs in a few ways,” said Mayo-Malasky. “One is by focusing curriculum on the skills and knowledge areas that companies seek in job candidates.”
The idea is that these sometimes intense, multiple-month-long programs teach individuals the skills they need to become coders or developers, without having to go to a four-year institution. Boot camps often have a tough program, and not everyone is accepted into them. One Fullstack graduate, James Nissenbaum, said that you have to be dedicated, no matter what kind of student you are, because everything is “jam packed” into three months (or however long the program lasts).
Nissenbaum now has a job as an associate Web developer for an e-commerce company called Media Hive. He said it took him about two months to secure the position, but other friends of his found jobs “instantly” after leaving Fullstack.
App Academy recently announced that it is running a boot camp prep program, guaranteeing participants acceptance into a coding boot camp or their money back. They won’t just give an introduction to programming, but instead help students put together an application for whatever boot camp they choose.
Gregg Pollack, CEO and founder of Code School, said that immersive boot camps are a way to learn enough to get a junior programming job, and they are even great for experienced programmers looking to switch to using a new technology.
“What these boot camps do better than most colleges is simulate the real-world environment,” said Pollack. “One way they do this is by having them build lots of projects in groups, so by the time they graduate, they have a portfolio they can point to.”
Code School is like other boot camps, except it is an online hub where developers can learn new content. It provides self-guided experiences, combined with videos, coding challenges and gamification principles. Plus, everything is done in the comfort of a browser, which could be ideal for experienced developers who might not have the time to go to class for a few months.
Pollack said that they do hear success stories of people who started learning their skills on Code School, but a majority of their customers are experienced developers who want to pick up a new technology Pollack said that they do hear success stories of people who started learning their skills on Code School, but a majority of its customers are experienced developers who want to pick up a new technology, which reflects the company’s stated goal.
Pollack added that boot camps put developers in groups where they have to build projects “mimicking the real world.” He said that when he graduated with a computer engineering degree, the four-year institution he attended didn’t prepare him to get the job he wanted. But he believes if boot camps were around during that time, it would have prepared him.
At Fullstack, some of the preparation helps individuals become working professionals. Beyond writing code, Mayo-Malasky said that students at Fullstack practice pair programming, use agile to manage their development workflow, and get feedback in formalized code-review sessions.
He also said that skills learned from Fullstack will help during the job search process. In today’s job market, 97% of Fullstack graduates found employment within three months of finishing the program.
Red Hat’s Alexander hopes that boot camps will be developed to help people shift their careers, especially for those who might not have had prior coding or programming experience. She thinks that these boot camps are a great way to learn basic skills or how to use a new language.
“[It helps them] start to make their first contributions,” said Alexander. “It takes a first step.”
Besides knowing the fundamentals of coding and having a wide variety of languages in their arsenal, coders and programmers are also expected to have basic skills like communication, writing and grammar. Developers are being called out of their cubicles and having to speak at conferences, and they’re actually doing some of the presentations, according to HPE’s Murphy.
“Devs don’t just need to have the tech skills, but have that ability of interpersonal communication skills,” she said. “Also, because of the rise of DevOps, it means it’s more important for developers to be able to understand and interact with other members of the application delivery cycle.”
Alexander said that coders are not always coding, and one of the most important things they can be doing is communicating.
“Coders are out representing Red Hat in evangelist roles, they are representing Red Hat at different meetups and conferences, so they need to be able to do presentations and be advocates for open source,” she said.
Alexander also said that working well across all cultures and communities is important to emphasize. Many organizations have people that contribute to open-source communities, and many come from all over the world. Being able to influence without necessarily having authority can affect other coders or contributors, and this is something Red Hat in particular looks for in potential candidates.
Mayo-Malasky agrees, adding that companies hire based on culture fit as well as technical ability. Most developer positions require working with programmers as well as managers and designers, he said. Doing well in the behavioral and communication aspects of an interview is important for today’s developers.
“Agile and other environments require strong communication between developers, and also with management and other teams,” said Mayo-Malasky. “Communicating well via e-mail and in person is key for success.”
He also said that software documentation is important, especially for open-source projects. As more individuals try to learn code, and as more companies begin sharing their software, developers will need to write better documentation.
Some other basic skills that can be listed on a resume include having a technology element or familiarity on modern development technologies. Familiarity with DevOps and agile can make a difference, according to HPE’s Murphy. She also said that there should be another layer to a resume, which can include larger ecosystem knowledge of the app world.
“The developers have to not just understand how to build high-performing, good user experience [apps], but they also need to understand how to test that, how you are going to look at performance, or leverage for example, assets which might be used in testing,” said Murphy.
Button’s Mardell said that simply emphasizing that a developer is curious and being able to back that up on a resume or portfolio is one way to get noticed. Whether you’re a developer in your 20s or someone who has been in the industry for years, showing that you understand that the industry is changing and new technologies are being introduced every day will get you one step closer to being the final candidate in a round of job interviews.