The 13 developer skills you need to master now

From JavaScript to big data to devops, we break down your best bets for bolstering your career this year

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Go mobile

Mobile developers are highly sought after, especially those who can distribute their creations widely, says Smartling’s Akselrod. “I would argue that being a successful mobile developer is not achieved through a particular technology skill set,” he says, “but rather through business savvy. Writing code is only the first phase of the project. Knowing how to promote your mobile app, and attract and retain customers, is what drives success.”

Jason Hayman, market research manager, TEKsystems

“There’s a need for more ‘move the business forward’ type skills, but less of a need for tactical work, as cloud providers are now increasingly responsible for that.”
-- Jason Hayman, market research manager, TEKsystems

“When mobile first emerged, the first-order problem was the app: How do I build these remarkable experiences that will run well across device types and operating systems?” says Jeff Haynie, CEO and co-founder of mobile technology company Appcelerator. “As the industry matured in this, acquiring better skills and tools, everyone now confronts the next big challenge: How do I get data -- in the right format, of the right size, with the right resiliency and responsiveness -- fed into these apps? That’s a much bigger trick.”

Connectivity issues and the fact that devices are moving beyond the screen further fuel the need to investigate the data piece of mobile development.

“The Web models of connectivity don’t work,” Haynie adds. “So this issue, coupled with the fact that more and more devices may not even have a screen and depend entirely on data and services for their usefulness, means that access and orchestration of data really is the new development challenge.”

Mobile is one of the most attractive aspects of the Internet of things, says MongoDB’s Reinero. But he warns it offers challenges.

“Mobile applications that start off small can become explosively popular and put heavy load demands on infrastructure,” Reinero says. “This means that every back-end component of a mobile service, including application servers and database servers, must have a capacity to scale quickly. Engineers need to familiarize themselves with both with the scaling model of individual components ... as well as how to manage infrastructure-as-a-service offerings such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Compute.”

Even if mobile isn’t your strong suit, familiarity with current and emerging technologies can boost your career.

“For mobile, developers with UX/UI experience are in high demand,” says Jason Hayman, market research manager at TEKsystems. “The ability to understand and effectively collaborate with UX/UI pros can make developers stronger candidates.”

To the cloud

Hossein Rahnama, founder and chief product officer, Flybits

“The advent of protocols such as Wi-Fi Halo and wearable and IoT devices opening lightweight SDKs, will open many opportunities for developers to go beyond displays and build things for their surroundings and environments.”
-- Hossein Rahnama, founder and chief product officer, Flybits

Unsurprisingly there’s a steady demand for developers familiar with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. “In cloud providers, Amazon is still the biggest player by far, so keep up to date with their more advanced offerings like the API Gateway, Lambda, and the Container Service,” says Nic Benders, chief architect at New Relic.

But it’s not all about tools, when it comes to developing career opportunities in the cloud. In part of an ongoing trend, companies are looking for developers with business skills, including project management and the ability to negotiate with vendors, says TEKsystems’ Hayman. “Additionally, there’s a need for more ‘move the business forward’-type skills, but less of a need for tactical work, as cloud providers are now increasingly responsible for that,” he says.

“Success in the cloud means having deployed infrastructure that is secure, properly monitored, and properly managed,” says MongoDB’s Reinero. “IaaS and cloud platforms offer terrific opportunities, but improper management of a distributed cloud infrastructure can evaporate any advantage if failures exhaust a team’s time and budget, and lead to unnecessary loss of business availability.”

IoT: Making connections

The long-heralded concept of the Internet of things is now showing up both as a hiring demand and as a skill talented engineers want to explore themselves. And it’s not only for embedded systems engineers anymore.

Greg Sterndale, co-founder, PromptWorks

“Client management skills are important, particularly the ability to push back tactfully but convincingly when there are alternatives that deliver more value.”
-- Greg Sterndale, co-founder, PromptWorks

“You can do it even as a JavaScript developer,” says Flybits’ Hossein Rahnama. “The advent of protocols such as Wi-Fi Halo and wearable and IoT devices opening lightweight SDKs, will open many opportunities for developers to go beyond displays and build things for their surroundings and environments. We will also see many hardware/software co-designs due to the advent of these tools.”

MongoDB’s Reinero sees new opportunities where medical devices and the cloud converge: “This includes more wearable devices used for outpatient treatment and care, and smaller devices used in diagnostics,” he says. “These devices will enable us to learn more about ourselves and vexing disorders. Data aggregation and analysis will be a critical part of how these devices are used. The availability of scalable and robust nonrelational databases used in conjunction with analytics systems will allow professionals to analyze medical data at a scale not previously possible.”

Be persuasive

What about soft skills? Our experts frequently raised the idea that the ability to reach across divisions is a top demand for new hires.

Mark Stagno, principal consultant, WinterWyman Search

“Being a good team member, having a willingness to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, lending a helping hand to team members, volunteering ideas and efforts to improve the product or the culture are valuable to any team.”
-- Mark Stagno, principal consultant, WinterWyman Search

“Client management skills are important, particularly the ability to push back tactfully but convincingly when there are alternatives that deliver more value,” says PromptWorks’ Sterndale. “Also being able to educate clients about the nature of software, guiding them toward practices that will serve them best in the long run.”

“It’s more important than ever … to demonstrate strong communication skills in a business setting,” says Addison Group’s Murphy. “With data security and privacy becoming exceedingly important in the boardroom, IT pros must concisely present their work in an easy-to-understand manner.”

Be flexible

If you’re the 10x, full-stack developer on your team, there’s more demand than supply for your services. But if you’re starting out or making a career change, the right attitude can make all the difference in getting -- and staying -- hired.

“On more than one occasion, I've gotten feedback from hiring managers referencing an engineer who is not necessarily the most talented engineer on the team, but is among the most valuable because of their attitude,” says WinterWyman Search’s Stagno. “Being a good team member, having a willingness to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, lending a helping hand to team members, volunteering ideas and efforts to improve the product or the culture are valuable to any team.”

Related InfoWorld resources

This story, "The 13 developer skills you need to master now" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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