So what if you can code? It’s not enough
by Suhaile Md
DIGITAL jobs like software, web, and multimedia developers are the third most in-demand jobs according to a report released by the Manpower Ministry on Tuesday (Feb 7). Clearly, technical skills like coding and data analysis will put candidates in a good position for these jobs.
But it would be a mistake to think coding is all that matters. Soft skills play an integral role in career progression as well.
The idea of the “lone wolf” who does not get along well with others, but writes brilliant code, is a thing of the past, said Mr Sheng Yunzhou, a software engineer.
“Like any other job, domain skills alone are not enough,” he said. Other skills like resilience, ability to learn, teamwork, and communication, are important, added Mr Sheng. The 29-year-old develops apps for private banking clients at a major international bank.
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In the past, coding used to be “product or project centric”. So when a project came along, various people were pulled together to work on it, only to be disbanded once completed. But now, it’s about “nurturing a strong team, keeping them together”, to work on successive projects said Mr Sheng.
A team “has to become an entity itself… so that it can move quickly” to solve problems.
Mr Sheng recalled the time his team had a developer whose coding was good but his inability to work with others created problems. For example, the team would have two weeks of the project planned out but the developer’s tendency to do things his own way would throw the plans off. Time, and hence money, was lost due to a lack of cooperation from the developer.
Learning how to work well with people is a skill that can be picked up.
For example, understanding what motivates others, or why they act a certain way, goes far in making one an effective team player. The Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS) course “Winning with difficult people” is a course you can take. Singaporeans can use their SkillsFuture credit to pay for the course.
The “biggest problem” with many developers, Mr Sheng found, is their inability to “communicate ideas clearly” even to their fellow coders.
Bad communication can hamper the quality of work. After all, developers basically “teach computers to do things that people can use”. If developers do not learn how to listen, to talk to people to find out what problems users are facing, or to hold a conversation exploring different ideas, how can they create a product that people find useful?
Courses that teach skills like how to structure a conversation such that you draw out the relevant information, understand the various communication styles people have, and craft clear messages, are available. For example, the “interpersonal communication skills” course by the British Council.
Coding is hard, even for developers, said Mr Sheng. The field changes so fast, “it’s a must to keep on learning new things, all the time”. New jargon crop up every time there’s a development.
So anyone who wishes to progress in this field needs to “instil the habit of deliberate practise”.
It’s the “most valuable asset”.
Coders need to practise harder codes and different programming languages in their downtime, over the weekends and so on. Or other developers will take their place.
The challenge of continual learning and deliberate practise is that failing is part of the process, which can be “really daunting,” he added. Without resilience, effective learning in this field is difficult.
It’s a sentiment shared by Mr Tan Choon Ngee, CEO of aZaaS, a Singapore-based Information Technology firm with subsidiaries in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China.
“Positive nature and grit” is what Mr Tan looks out for in his new hires. Otherwise they would not be able to keep up with the industry as it “experiences high rates of change”, said the 42-year-old.
At the end of the day, as Mr Sheng said, while coding is a must-have primary skill in his field, without communication skills, team work, and resilience, your career would be stunted.
His advice, regardless of which industry you’re in: “Keep learning, don’t stop.”
This article is part of a series on SkillsFuture, in collaboration with MOE and SSG. Read the other pieces here:
- Ong Ye Kung on SkillsFuture: Value what you know – and add
- The SkillsFuture credits are in. Now what?
- Poly vs Private degrees: It’s not the money that matters
- Private degrees: data needs to tell a fuller skills story
- 5 new jobs that didn’t exist a decade ago
- SMACK IN THE MIDDLE: Keys to success
- 5 skills employers want you to have in tomorrow’s job market
- Don’t underestimate ‘soft skills’ in your career
- 50 Faces: What is success to you?
- Got an F in school? There are still ‘100 ways’ to be successful
- SMACK IN THE MIDDLE: More skills, more agile, more resilient
- 50 Faces: The big gig economy
- Learning never stops for 92-year-old tech geek
- Intellectual humility will get you hired in 2017
- Can a Perm Sec be a non-grad?
- How to develop a skills mastery mindset
- IT phobia? “Change or you lose”
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