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Our Founder Explains Software Engineering In Simple Terms

Discover everything you need to know about how software engineering turns complex problems into elegant solutions that power our modern lives. Learn how software engineering is more than just coding and is much like building a house.

Written by
Kai Yuan Neo
Last updated
August 18, 2023
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Our Founder Explains Software Engineering In Simple Terms

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Everything you need to know about Software Engineering in Singapore

This article was contributed by Rocket Academy’s founder and CEO, Kai Yuan Neo. He completed his Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science at Stanford University. He started Rocket Academy because the world still lacks software engineering talent, and people that had not studied Computer Science but wish to pursue a software engineering career path in Singapore have few good ways to do so.

In just the last decade, Singapore has rapidly become a hub for tech startups and big businesses. Large organisations from the United States and even China are now establishing their base in the so-called Silicon Valley of Asia.

If you’re considering to take up a software engineer or coding role, the timing couldn’t have been better. The industry in Singapore is booming, and there’s a high demand for software engineering professionals!

Software engineering is now the backbone of our digital world, bringing life to the apps and programs we rely on every day. It's the art of turning complex problems into elegant solutions that power our modern lives.

In this article, I try my best to explain the key concepts of software engineering in simple terms.

What is software engineering?

Software engineering is a the process of designing, development, testing and maintaining computer applications to solve real-world problems by following a set of principles and best practices.

Software engineering is a lot like building a house. Just as a builder follows a set of plans to construct a building, a software engineer follows a set of instructions to create a piece of software. These instructions may involve writing code, testing the software to make sure it works correctly, and fixing any issues that arise.

Software engineering drives our modern world from the devices we carry in our pockets to the systems that power entire industries. Software engineering is more than just coding. It's the art of turning complex problems into elegant solutions through a combination of creativity, critical thinking, and cutting-edge technology.

What are software engineering principles and best practices?

The basic principles of software engineering include requirements gathering, design, implementation, testing, and maintenance. 

One key element is software testing. Software testing is an essential part of the software development lifecycle and is done to ensure that the software meets the intended requirements and is free of defects and errors.

Source: University of Melbourne. Software Development Lifecycle.

To ensure the quality of the software, software engineers follow best practices such as using version control systems, writing clean and maintainable code, following coding standards, using automated testing tools, and collaborating with team members. 

By following these principles and best practices, software engineers can develop reliable and maintainable software systems that meet the needs of their clients or stakeholders.

What are the types of software engineering?

Most software engineering tasks can be broken into three categories: Operational software engineering, Transitional software engineering and Software engineering maintenance. 

  1. Operational Software Engineering: Involves creating and maintaining software products that people use every day. For example, updating a social media app with new features, fixing errors in a banking app, or optimising a ride-sharing app for faster response times.
  2. Transitional Software Engineering. Involves moving software from one state to another, such as upgrading to a new version of an operating system or integrating different software systems. This may involve designing a plan for the transition, testing the new system, and ensuring data is transferred correctly.
  3. Software Engineering Maintenance. Involves supporting and maintaining existing software systems to keep them running smoothly. For example, fixing bugs or errors in a software system, updating the software to meet new requirements or regulations, and providing technical support to end-users.

It's important to note that these categories are not rigid and may overlap. Computer software engineers often perform tasks from multiple categories depending on the specific project's needs.

Why is there a need for software engineering?

Software engineering is essential for businesses and organisations that rely on software programs to operate, such as banks, airlines, and government agencies. Without software engineering, these organisations would be unable to deliver services to their customers and stakeholders, leading to lost revenue, reduced productivity, and poor customer satisfaction. 

It ensures that these computer programs are designed, developed, and maintained to be dependable, easy to maintain, and capable of growing as needed. In other words, software engineering helps ensure that software systems work properly and adapt to changing circumstances over time.

In Singapore's tech industry, there has been a increasing demand for software engineering. There are over 12,000 job openings for software engineering in Singapore which are offering very competitive salaries.

Why is software engineering so important?

Software engineering has become an important discipline due to the increasing reliance on technology in almost every aspect of modern life, from smartphones to cars to healthcare systems. 

Software engineering has become essential for ensuring that software applications and systems are safe and secure. This is increasingly important due to the higher use of software in safety-critical systems, such as transportation and healthcare,  

Software developers must develop software that meets strict safety and security standards to prevent accidents and protect sensitive data.

Why should I pursue a career as a Software Engineer?

Pursuing a career in software engineering can provide a stable and future-proof career path with many opportunities for growth and advancement. Software engineering is a versatile field that offers many different paths and specialisations.

In an increasingly digital world, software engineering skills are becoming more and more important. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 22% increase in the demand for software engineers, which is a much faster growth rate than most professions.

What are career paths in software engineering?

A software engineer has plenty of career paths which allow you to work in a variety of industries, such as finance, healthcare, or entertainment, and you can specialise in areas such as web development, artificial intelligence, or cybersecurity.

Software engineering is a field that allows you to be creative and innovative. As a software developer, you get to design and develop computer programs that solve real-world problems and improve people's lives. You have the freedom to use your creativity and technical skills to develop new and exciting software solutions.

What are some Software Engineering Fundamental Concepts?

Here are some of the important concepts software engineers need to understand to develop high-quality software systems.

  • Requirements gathering: Understanding what the software needs to do and what the user expects from it.
  • Design: Planning and creating a visual representation of what the software will look like and how it will work.
  • Testing: Trying out the software product to ensure it works as expected and has no errors or bugs.
  • Maintenance: Making changes and updates to the software after it has been released to keep it working well and up-to-date.
  • Programming languages: The specific languages used to write the software code.

What is the Salary and Outlook for software engineers in Singapore?

Based on Glassdoor (updated 8 April 2023), the estimated total pay for an experienced Software Engineer is SGD 15,500 per month in Singapore, with an average salary of SGD 5,500 per month. These numbers represent the median. 

Total Pay Estimate model and based on salaries collected from Glassdoor salary data. The estimated additional pay is SGD 10,000 per month. Additional pay could include cash bonuses, commissions, tips, and profit sharing. The "Most Likely Range" represents values that exist within the 25th and 75th percentile of all pay data available for this role.

       Source: Glassdoor salaries Software Engineer, Singapore.

How do you become a software engineer?

There are several ways to become a software engineer, and where you start depends on your current skills and experience. Here are some options:

  1. Degree. Get a degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field: This traditional route provides a strong foundation in computer programming and software engineering principles. 
  2. Bootcamps/Online Courses. Coding bootcamps are intensive training programs that teach programming skills in a short period of time. They're a good option if you're looking for a more hands-on, fast-paced learning experience.
  3. Self Learn. Teach yourself programming: There are many online resources available to learn programming, such as online courses, tutorials, and open-source projects. This is a flexible option if you're looking to learn at your own pace. Don't forget to include these projects in your software engineering resume.

What are skills and characteristics of good software engineers?

A good Software Engineer needs to have strong core computer science knowledge, pays attention to detail, has problem-solving ability, communicates effectively, be adaptable to new technologies, thinks creatively, collaborates well in a team environment, and is committed to continuous learning. 

According to the latest Octoverse report published by GitHub, the world’s largest community of developers, the fastest growing programming languages right now are Kotlin, HCL, TypeScript, PowerShell, Rust, CMake, Go, Python, Groovy, and SQLPL. When it comes to overall popularity, JavaScript remains at the very top.

By the time an entry-level software engineer becomes familiar with one toolset, there will already be new technologies available. To cope with this constant change, software engineers must be committed to lifelong learning and develop certain learning strategies to support it.

What are Software engineer tasks and responsibilities?

Software engineers are responsible for delivering high-quality software design and software maintenance that meet the needs of clients and end-users. Their tasks and responsibilities require a strong technical background in computer science, mathematics, and engineering and excellent communication and collaboration skills.

Software Engineering Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a degree to be a software engineer?

You don't necessarily need a specific degree to become a software engineer, but most employers prefer candidates with at least a bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field. Alternatively, some people enter the software engineering field through coding bootcamps, vocational schools, or online courses.

We wrote an entire article about whether you need a computer science degree to be a software engineer.

What are relevant certifications for software engineers?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the need for a software engineer certificate depends on the specific designation requirements you are applying for. If you're looking for a general overview of the field, the Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP) certification from the International Society of Software Engineering (ISSE) is a good option. 

If you're interested in specific software development methodologies, the Certified Agile Software Development (CASD) certification from the Agile Alliance might be a better fit. There are also certifications from particular vendors, such as Microsoft and Oracle. Ultimately, the best certification for you is the one that will help you achieve your career goals.

What are challenges that software engineers face?

These are the two most common challenges that software engineers face:

1. The field of software engineering is constantly evolving, with new programming languages, development tools, and technologies emerging regularly. Software engineers need to stay up-to-date with these changes to remain competitive in the job market.

2. Software engineering projects can be complex and involve multiple stakeholders. Software engineers must work closely with project managers to ensure that projects are delivered on time, within budget, and meet the needs of clients or end-users.

Why is software engineering required?

Software engineers are pivotal in the development of software design that provides real solutions. A software engineer needs to address the entire software development lifecycle - to analyse the needs, and then design, test, and develop software in order to meet those needs.

Is software engineering a good job?

In an increasingly tech-savvy world, every company needs to think and work like a tech company. Every company needs software that works and integrates with other aspects of their business in order to provide a seamless customer experience and increase internal efficiency. From business application systems to operating systems and games, software engineers are needed to design software solutions that works and integrates well with existing tech.

What is an example of software engineering?

One key example of software engineering is the development of operating systems like Windows or MacOS. Operating systems manage computer hardware and software resources and provide a platform for other software applications to run on. This involves designing and implementing complex systems for memory management, file storage, networking, and user interfaces.

Is software engineering an IT job?

Software engineering is a specialised field within IT that requires a strong technical background in computer science, mathematics, and engineering. They must also be able to work collaboratively with other IT professionals, such as database administrators, network engineers, and system administrators, to ensure that software system applications function efficiently.

What is the software development life cycle and why is it important?

The software development life cycle (SDLC) is a process used by software engineers to plan, design, develop, test, deploy, and maintain software. The SDLC is important because it provides a structured framework for software development that helps ensure the final product is reliable, high-quality, and meets the needs of the end-users.

Bonus: Read more about some of the differences between a software engineer vs software developer.

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