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4 Things Software Engineers Don’t Learn In School

You've learned a lot when it comes to coding and software engineering. And at Co.Lab and Altcademy, we go the extra mile... but there's plenty more to learn and pay attention to.

4 Things Software Engineers Don’t Learn In School
Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com / Unsplash

There's a lot to learn when it comes to Software Engineering. You're taught all kinds of programming languages, that you're the best thing since sliced bread, how to detect bugs in lines of code, and how to quarrel with designers... but is that really all it takes to land a job in the industry, and be successful within it?

At Co.Lab and Altcademy, we go the extra mile, but there are definitely a few things to watch out for that you just might not learn. This article explores a few of those things so that you, an aspiring software engineer, can know what to expect and are more equipped to succeed in a real work environment!

Being fast isn't that important at all.

In school, you’re rewarded for completing the work on time, even best if it is before the deadline. That might lead you to think that speed is the secret weapon when you become an actual career Software Engineer. But it isn’t. Nothing says that the speed of your coding means you will produce good work. In fact, in the everlasting battle between quality and quantity (which quality usually wins), working fast equals producing a lot of output, but what good is excess of a product that is not good?

Software Engineering is a delicate discipline. A single letter, symbol or even number omitted or put in the wrong place can have you brainstorm for hours. Rushing through your work just to have something to present greatly devalues your work. So it’s always advisable for Software Engineers to take their time and carefully execute their duties.

Of course, this is not a window to work so slowly that you hold up the rest of the team or you fail to deliver at the set time, but the practice makes perfect…or at least faster. The more time the Engineer spends doing their work, the more familiar they’ll become with the process, and naturally, the faster they’ll become. No need to rush the process.

Having a degree or certificate is not enough to land a job.

A common mistake graduates make is thinking that their degree and their ability to code will get them a job as soon as they interview. Evidently, that is not all it takes.

Additional factors such as the fact that working in an industry, even as a Software Engineer, requires you to have to some extent, knowledge of that industry, come into play. The skills required of a Software Engineer working in banking differ from those needed of a Software Engineer in telecommunication. Different businesses have different needs, so to stand out, you must show that you can meet these needs.

Plus, getting more experience is always a good idea. Learning programs, such as Co.Lab that offer you the opportunity to build a Product while working as a Software Engineer are valuable to your post-learning job search. There, you can pick up on other skills apart from coding, and such exposure could let you know what industry is best suited for you.

It is also important for Software Engineers to have soft skills such as good communication, attention to detail, and problem-solving skills, among others. Soft skills are important because they are what humanize you in the work environment; they are the skills you need to acclimate to a new company, and beyond being good at your job, they make you someone that people actually want to work with.

When you think you’re ready, apply for the role with confidence. Make sure to include any Software Engineering experience you have or any other experience that you think is valuable for that specific job, and go for it!

A certificate might not be enough!

You might not be taught to work in teams.

For the most part, learning and coding in college or even in Software Engineering bootcamps happen personally. Each person is given a task, works on it by themselves, and perhaps makes a presentation to a larger audience.

It is therefore understandable that a good number of Software Engineers struggle when they're truly on the job - because they’re now working with other Engineers and Product Managers and anyone else who make up a team. But advancements in technology do not leave much room for solitary work. As more and more teams start to implement working methods such as Agile methodology, the need for collaboration is more imminent.

Even if you’re working alone, for the most part, the ability to work well in a team is very relevant to personal and professional advancement. It’s for this exact reason that at Co.Lab, we’ve structured our programs so that all members engage in hands-on work, as part of a team, just like in an actual workplace, and we have evidence that when developers combine their strengths, innovation occurs.

Tech is changing all the time, and you gotta figure out how to keep up on your own.

Through no one’s fault (except maybe your over-achieving colleagues who keep coming up with new things), some of the existing technologies you’re learning currently at school might be outdated by the time you graduate or soon after.

Technology is changing rapidly, and while this often translates to greater convenience for the larger population, it’s a bit of a problem for software engineers. While in school, you’re taught the existing programs and software and very often, what happens is that by the time you graduate, newer things have been developed, and there’s so much more to learn that the things you learned feel obsolete.

Additionally, what happens is that software engineers are trained and comfortable with the developer stack used at the company they work for. They work with that for years and often have no time to experiment with other technologies or software. So if, for some reason, they no longer need to work with that software, they’re clueless and need to begin learning about other things being used.

One solution is finding time to take on projects that expose you to other technologies. You might try to find a way to incorporate it into your work at your company, or it could be an unrelated side project. It does not need to be extravagant, just enough to keep you abreast of newer technologies. Honestly, don’t be alarmed. With a good foundation and knowledge of the fundamentals, you just need to study and practice, and you will be able to learn any new technology.

In Conclusion...

No one learns all they need to know at school alone. Rote learning is just one way to gain more knowledge. But the real world is something different.

Like everyone else, you have to be flexible and open to consistent learning. Plus, you've already learned a lot and come so far... so think about the things you might not know you don't know, and see how you can set yourself for success in those areas. You got this!


Want to gain experience working in a cross-functional team? Check us out at Co.Lab, where we match you up with peers to ship products in a real-world environment.

Connect with me on Twitter, or LinkedIn, and follow along what we're doing at Co.Lab on LinkedIn, or Twitter. 🥕