What skills do I need for software development career success?

James Milligan, Global Head of Hays Technology

What technical and soft skills do software development professionals need right now? How can you future-proof your career? What development jobs are most in-demand at the moment?
I recently spoke to some of our software development recruitment experts from around the world to find out the answers to these questions, and many more. In this blog, you can read insights and advice from:
  • Edmond Pang, Regional Director, Hays Shanghai & Suzhou
  • Edward Fletcher, Business Director (Software Development) for Hays Technology, Australia & New Zealand
  • Juliann Deegan, Business Director for Hays Technology, UK & Ireland
  • Max Wilcock, Senior Business Manager (Software Development) for Hays Technology, UK & Ireland
  • Olivier Pacaud, National IT Business Manager, France & Luxembourg
  • Shaun Cheatham, Chief Sales Officer for Hays US and host of the Hays Technology podcast – How did you get that job?

1. Has demand for software development professionals increased over the past year? If so, what’s driving this?

Max (UK&I): Yes, the need for software to be working smoothly has never been as great as since the start of the pandemic, with the huge increase in remote and home working. Whilst some companies have made redundancies and struggled through this period, others have surpassed this challenge by bringing timelines forward and releasing software off the back of increased demand – for example, in HealthTech, Logistics, and Software companies.
Shaun (US): In this US, the demand has increased specifically in permanent hiring. With all the redundancies and furloughs (paid leave) during 2020, companies are trying to regain their core staff footing while trying to also meet the demand to compete in the market.
Juliann (UK&I): I agree with Max, but I’ve found that the increase in demand has been more prevalent among SMEs than larger organisations.
Edward (ANZ): We’ve had the same experience too. Many organisations have back logs of vacancies after putting positions on hold during the pandemic, which is now leading to heighted staffing demand. Add the high number of digital transformations underway, and it’s easy to see why the demand for skilled development professionals has increased so strongly.
In addition, we’ve found that a lack of overseas talent resulting from border closures has resulted in organisations competing for a smaller domestic talent pool.
Edmond (Asia): Mainland China was the first to recover from the pandemic globally and achieve GDP growth again. So, a lot of hiring activities started with local tech companies, while foreign companies were being restrained from hiring as their HQ were still dealing with COVID-19.
Olivier (France): While we’ve seen similar increases due to the pandemic as the other regions, the growing demand has actually been constant for several years in the French market. Digital transformation continues to spread across the country, and every company is digitising its business processes. France is also turning into a ‘start-up nation’, with a record year for fundraising – specifically in the tech market.

2. What are the most in-demand jobs in development right now?

Max (UK&I): In the UK and Ireland, Full Stack Developers (regardless of technology) are most in-demand. People that can work at database level, back end, or on the UI, and more recently with Cloud (Azure/AWS in particular) and involving DevOps are massively popular.
Different languages ebb and flow in popularity, but JavaScript seems king currently.
Juliann (UK&I): In addition, I’ve found that .Net Developers and Front-End Developers are very much in-demand, especially with my SME clients. I think this reflects the fact that there is renewed confidence and a desire to push through with projects that had previously been put on hold.
Edward (ANZ): Full Stack Software Developers, Software Developers and Mobile Developers are in high demand across Australia and New Zealand, as organisations seek to improve their end customers’ digital channels.
Shaun (US): For us in the US, Front-End React Developers have been the skillset in highest demand, followed by .Net and Java.
Edmond (Asia): Currently, we’re seeing the highest demand for Java Developers, Full Stack Developers and Golang Developers in Asia.
Olivier (France): Full Stack Developers are also the most sought after in France, especially in the web stack. There is also a growing demand for DevOps Engineers and Data Scientists.

3. What soft skills are needed to work in development? And do you think these will change in the future?

Max (UK&I): The requirement for tech people to have good soft skills has been a growing trend as we’ve moved into the digital age. Tech is now the number one enabler for a lot of companies, so it’s important Developers can communicate with the business and make systems that are as user-friendly as possible. I don’t see this changing in the future, just intensifying more.
Edward (ANZ): I agree with Max. I’d say strong verbal communication skills, the ability to collaborate with different teams and stakeholders, and very good written communication skills are needed to excel in development.
Edmond (Asia): Inquisitiveness and problem solving skills are also important for software development, as the role is essentially solving problems by coding. We’ve interviewed many Tier-1 Software Developers who may not have immediate solutions to problems, but would go to tech forums to read and seek suggestions from other tech gurus to help them with a coding problem.
As a Software Developer progresses through their career into a more senior role (if they wish to), then communication and interpersonal skills are important. We see many of our software development leads in Asia having to work on global projects, where they need to be able to communicate and sometimes influence other stakeholders – as well as bridging the gap between the business and the tech team.
Being a team player is also important. Many of our senior clients seek this soft skill, as they want Developers who are collaborative, and not just wanting to code in their own methods, but in the team’s direction.
Olivier (France): I would also add that a high degree of autonomy is essential to evolve in remote and hybrid work environments.

4. On the other hand, what technical skills are needed to work in development? Do you think these will change in the future?

Max (UK&I): It’s an ever-changing space, with new technologies and updates being released every day. Mastery of one language will offer a job in development, but the ability and openness to move across technologies shows that you will be able to keep up with the industry, and will offer a long career in development. That’s why Full Stack Developers are so in-demand currently.
Juliann (UK&I): I’ve been recruiting in this area for almost 15 years and it is very hard to narrow down the specific technical skills needed, as coding languages continually change. When I started recruiting for Software Developers, a Developer coded in a specific language i.e., Java or .Net. But now, a Developer who can switch between languages, and who is agile may have more worth.
Coding languages are always evolving and the most recent language I’ve seen emerge from a back-end perspective is Golang. Front End Development is now very strong – that didn’t really exist when I started recruiting in this area.
Edward (ANZ): I agree with Max and Juliann. Developers need proven skills and experience in coding using the latest technology, for example React, Node or Kotlin, as well as a solid understanding of high-level design. Knowledge and previous experience in scaled agile is also advantageous. These skill requirements will change constantly as new tech is being consistently created and updated.
Edmond (Asia): I’d say that currently in Asia, Full Stack and Golang are the most sought after technical skills. But there is also demand for Python Mobile (Flutter/React Native) and Javascript (Angular/React/Vue/Node).
Olivier (France): It’s a similar story in France to Asia, technologies such as Java are still in great demand. And there’s also a growing demand for Python and the JavaScript environment with its many frameworks (specifically React JS). Finally, the Microsoft stacks are still very present, .NetCore in particular.

5. What other competencies make a good development professional?

Juliann (UK&I): Initiative; you need to constantly improve your skills outside of your day job. You also need a passion for what you do – developing isn’t just a 9am-5pm job.
Edward (ANZ): Utilising best practice methodologies such as CI/CD and TDD. Having a solid understanding of DevOps and Security standards is also very advantageous.
Shaun (US): In my experience, more and more clients are asking for people who really ‘live to code’. Because technology changes so rapidly, they want individuals who are growing and updating their skills just as fast.
Olivier (France): In addition, Developers need creativity and the ability to react logically to a problem. Technical monitoring is also essential.
Edmond (Asia): Apart from inquisitiveness and problem solving, we usually find that, similar to Juliann’s advice, the candidates who are truly passionate about tech get picked up quickly by top tech companies. Their passion for tech is so strong that they are in-tune with new languages, new frameworks, and new products.
Also, and this isn’t tech-specific, bilingual ability (English and local language) is required in some parts of Asia (such as China and Japan) for Developers to work efficiently with local and global teams.

6. And finally, how can software development professionals future-proof their careers?

Juliann (UK&I): Keep learning and don’t concentrate on only knowing one language; be prepared to learn others.
Max (UK&I): Exactly what Juliann said, you need to ensure that you are moving with the technology. If you’re working in an organisation using bespoke or proprietary languages and frameworks, then make sure you are involved in projects with newer, emerging technologies. You can attend meetups to be sure you’re choosing the right ones to focus on.
Edward (ANZ): I agree, you need to continue learning and updating your skills in the latest technologies, processes and practices. Also, contribute and learn from sites such as Stack Overflow, as well as attending meetups and conferences regularly.
Edmond (Asia): Development talent is scarce in Asia, so picking up a second Asian language could not only future-proof your career, but also open up a lot more opportunities in Asia and globally. For example, in Mainland China, the big tech companies like Baidu, Bytedance, Alibaba and Tencent always welcome Developers from overseas. And having the Chinese capability would increase your success rate in landing a job with them as you can communicate and work efficiently with their local teams.
Olivier (France): In my opinion, you need to keep an eye on technical developments and new innovation. You can also be active on Github, Stack Overflow, and make sure your LinkedIn profile is optimised to showcase you and your work as best as possible.
Shaun (US): I agree with all of the above. Technology is changing at a speed we haven’t seen before. So, commit yourself to continually learning, and be on top of the trends – not behind them.
If you enjoyed these insights from my colleagues and would like to learn about how to build a successful development career, then read my next blog on how to get into software development.


James Milligan
Global Head of Hays Technology

James Milligan is the Global Head of Hays Technology, having joined in 2000. In his role, he is responsible for the strategic development of Hays' technology businesses globally.