By Shana Mbomvu, Learning & Development Facilitator and Development Project Manager at redAcademy
More South African organisations are now turning to innovative approaches to teaching coding and technology skills to meet their requirement for software developers. Rather than rely on traditional degrees, they are working with partners to uncover talented - young people who are willing to learn and have a problem-solving attitude and more - and train them to meet their exact needs.
Contrary to popular belief, it's not all about maths and science when it comes to software development. From experience, those who want to succeed in this field need to have good interpersonal skills, the perseverance to see a task through, and what I call a good relationship with problems, as business people keep coming to software developers to solve their problems.
Problems demand solutions, however, to be a good developer you need to be able to focus on what can be solved. It won’t be easy, but if you are responsible and committed to finishing your tasks, the challenges can be overcome. It is often the passion of seeing the results - your code in action - that acts as the bridge between start and finish.
The ability to take accountability is crucial to being a good software developer; This means considering whether your work is up to the industry standard? Is it solving the business challenge? You need to be able to clearly understand that you are working within a broader team and that your level of accountability can have an impact on the success or failure of a project.
In addition, different people take different approaches when creating solutions and you need to be able to take the best possible approach that provides the maximum value for your business or client. You should be able to stand in public and be proud to say “that’s my code!”
Of course, all of this also requires young people to understand that people who enter a career in software development can’t have a rigid approach to life. Depending on the nature of the project and the deadlines, you might be required to work late. You can’t be a total introvert either as you will be forced to collaborate with others to find solutions to the problems you are given to solve.
Extroverts are not off the hook either, as a career in software development might require that they stay put at a desk until a project is completed and they need to be flexible enough if they are to remain committed to seeing their task through.
To help young people reach this point, organisations such as redAcademy blend theoretical learning with the real-world experience of being part of real-world workplace environments, working on live projects for actual customers and interacting with, and being mentored by senior software developers. This includes being trained on specific technology stacks to meet the requirements of business customers. And, unlike traditional institutions, these young people don’t only end up with a qualification but are placed at a job with our corporate partners.
To ensure that Sprinters (as our candidates are called) are always reminded of the above, we have simplified this into the '5 tea’s' that the aspiring software developer must be able ‘to drink’. These are the key qualities that aspiring software developers should aspire towards:
● Accountability - the ability to take personal responsibility for your work, and trusting in your teammates,
● Responsibility - the ability to accept a particular burden of obligation you take on a given task,
● Adaptability - a necessary quality in an ever-changing work environment,
● Audacity - being confident, courageous or daring,
● Capability - the ability to see something through, while acknowledging the challenges it comes with.
Training intensity is simulated and demands matched to that of a working office space so that Sprinters can gain the experience of learning how to cope in the real world, especially when the going gets tough. It exposes them to reality and makes them understand they can’t go into their career thinking it will be easy going.
This exposure gives Sprinters a tremendous advantage as compared to young people who studied the traditional way: the workplace is not a new environment for them and they are already aware of, and familiar with their job functions and role. There are many ways for young South Africans to get into a career in software development. Rather than crawl or walk, why not Sprint into it?