Coding is a skill that not only opens doors to you via an amazing (and potentially highly lucrative) career path – but also new doors in your mind, teaching you a new way of thinking about problems in business and in life, and how to solve them using code.
Whether you’re pondering a career change, wondering what to study fresh out of school, or a marketer looking to learn to code to upskill, then this guide is a great place to start.
Growth areas for software engineering
Considering a career in software engineering or looking for your next logical step as a coder? It pays to take notice of what’s happening around the world in terms of automation, what enterprise software and strategy are being deployed, and how consumer tech is evolving.
Biggest growth areas for jobs
To determine where coding can potentially take you in your future career, we need to explore growth areas for jobs, both currently, and for the foreseeable future.
The World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report 2018 outlines the following roles that are new and booming that fit a programming background:
- Software and Applications Developers and Analysts
- Process Automation Specialists
- Robotics Specialists and Engineers
- User Experience and Human-Machine Interaction Designers
- Information Security Analysts
- Data Analysts and Scientists
- AI and Machine Learning Specialists
- Big Data Specialists
- Digital Transformation Specialists
- New Technology Specialists
From the above list, you can see that programming + statistics/machine learning + deep knowledge in one or more of tools, system architecture, UX, or cybersecurity will give you a huge advantage when it comes to career advancement and opportunities, both in Australia and worldwide. That’s why a coding background will make you an in-demand professional for decades to come.
Top programming languages
We recently covered The Highest Paying Programming Languages in Australia, finding that Python, Ruby, and Rust programmers are coming out on top when it comes to take-home pay packets.
These languages cover all forms of programming: web, apps, backend, web services, and enterprise applications.
Beyond a first programming language, you can then really think about the area(s) in which your talent and level of interest intersect. Do you prefer backend or frontend programming? Do you want to concentrate on mobile apps?
This can lead your next programming language pick. And learning a second (or third, or fourth) programming language isn’t as difficult as learning a new language from scratch. It’s instead similar to learning a new dialect; there will be plenty of similarities between two separate programming languages to allow your learning to be a lot faster the second time around.
Interview tips and tricks
The key to doing well in interviews is being prepared, and while this goes for any role anywhere, it is especially crucial for programmers.
The recruiter interview
The general process is having a phone/in-person interview first with a recruiter (unless you’re in contact with the company directly) where you’ll be asked a series of questions to determine your experience, knowledge across programming concepts and their applications, and level of experience with certain tools, etc.
At this first interview stage, you either pass or you fail. It’s not generally something you can study for, it’s more to do with your current level of experience and depth of knowledge in various areas.
If you don’t get past this first interview stage, don’t be discouraged!
You may not have the degree or depth of experience necessary for this particular role at this particular company. However, you might find you apply for the very same (sounding) role at a similar company, and you get through to the next round. So be persistent!
A favourite in programmer interviews is the whiteboard interview technique which assesses your problem-solving skills in real time, on a whiteboard.
“What, no computer!?” Yes, no computer.
In a whiteboard session, you’ll be given a puzzle or problem to solve, where you can draw out your solution on a whiteboard.
Tips for the whiteboard interview
- Ask as many questions as you need to further flesh out the problem
- Talk through your solution before and while you’re writing it down; you may find efficiencies you miss, or your interviewer may lead you to a better solution
- Erase and rewrite as necessary
- Use diagrams to show how your solution “flows”
- Use pseudocode for your “final” answer, or your preferred programming language if not specified
Want a real-world example of a whiteboard coding interview question in action? Check out Life at Google’s How to: Work at Google — Example Coding/Engineering Interview on YouTube.
Studying for whiteboard interviews is tricky. By digging a little, you should be able to find someone in your area to practice with – try MeetUp or even LinkedIn to engage the services of a senior developer who is experienced in conducting these type of interviews. You will likely have to pay for their time unless they’re feeling generous!
The technical part of your coding interview will be just like doing a test where you’re quizzed on your technical knowledge. The questions asked in this section of the interview will vary, depending on the languages, libraries, and CS knowledge required for the role.
It might include questions like:
- What is encapsulation?
- How can you check if a binary tree is balanced?
- What is function overloading?
- How does virtual memory work?
- What is Transpiling in Angular?
- What is a mutex?
- Can you explain the Agile software methodology?
Unfortunately, there’s no Googling allowed during these types of tests! Going over all of your programming coursework, or breaking out the textbooks/documentation is the best way to study for this part of the interview.
Psychometric testing is a common element of many job interviews. The psychometric test is designed to evaluate whether you will be a good fit for the company, based on cognitive aptitude and/or personality. Do your unique personal traits match up with company (and/or team) vision and values?
You can’t study for this part of the interview, although you can take some IQ/aptitude tests to practice questions and see what might be involved.
Sample programming interview questions
You should also expect to do some real programming questions, probably done on a computer, so they can be evaluated to see that they actually work as expected.
Questions might look like:
- Use this existing Stack class to implement a new class MaxStack with a method get_max() that returns the largest element in the stack. get_max() should not remove the item.
- Write a function that, given: an amount of money and a list of coin denominations, computes the number of ways to make the amount of money with coins of the available denominations.
- Write a function to see if a binary tree is “superbalanced” (a new tree property we just made up). A tree is “superbalanced” if the difference between the depths of any two leaf nodes is no greater than one.
Coding advice from top industry professionals
Pramod Rishal, Software Engineer, OpenAgent
- Various tools are available today and thanks to them, the time spent on routine work is greatly reduced.
- Morden front-end frameworks like React and Vue enable faster development.
- Testing is getting easier with the growing community helping each other to create a better testing library like chai and mocha.
- With the modern front-end tech (like hot reload), observing modifications in the browser without losing data and the current application state is also possible.
- Front-end tech is rapidly changing, which means front end devs need to keep themselves updated. Since there are so many front end frameworks, being up to date with those frameworks can be hard.
- Sometimes it can be hard to get the proper sync with back end tech, which might lead to slow pages or even unresponsive UI.
- After building an app using a certain framework or library, there will always be a fresh update to the framework. It can be disappointing to keep updating the app to the latest version. Most of the time due to the lack of backward compatibility, updating to the latest version is not possible, and again if we succeed to update, they is always a possibility that we might end up messing things up.
Yash Zolmajdi, Software Developer, Plutora
Yash Zolmajdi, Software Developer at Plutora offers sage advice on the most important things to remember as a backend developer:
- Make sure code compiles
- Take note of, or fix any warnings
- Write asynchronous code
- Take note of memory and CPU usage
- Do not call the database too much
- Cache data that is accessed often
- Lock down access to any data
Hazel Quipot, Software Developer, Plutora
Perhaps the best piece of advice for software developers? Hazel Quipot, Software Developer at Plutora nails it:
“You are not allowed to be complacent in this field if you want to be successful!”
The 5 best coding courses in Australia
Coder Academy is a clear pick for one of the best places to start with a coding course in Australia – offering up Australia’s only accredited bootcamps.
Their offerings include:
- A 21 week, Full Stack Developer Bootcamp, with a 1-month internship
- 10-month Penetration Tester or Ethical Hacker courses in cybersecurity
- Short courses, including Intro to Python, Data Science Industry Masterclass, Game Development, and more.
A formidable force in the coding education sector for years, General Assembly is an international operation with bases in both Sydney and Melbourne.
Fire Boot Camp
Fire Boot Camp is a good example of a place where you can start out your bootcamp journey slowly, without committing to weeks on end.
They offer a (mini) free code camp, with one-hour-long webinars to get you started and see if you’re interested in a coding concept before exploring it further. The next step is a one-day workshop where a developer builds an app live (example techs are Angular, and .Net), and from there, you can attend 2-day workshops where you build an app yourself. There’s also a 6-week Angular course and a 9-week Enterprise MVC program to consider. Check locations across Aus for more details.
Live in Perth, or feel like an excuse to watch the sunset over the ocean for a while? You don’t have to miss out on a coding bootcamp. Codemaster Institute is a Perth-based course provider who can help upskill with a 12-week full-time Full Stack Web Developer course, 16-week part-time Web Development or Machine Learning and AI courses, or 3-day beginner Python programming course.
Ready to put your coding skills to the test? Check out our latest job listings.