16 Essential Technical and Soft Skills for Modern Developers: Staying Ahead in a Rapidly Evolving Tech Landscape

Software development is one of the hottest industries to be working in. Its average salary is almost £50,000, making it highly rewarding.


  • It’s a high-demand job, which is why it makes up over 10% of all jobs advertised for in the UK.
  • You can start freelancing and become your own boss if you know your stuff. 
  • It’s a job you can easily do from home.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • Seven essential technical skills you need to become a successful developer, plus nine highly recommended soft skills.
  • How to choose a niche within software development (you can skip this part if you already know).

Choosing a software development niche

You’re interested in software development because you like building things and are innately gifted with problem-solving skills. That’s the common denominator that unites us all.

While there are broad skills and a commonly shared basic understanding you need when venturing down this path, it can be quite beneficial to find a niche because it affords you time to specifically master one area when you de-prioritise others, making you highly desirable and in-demand compared to a generalist.

To help you choose a niche, try your best to answer the following questions:

  1. Which programming language do I enjoy the most? There’s HTML, Java, Python, and much more. Some of these work together, but they all have areas where they shine.
  2. Which area do I enjoy the most? Is it web or app design? Maybe it’s game development or cyber-security. Each area requires a different set of must-have skills.
  3. What specific role do I see myself enjoying? There are front-end developers, back-end developers, full-stack developers, and so on.
  4. Which industry would I like to work in? They all have unique challenges and demands, from health and law to finance and retail.
  5. What’s my preferred front-end language? Reach and Angular have always had an interesting battle.

Seven essential technical skills

Technical competencies are those required to perform the job well day in and out.

Know your programming language and framework

Knowing your programming languages is foundational to becoming a skilled software developer.

Each language has its unique syntax, strengths, and use cases, making it crucial to choose and learn languages that align with your career goals and interests.

For instance:

  • HTML, CSS, and frameworks like the previously mentioned Reach and Angular are good for front-end development
  • Languages like Ruby and Node.js and frameworks like Django and Flask work well in back-end development.
  • SQL and NoSQL for those interested in database management.
  • Swift or Kotlin are key for iOS and Android app development.
  • Java is widely used in enterprise applications.
  • JavaScript is essential for web development.
  • Python is favoured for data science and AI.

Fortunately, we live in a time where access to information is rife, so it’s quite easy to build strong coding skills. Here are some practical steps:

  1. Certification from a formal college: Take, for instance,, a community college offering A.A.S. Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud Administration associate degrees. serves as an AWS Academy and empowers students with a curriculum meticulously prepared by AWS, which provides both theoretical knowledge and practical, industry-relevant skills.
  2. Build your project: Start with small projects and gradually increase complexity. Building your projects is crucial to the development process because it helps solidify your understanding and showcases your skills to potential employers or clients.
  3. Join online communities: Participating in forums like Stack Overflow, Reddit programming communities, or specific language forums can be beneficial. You can ask questions, share knowledge, and stay updated with the latest trends.
  4. Open source projects: Contributing to open source projects on platforms like GitHub can provide practical experience. It’s a way to apply your knowledge in real-world scenarios and collaborate with other modern developers.
  5. Coding practice platforms: Engaging with platforms like LeetCode, HackerRank, and CodeSignal can be an excellent way to practice coding problems and get familiar with the syntax and nuances of a language.
  6. Online tutorials and courses: Websites like Codecademy, Coursera, Udemy, and freeCodeCamp offer structured courses in various programming languages.

Remember, learning a programming language is like learning a regular language. You need to learn the syntax side of things combined with consistent practice.

Data security

Nowadays, modern developers need to know techniques for securing data, both their own and that of their clients. Precisely because of this and the fact that the technology environment is rapidly evolving, familiarizing oneself with data backup and recovery solutions is critical. 

These skills not only increase confidence in managing large amounts of data in the cloud but also ensure that the applications and services developed are robust and reliable.

UI/UX design principles

User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) principles are crucial for front-end and full-stack developers, as they directly influence how users interact with a website or application. UI design focuses on the visual aspects of an interface, including layout, colors, and typography, aiming for an aesthetically pleasing and intuitive interface.

UX design is about enhancing the user’s overall experience by making the interaction smooth, logical, and user-friendly.

Both principles rely heavily on understanding user needs and behaviours, emphasising ease of use, accessibility, and efficient navigation. An effective UI/UX design not only makes a product appealing but also functional and easy to use, leading to better user satisfaction and engagement.

A great place to understand the fundamental design principles is on YouTube channels such as UX Mastery, AJ&Smart, and The Futur, which provide video content ranging from tutorials to expert interviews on UI/UX topics.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

An understanding of the basics of SEO is helpful if you’re going to be coding websites. The following factors will need testing as they’ll determine search engine rankings:

  1. Compatibility on common screen sizes and browsers.
  2. Mobile-friendliness.
  3. Page load speed.
  4. URL structure. 
  5. Site hierarchy.


Proficiency in testing is a crucial aspect of software development. This includes:

  • Integration testing (ensuring components work together).
  • System testing (testing the complete integrated system).
  • Unit testing (testing individual components).

Using testing frameworks like JUnit for Java, pytest for Python, or Mocha for JavaScript, developers can automate these tests, making the process more efficient and reliable.

Cloud computing

Cloud computing skills are essential for building and deploying scalable applications. Proficiency in services offered by platforms like AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform is highly sought after.

These platforms provide a wide range of cloud-based solutions, including virtual servers (EC2 on AWS, VMs on Azure), managed databases, AI and machine learning services, and storage solutions. Skills in these services enable modern developers to design, build, and manage applications that are scalable, reliable, and secure, leveraging the cloud’s vast resources and capabilities. 

Understanding cloud infrastructure and mastering these platforms’ tools and services can greatly enhance applications’ efficiency, performance, and cost-effectiveness in diverse computing environments.

This proficiency is particularly valuable in domains such as cloud contact centers, where the utilization of scalable resources and advanced services optimizes communication systems for enhanced customer experiences.

Data and analytics

Developers need to know how to access, analyze, and visualize data from various sources and platforms and how to use the insights to create better products and services. One of the tools that many developers use for data and analytics is Power BI, a business intelligence platform from Microsoft. 

However, Power BI isn’t the only option available, and developers should know the alternatives to Power BI that might suit their needs better.

For example, some of the alternatives to Power BI are Tableau, ThoughtSpot, Qlik Sense, SAP BusinessObjects, and Sisense Fusion. These tools offer different features, capabilities, and pricing models, and developers should compare them based on their specific requirements and preferences. 

By exploring the alternatives to Power BI, developers can expand their data and analytics skills and find the best solution for their projects.

Nine recommended soft skills

Soft skills aren’t directly related to the job, but they’ll make you much better at it. Here are nine important soft skills and why they’re important:

  1. Building in public: Using social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn to publicly share your developer journey, which can attract collaboration opportunities. Think of it as online networking.
  2. User-centric empathy: Understanding and prioritizing the user’s experience and needs in software development, especially when catering to users with disabilities.
  3. Critical thinking: Assessing various solutions to a problem and choosing the most effective course of action.
  4. Communication: Clearly articulating ideas, concepts, and technical details to team members or clients.
  5. Adaptability: Staying flexible and adapting to new technologies, tools, and methodologies.
  6. Attention to detail: Ensuring precision in coding and catching errors before they lead to bigger issues.
  7. Time management: Balancing multiple tasks and priorities while meeting deadlines. Using task or project management systems can help you stay on top of your work.
  8. Innovation: Coming up with innovative solutions and thinking outside the box.
  9. Networking: Building professional relationships that can lead to more work.

Further listening

Whether you’re a newbie or an experienced developer, we hope to have given you much food for thought as you navigate your way through the world of development.

It’s always helpful to learn from the experiences and follow the stories of those who have reached the pinnacle of their careers as modern developers–and that’s exactly what our Developer Nation Broadcast is all about, so do have a listen.

Good luck!

Author bio

Arif Bharakda is a versatile writer passionate about marketing, technology, and B2B insights. With a keen interest in personal growth, Arif brings a relatable perspective to complex topics, making them accessible to all readers.


Building Effective Developer Communities: Five Networking Strategies for Growth

Technical expertise is just one aspect of what makes a successful developer.

To accelerate your growth and access new career or freelance opportunities, you must build a strong professional network.

In this article, we’ll explore five valuable networking strategies to enhance your professional journey.

Finding your community

Naturally, the first step in strategic networking is identifying the right circles! Research industry influencers, thought leaders, and successful professionals who have reached the pinnacle of their careers. These can be people who:

  1. Develop in the same niche as you, such as front-end development.
  2. Work in the same industry. For example, finance, health, or legal.
  3. Specialise in the same programming language as you.
  4. Have faced (and overcome) similar challenges to you.

Read and listen to their content, as it can provide valuable advice and guidance. Thanks to social media, many of these experts are accessible. Don’t be afraid to send them your questions or comments. Here’s a list of 10 influencers to get you started–but there are so many more a Google search away.

And don’t discount connecting with people on the same journey as you. If you’re just starting out, connect with others in the same position or have the same background as you.

For example, only 18% of programmers and software developers in the UK are women, making it hard for female coders to find each other. However, with targeted and effective networking, you can.

Female coders are a rare breed
Female coders are a rare breed.

Build your personal brand

What are the first thoughts that pop into your head when we say:

  • Steven Bartlett
  • Karen Brady

Whatever popped into your head is the sum of their personal brand.

Similarly, you have a personal brand. Just ask your friends and family members to describe your personality. Their answer is the sum of your personal brand.

Whether they like it or not, everybody has a personal brand. The trick isn’t to create a personal brand but to take control of its narrative.

In the context of your developer life, you need to build a personal brand of someone with the right technical and soft skills that make people want to work with or employ you.

Establishing a strong online presence

In 2024, LinkedIn will be the best place to build your personal brand and community.

A quick search suggests there are over 10 million software developers on LinkedIn. This doesn’t include people who might have given their profile a more niche title.

linkedin search
Over 10 million software developers use LinkedIn

This might sound overwhelming, but listen to this: only 1% of LinkedIn’s users create content on the platform

And that percentage is likely to be even lower among the developer clan–meaning there’s a sizeable opportunity for you to make an impact.

Now, you’re wondering, “But what do I even post about?” Here are some ideas and why they work:

  1. Your developer journey: Post content around the highs and lows of your professional journey. Talking about your challenges and how you overcame them can provide immense value to those who are new to the industry and can attract and inspire people in general.
  2. The problems you solve for people: For freelancers and job seekers, one of the best ways to find more work is to highlight the types of projects you’ve been involved in and the benefits your existing clients have realised. With this, you present yourself as a problem-solver for others facing similar issues.
  3. Tips and tricks: On the way to becoming known as an industry expert, attracting more work and better job opportunities, is to share your unique knowledge that makes you a competent developer.

Posting regular content is only half the work. The other half of the online networking process is community building. You can’t expect to post content and hope people see it, right? You need to:

  1. Send connection requests to relevant people, such as fellow developers and those who fit your ideal audience or employer profile.
  2. Have conversations in the direct messages (DMs). Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make a sale or get a job. Just get to know them without any expectations, as those casual conversations often lead to business opportunities. 
  3. Engage with people in public. This means commenting on and starting conversations under other people’s content.

You can apply this online networking approach to any social media platform, whether X (formerly Twitter) or GitHub.

Social media is flexible and valuable

As an alternative, consider joining online communities made specifically for software developers. Developer Nation offers learning, career growth, and connecting opportunities for software creators of all areas of development and all levels of experience.

Attending in-person networking events

Attending events, such as conferences, workshops, and meetups with like-minded professionals, offers immense value for developers seeking to enhance their networking processes.

These gatherings are great for:

  1. Building professional relationships with people
  2. Gaining exposure to diverse perspectives
  3. Acquiring new knowledge
  4. Exchanging ideas

Most importantly, it increases your visibility. You can only get new work or access career progression if people know you exist!

Don’t know how to find events near you? Search on Eventbrite or through the online community you should be building simultaneously.

The big advantage of meeting in person over online is the ability to quickly build rapport and connect because people are exposed to things like the tone of your speech and body language, and we know the text is very tone-deaf.

Meeting new people can be daunting, especially for introverts. To make meaningful connections, your networking skills need to be sharp. You must be able to hold conversations and manage any anxiety and nerves. 

This is where podcasts such as The Art of Communication are helpful. In fact, this podcast has a specific episode dedicated to networking that’s well worth a listen. Among other things, it teaches you how to approach people, break the ice, and find a shared interest to build rapport.

Identifying networking goals

Networking requires participation

Without setting specific networking goals, all the networking tips in the world won’t make a difference because you’ll be shooting in the dark. Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What can I offer people? The attitude to networking has to be “What can I give?” not “What can I gain?” if you want to build meaningful relationships.
  2. What do I want to achieve? Is it more work (read: more revenue), a new job, or simply hanging out with fellow developers?
  3. What specific area in the development world am I interested in the most?

Answering these questions determines who you connect with and the types of events you attend.

Then, you go deeper and identify specific weekly or monthly goals based on your resources and availability:

  1. How many conversations will I try to take part in per event?
  2. How many relevant people will I add on social media?
  3. How many posts of others will I engage with?
  4. How many times will I post on social media?
  5. How many networking events will I attend?


Creating genuine connections and beneficial relationships is crucial for any developer who wants professional growth. This is done through networking. We explored:

  1. Finding your community
  2. Building a personal brand
  3. Building online networks
  4. Building offline networks
  5. Having networking goals

Good luck!

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Author bio

Arif Bharakda is a versatile writer passionate about marketing, technology, and B2B insights. With a keen interest in personal growth, Arif brings a relatable perspective to complex topics, making them accessible to all readers.