Skills of the Modern Developer

It takes more than hard skills to build great software

6 min readSep 25, 2019


I am shaping the skills of the future! Okay, that sounds incredibly grandiose, but I recently took part in a session run by Mercer the previous week to help the Singapore government update the map of skills and career paths for the ICT sector.

We focused on the career paths portion for the Software and Applications track. My contribution mostly consisted on clarifying the roles and simplifying the structure into front-end, back-end, and infrastructure engineers. This led to a whole lot more discussion on granularity, where Infrastructure sits & what in the world do we do with DevOps Engineers.

We did not discuss skills for these roles, otherwise we would still be in that conference room. Skills mapping is an incredibly difficult exercise. I attempted this over a decade ago with a startup I launched in the workforce analytics space that mapped corporate goals to skills. We spent months figuring out the how skills comprised various domains and roles.

Defining skills is even more challenging for technology roles. Given the faster cycles of technology change, hot technologies learned a decade ago may not be so important now. When I learned Ruby on Rails in 2009, it was the most popular language in the NYC tech startup scene. Now almost every job opening is Python and JavaScript.

Besides the ability to program in a language, what else would be considered the key skills any competent developer needs? There are thousands of blog posts on this topic with various perspectives. When you unravel the opinions though, three themes emerge:

  • Problem solving & critical thinking over programming languages
  • Software development is more than just writing the code
  • Soft skills are even more important for project and career success

It is easy to get caught up in the importance of learning a particular language. I have seen the progression of C/C++ to Java/C# to Ruby on Rails to JavaScript to Python. I am sure Kotlin or Golang or something else will become the next hot language. A skilled developer however does not get…




Thoughts on developers, digital transformation, startups, community building & engineering culture. Author is Mark Birch @ AWS 👉