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Software Engineers: Pioneers of Breathless Innovation

Man sitting in front of two computer monitors displaying code

Every day we read about yet another unbelievable innovation that will change our lives. Smart homes, driverless cars, robotics soon-to-be everywhere doing absolutely everything. The people charged with imagining and developing these transformative innovations are software engineers and the best and brightest are fast becoming rock stars in the age of “Internet-everywhere.” We wanted to get a sense for how it must feel being at the leading edge of this thrilling new world, so we checked in with our top Aerotek recruiters working with software engineering contractors.

Living in the future, today

Coleman Wells, a Charlotte-based Aerotek recruiter witnesses every day what the most ambitious software engineers are working on. “We have software engineers doing product development on projects like chemical weapon detection systems, military aircraft systems, 3D printers and smart home devices. In each case, the complexity of the job and high degrees of innovation were key factors in the best and brightest signing up for the work.”

Not long ago, being a software engineer wasn’t so glamorous. But today, the rush of innovation has made us all increasingly aware of the amazing capacity for technology to change lives. Somewhere in the background of our amazement, we sense that whoever’s responsible for all this magic must be onto something special. It’s not a stretch to suggest that today’s software engineers are the leading innovators of the 21st century. While most of us dream about the future, some team of software engineers is busy turning fantastic dreams into new realities.

Who are these people?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects nearly 19 percent employment growth for software developers between now and 2024 (when compared to seven percent growth for all occupations). Software engineering as a career is officially “hot.” So, if the innovators behind all this incredible technology in our lives are the new rock stars of the industrial front, where did they come from, what are they looking for and what makes them tick?

Aerotek recruiter Sam Yeomans offers some insights: “The most successful engineers we see are those with very strong technical skills who also pick up deep business and project management skills. They’re discovering what previous generations of traditional engineers figured out: The ability to assist or run business development, create relationships and interface effectively with people who are not engineers can make for a rich and high-value career.”

Software office politics

We picked up an interesting thread in our listening to conversations between software engineers on Reddit. One user was seeking help understanding a programming language he was advised to study, but couldn’t find any evidence that even existed. As jaded software engineers know, this language isn’t real — it’s a metaphor for the most universal of all programming languages: The codes and currency of business politics. In the words of a helpful software engineer vet on Reddit, “I'm not saying that one should become obsessed with [office] politics ... but one ought to be politically aware because there's politics in everything we do.“ Check out the full thread on Reddit.

The advice that seasoned software engineers are offering to newcomers is that no job is purely about the technical challenges. Every job is performed within a business context. The warning to be conscious of office politics is more about teaching new software engineers an important early lesson about the realities of working in a pressure-fueled work culture. It echoes Sam’s advice to ambitious software engineers to learn the business code along with the programming code.

To contract or not

In the high-stakes world of technology innovation one thing is clear: There’s ample opportunity for career rewards for the ambitious software engineers. But there’s also some risk when it comes to picking the right position in the right company working on a project that will fully satisfy that hunger for challenging work.

Aerotek Account Manager Mike Shearer provided additional guidance: “Technology is evolving at such a rapid pace, and companies who want to remain innovative and out front must constantly keep up-to-date on the most advanced developments. Software engineer candidates know this. We see savvy engineers choosing contract gigs and changing jobs every few years to keep their skills sharp and relevant. It used to be that engineers wanted safe and more secure long-term employment. But in the last few years we see a growing pool of software engineers forming where contractor work ideally suits them. They’re looking for chances to work on cutting edge projects. Their nature is more opportunistic. They’re more ready to switch industries and relocate for the right opportunity.”

The future brightens with new technologies which make us all wonder how we ever lived without. Software engineers, especially the savvy and ambitious ones, will play a major role in shaping this shared future. Aerotek has clients in almost every category working in this space, and they’re always looking for advanced software engineers to sustain their constant drive towards technology innovation. If you’re a software engineer looking for a piece of this future today, we invite you to create an Aerotek career account, or explore our current software engineering opportunities.