Microsoft Ignite 2021: How to Become a Software Developer Review

Photo by Mohammad Rezaie on Unsplash

As a student trying to break into the industry, Microsoft Ignite’s ‘How to become a software developer’ session, really piqued my interest. Hosted by Safia Abdalla, Hani Chaaban, and Scott Hanselman, the panel delved into many topics surrounding software developers today. These topics ranged from languages/technologies, learning methodologies and, to my surprise, mental challenges around software engineering.

To begin, the panellists discussed whether exposure to technology at a young age made it more destined for someone to become a developer. The answer, of course, No. They discussed that curiosity and a willingness to learn were key factors in becoming a software developer. There was deliberate importance placed on using a computer versus controlling a computer. The concept intrigued me and led me to the realisation as to how true the concept is. As developers, we will control how people interact with not only software but their computers too.

A brief debate was held on whether programming is a science or an art. Obviously, there was an element of bias with panellists that studied Computer Science at university. However, there was a consensus that in fact, it was both. The argument for science being that problem solving follows the scientific method. Whereas, there is an art to solving the problem using out of the box thinking.

There was a question posed by an attendee asking ‘What technologies are important to learn?’ The feedback was simple. You start by building projects. Then you figure out the problems you will need to overcome. What technologies and languages will give you the best result in accomplishing the task? There is no silver bullet in technology, it’s truly about learning and using what is best for your needs and skills. There was a piece of advice, which any experienced developer could attest to, once you learn one language, you can learn the others easily. There was an emphasis on not focusing too much on the syntax, but more on how Object Orientated Programming works.

Another question asked was ‘What is Software Engineering?’ The answer was to solve problems. Simple yet, true. Every program we code, every feature we add, comes with an element of problem-solving. Is this the most effective method? How do I achieve this? There must be a willingness to learn and dive into new areas. Risk-taking is a key approach to Software Engineering. To form a willingness to trial and error with tasks.

In a completely different direction to the session led to mental challenges. The focus was on imposter syndrome, gatekeepers in the programming space and burnout. The mindset that developers must not take into the industry is comparing themselves with others. This only leads to negative thoughts and does not help your growth in the industry. On the flip side, if you see someone going through this make sure you contact them and this will result in a shot of confidence for them. There was also an aspect of how negative things can become in the open-source community. The open-source community puts you in a vulnerable position as all of your code is out in the open. Every mistake, bug and error you type is there for everyone to see. However, you must be open to improvement and be strong in trust for yourself. To never let the self-doubt and self-critiquing takeover.

The final topic was ‘How to learn’. There must be something intentional and deliberate about practice and learning. You can take notes on your work, experiment with things and see what works and what does not. This leads to a feedback loop in which you can fail fast, often, and safely. Make sure your learning can bring back a return on your time investment, only then will it be worth it. The best way to learn is by doing. Another way to learn is by reading code. This is something not often done but will produce results. This can lead to learning different ways to do tasks or learn something completely new to you. You can learn from content creators on YouTube. I can personally attest to this. Even if its background noise sometimes, you can learn through osmosis.

My overall thoughts on the panel were underwhelming, to say the least. There was not a lot covered about breaking into the industry. It felt more like a beginners session into “How to code”. There was dissatisfaction with the session. However, to their credit, they covered aspects in which I thought they would not cover. And in their defence, there was not a lot of time to get the information across. In the future, they should assume that people attending Ignite would have a background in technology.

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Intern Software Engineer

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Sheil Gandhi

Sheil Gandhi

Intern Software Engineer

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