Reasons to Consider a Job in Computer Engineering and Skills Needed to Break Into the Industry

In today’s increasingly insecure job climate and with the advances of automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML), it’s harder than ever for prospective job seekers to find a role that offers any kind of career stability or longevity. 

The pace of tech these days is fierce and has led many industry analysts to suggest we’re currently undergoing a fourth industrial revolution – also commonly dubbed Industry 4.0. Just like the previous industrial shake-ups of the past, this fourth incarnation has the potential to completely change how and where workers of the future will be employed.

As smart systems, tech and data come to play an increasingly important role in both our work and social lives, this new prospect of a connected, computer-driven future is becoming a reality – in many cases, putting previously secure jobs at risk of obsoletion. 

The effect of Coronavirus

While the digital revolution was already well underway, the emergence of COVID in late 2019 served to further highlight just how much the world now relies on computers and technology. With the lockdown and isolation measures imposed by nations around the world, populations had little choice but to move online for everything from socializing to shopping. 

Perhaps more worryingly, from a general employment perspective, COVID also helped expose how far computing has come – particularly over the last two decades – and just how many everyday roles could be improved (or even replaced) by greater integration with automation. 

Nowhere was this more clearly demonstrated than through the mass migration to e-commerce during the worst of Coronavirus. With all but essential shops closed during the virus- combined with an ongoing fear of mingling (and even handling potentially infected money) – people had little choice but to move en masse to shopping online. 

This general move to e-commerce was so profound through COVID that even the most conservative estimates suggest the virus accelerated the growth of online shopping by around four to six years – in turn changing the retail landscape forever and decimating employment prospects in many previously secure real-world sales operations. 

Tech and computers are changing the modern work landscape

COVID didn’t just accelerate the growth of e-commerce. Across the board, web-based systems and online tech have exploded, with most firms now offering some form of home-based working for employees, usually over cloud technologies rather than in the traditional office environment. 

Indeed, even global behemoths like Twitter and Google have started operating remote working policies for employees, favoring the cost savings and better work/life balance that can be achieved by working from home. 

Engineering opportunities that are coming as a result of the uptake of tech

While it’s beyond doubt that tech is changing the current and future work landscape (and, in many cases, rendering some roles redundant), the advances being made today are also giving rise to opportunities for tomorrow – and one of the most exciting and secure areas is in software and computer engineering. 

Tech is transforming the modern world and the way we work, to the point that many employment experts suggest it could bring many roles that haven’t even been imagined yet. 

Computer engineering could offer the stability so yearned by job seekers

Getting in early to this sector will have distinct advantages, and while other jobs may well be on the wane, it seems almost assured that computer-related disciplines will remain in high demand long into the future. 

Better yet, even if you’re already in employment, you may find you already possess crossover skills that could make you more employable in the years to come when combined with a computer/software engineering qualification. For example, if you have already worked in retail, you could potentially port the skills learned there into helping design a bespoke online retailing system. 

Computers and tech are becoming so ubiquitous across all areas of life that it’s likely you’ll be able to apply outwardly unrelated experience and skills to many different roles and projects. 

Enhancing employment prospects

As mentioned above, computers and software are already an intrinsic part of most jobs meaning much of your past experience (no matter how apparently unrelated) might often be viewed as a useful addition to your skill base. 

However, if you want to improve your employment prospects significantly, you should try to develop and add the right set of skills – for example, supervisory or project management abilities. Granted, you may already have management experience in another role, but by studying an additional, directly-related qualification like a master’s degree in engineering management, you will be seen by most potential employers as an invaluable asset. 

Base skills you should possess to break into computer engineering

While there are many different routes into computer engineering, there are still some pathways that can fast-track your entry and should assure employment. Sure, it’s true that many workers in this field are at least partly self-trained, but there’s no better way to prove your skills than by having concrete evidence to show a prospective employer, i.e., having a paper qualification. 

Below are just a few of the areas of experience and skills you should look to develop that will help you break into the industry:

Understand programming: It should come as little surprise that a knowledge of the most common programming languages is almost a prerequisite to work in this sector. Skilled computer/software engineers will typically know a variety of different languages so they can apply the best choice to specific projects that give the most reliable, most efficient results. Python is often cited as being the most versatile language – but experts will also have a deep understanding of Java and JavaScript. C++ is also another widely-used language that could prove to be a useful addition to your skillset. As a general rule, you will need to remain flexible as new languages and techniques are constantly in development, meaning you will often have to apply base solid principles in new settings.  

Perform design, testing, and manufacturing: The role of engineers in computing goes far beyond just software development, and there is also considerable scope for employment in designing products and systems. A computer hardware engineer can be tasked with designing a huge range of computer-related products – anything from screens to processors, storage, and microchips

Have a working knowledge of the cloud and cloud technologies: Over the last decade or so, cloud computing has completely transformed business processes and helped streamline systems and improve efficiency in countless firms, large and small, in all sectors. Indeed, cloud computing service provider is now one of the fastest-growing and most profitable sectors in the whole computer and tech industry, meaning job prospects and career security in this area remain high (and show every sign of staying similarly reliable).

As cloud tech is permeating so many different industries, the chances are high that you could even apply your existing experience to this in-demand role. As a base, you should aim to have a working knowledge of the most common platforms, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure. A core part of your work will involve porting existing business systems to cloud servers as well as designing systems that can be used cross-platform. 

Be versed in software development: The terms software developer and computer/software engineer are often used interchangeably where, in fact, there is a subtle difference between the two (albeit they are normally intrinsically linked). A software developer will typically be tasked with writing code that addresses a particular problem or is used for a specialist purpose, whereas a computer/software engineer’s job is to design and create the environment in which the developer’s apps can be used.

While these roles are different from one another, there is a great deal of co-dependency between the two, and it’s a distinct advantage if a software engineer can understand software development – and vice versa. Software developers and engineers will usually work hand in hand to create products that meet and surpass a client’s specific needs. 

Be skilled in DevOps: DevOps is now a fundamental component of pretty much all software development. The term is a portmanteau of the words’ development’ and ‘operations’ and describes the process used by software developers that involves writing code, application development, app maintenance, and management in one single process to improve production speed and help eliminate costly errors in production. In traditional application development, something nearing a waterfall approach was taken with coders coding, testers testing then the whole model being sent back for amendments when issues were found.

With DevOps, however, a more unified approach is applied through these production stages, with each happening concurrently and teams sending feedback constantly from stakeholder to stakeholder. As a DevOps engineer, you will work closely with production teams, operations staff, and the end client to ensure a steady flow of development with minimal delays and decreased errors. Note, that most DevOps engineers start in a lower position and then work their way up with the experience learned in these hands-on roles – often to project management positions. 

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