Last year was tough, but 2021 promises new opportunities for developers in the rapidly transforming business landscape. Here are the skills that will help you succeed.

Now more than ever, developers are in hot demand.

Image: nd3000, Getty Images/iStockphoto

The importance of software skills was brought to the fore in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic forced rapid digitization across businesses, and even entire industries.

All signs point to 2021 being a year of continued change for businesses as they use the lessons learned from 2020 to rethink their strategy. For many, this will mean continuing on their path to
digital transformation,

and ensuring they have the talent to make this happen.

SEE: 
What software developers should know about 2021: Low-code, AI code testing, COVID-19’s lasting effect and the skills needed to stay on top

(TechRepublic)

With that being the case, professionals with a strong software skillset are well-positioned to benefit from new job opportunities in the year ahead. TechRepublic spoke to developers, tech executives and software experts about the skills they believe will help digital professionals excel in 2021.

Cloud

With businesses increasingly
shifting to cloud-based operations

and remote workforces, Erica Langhi, senior solution architect EMEA Red Hat, believes this is an obvious opportunity for professionals to capitalize on.

“As organizations are building more products and services on public and private clouds instead of using traditional software infrastructures, cloud-native development is a skill worth investing in from a developer’s perspective,” Langhi tells TechRepublic.

“This includes proficiency with containers and the container orchestration tool Kubernetes. It also includes the ability to develop microservices and understand service mesh, as enterprises will increasingly need to scale and manage those microservices.”

This also includes the ability to understand
serverless techniques,

says Langhi – a reflection of a more dynamic and distributed computing landscape. “Demand for cloud-native development skills is expected to expand in future years to satisfy the increased agility needed by organizations with a development model that span data centers and multi-cloud environments,” she says.

Fiona Hobbs, CTO of Opencast Software, adds that developers will increasingly need to understand how to leverage API-driven microservices and domain-driven design, as businesses move from legacy infrastructure to the cloud.

“More work on the cloud will necessitate an understanding of containerization and how to accurately design web applications for cloud,” Hobbs adds.

Without understanding containerization, deploying scalable apps to the cloud becomes tiresome – so it is a vital skill to have.

Flexibility

Layla Porter, senior developer evangelist at communications company Twilio, says developers will need to be prepared to keep adapting to an industry that’s already been shaken up by the events of 2020.

SEE: Future of work: Five new features of your remote workplace in 2021 (ZDNet)

“This year, perhaps more than ever, developers are going to have to adapt to a constantly changing set of circumstances – as they’ve had to do during the pandemic so far,” she tells TechRepublic.

“This flexibility, though, is also an opportunity. The growing self-taught movement has opened up doors into coding for people from all walks of life and the world we currently live in will lift those barriers even further. It’s an exciting, if challenging, time to be in the industry.”

Full-stack development

According to a recent survey of tech recruiters conducted by developer recruitment platform CodinGame, full-stack developer is currently the second hottest tech job for 2021.

Co-founder and CCO, Aude Barral, believes 2021 offers the ideal opportunity for people, particularly those who have been left without a job as a result of COVID-19, to
learn valuable programming skills.

“Developers who want to stand out from the crowd in today’s job market need to have the full repertoire of front-end and back-end development expertise,” says Barral.

“That means having knowledge of one or more of Python, Javascript, Java, Go and PHP for back-end programming languages and HTML/CSS for the front end.”  


DevOps

and data science will also score highly on companies’ list of sought-after skills, says Barral. “This year we can expect to see AI and machine learning becoming more mainstream and there will be a growing need for developers with automation and natural language processing expertise over the next 12 months,” she adds.

“And with the world switching to remote working, developers with cloud architecture and cybersecurity skills for the cloud are going to be highly sought after.”

Programming languages

It perhaps goes without saying that mastering programming languages – ideally more than one – will make developers highly prized by companies on the lookout for professionals with
a diverse set of technical expertise.

“Currently, the programming languages that continue to stand out for me when hiring are
Python,

JavaScript, and Go,” says Will Blew, software engineering manager at cloud-hosting company Linode.

“In the JavaScript realm, being able to use React.js and its associated libraries/toolsets continues to be in high demand.” 

Understanding how these languages work with infrastructure components, such as cloud and software containers, will also put developers in good stead with potential employers, says Blew.

“Knowing what to use when, and why, will be valuable to teams. Rather than being tied to specific services or languages, picking the right tool for the job is essential.”

SEE: Top 5 programming languages for systems admins to learn (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Rob Hedgpeth, director of developer relations at database provider MariaDB, says
SQL (Structured Query Language)

should also be seen as top skill for programmers in 2021.

Despite being something of an old workhorse by today’s standards, SQL, the default standard for accessing and managing data held in relational databases, is seeing increased popularity in recent years as more companies harness data and analytics to drive new business insights.

“By now, it’s no mystery that over the past couple of years relational databases having been trending up again,” he tells TechRepublic.

“More than ever developers will need to hone their SQL skills, because even though it’s not a new, bleeding-edge technology, it’s being used in innovative and revolutionary ways that will make it a crucial skill to have for many years to come.”

Strategic thinking

Jacquiline Train, engineering team lead at Ocado Technology, says thinking beyond the day-to-day with a strategic focus will be an invaluable skill for anyone looking to take their tech career to the next level in 2021.

“This is what will take you from where you are now to where you want to be, whether your goal is technical or organizational,” Train tells TechRepublic. “It means moving from being an opportunity taker to an innovative opportunity creator.”

This also means keeping your eyes open to the world around you, and identifying areas where you can have the most impact, Train adds. “Even a small improvement to the development process that reduces the friction for the developers around you can significantly benefit everyone.

“This positive influence is something to strive for. First demonstrate consistent impact on your team, then look wider to see how you might influence your department.”

IoT

Tom Canning, VP of IoT at Canonical, believes
Internet of Things (IoT)

know-how will see an uptick demand in 2021, as 5G takes off alongside greater consumer access. “It is in the intersection of 5G and IoT where the next generation of transformations will arrive from,” he tells TechRepublic.

“Imagine the advancements that can happen within Smart Cities, autonomous driving, and wearables, when greater connectivity and reduced latency can be found directly at the edge.”

SEE: 5 Internet of Things (IoT) innovations (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

As a result of these advancements, successful IoT team leaders will need to equip themselves and their teams with skills that are “dictated by the more complex IoT ecosystem and discipline,” Canning adds.

“In comparison to traditional enterprise web-based applications, which will have a browser and well-defined ways of communicating with a server, IoT applications execute at the device hardware itself, where multiple operating system and containerization choices may exist. This, at its heart, demands a more robust set of specialized skills.”

Security, security, security

As DevSecOps becomes a “bread-and-butter skill” in development in 2021, every developer and software engineer should understand security throughout the ecosystem – from their application, code, and software supply chain, all the way through to the environment their tooling is run in, says Ilkka Turunen, global head of solutions architecture at DevOps automation firm, Sonatype.

“Developing the muscle to know what you have, and how to manage this risk is vital,” he tells TechRepublic.

“Running legal compliance or infrastructure integrity tests can lead to higher quality software, quicker. This means the workforce will need to have the ability to seek out and integrate these tools in each domain of software development as it will become an absolute necessity. Conversely, there is less need to DIY steps, and more ability to leverage industry best practice.”

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