Every year, the technological world that we're living in seems to take another massive leap forward, at which point nearly every industry that you can think of changes in ways we couldn't have possibly imagined even a decade ago. If you're a Software Engineer, it is of paramount importance that you stay agile enough to change with it - a constant need to grow and adapt to the times essentially comes with the territory.
To that end, staffing agency and IT staffing experts agree that one of the most important skills for Software Engineers to learn in 2018 is also, perhaps, one of the most unexpected: electrical engineering.
Software Engineering: The Story So Far
The major reason why electrical engineering will become so important to your career as a Software Engineer over the next few years actually has a lot to do with what has been going on over the last few years. Machine learning has become a critical asset in many industries, particularly as companies leverage new and innovative ways to extract insight from the massive volumes of data they're generating.
Much of that data has been spawned by the smartphone revolution and the Internet of Things - it's not just about capturing any data, but the right data to make the right decisions at precisely the right moment. According to a wide range of recent studies, growth in terms of connected devices is expected to explode over the next few years - particularly as countries like China push for globalization and the coss of manufacturing IoT devices plummets.
To truly empower the IoT to act as an enabler of new possibilities and innovation, these types of connected devices and sensors can no longer be limited solely to standard computer hardware and server rooms. They need to be deeply integrated into the lives of everyone, everywhere, at every time. They need to exist inside manufacturing equipment, on factory floors, and in day-to-day appliances.
The skill required to make that happen? Electrical engineering.
Why Electrical Engineering Will Be So Important
Think back just a few years ago, when the software industry moved from the desktop age into the mobile one, then again into the early stages of the machine learning age. Job descriptions changed overnight - suddenly, skills that seemed irrelevant were of critical importance.
This is happening again, and electrical engineering is officially "ground zero" in terms of what you need to do to continue to grow as a Software Engineer, to remain competitive to the industry as a whole and to help survive this transition and come out all the better for it. It is a move that will require you to go beyond the capture side of the software stack, moving from operating system framework to below the operating system as much as possible.
Learning Electrical Engineering as a Software Engineer
Actually learning electrical engineering as a Software Engineer is a process that begins where it always does: with the basics. Start working with solutions like Arduino or even Raspberry Pi and learn as much as you can about analog and digital signaling, along with driving circuit and sensors by GPIO. Don't just acknowledge that Raspberry Pi and Arduino are different - dive deeper and examine what really makes a microprocessor with an operating system (Raspberry Pi) and a microcontroller (Arduino) tick.
Get a feel for not just what concepts like current, voltage, resistance and capacitance mean, but how they work and how they work together. Use every opportunity you can to analyze a simple circuit like a rectifier or filter circuit.
Focus on the software side of the equation, too. Start learning how to write hardware or protocols that actually talk with each other and with various applications. Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty - find a real problem to solve and then advance your own education by working your way towards solving that problem. Complete tasks that require both the hardware and software side of your expertise. It can even be as simple as using an automatic solenoid control to open and close a door in your home with the press of a button.
Then, do it again with a problem that is a bit harder to solve. Then again, and again. Before you know it, your skills will be building off of and complimenting one another, creating the type of momentum you need to propel yourself forward.
Taking Control of Your Own Career
The daily role of a Software Engineer has changed dramatically over the last decade - something that is going to continue over the next one, too. Sometimes, this can feel overwhelming - just when you think you've hit the point in your career where you need to be, you suddenly find yourself upended.
But in truth, you have a lot more power in the matter than you think you do. By making an effort to not only understand why electrical engineering is so important but to actually advance your skills in this area, you do more than just "preserve your status quo" in terms of your career as a Software Engineer. You make it possible to forge a new path, opening yourself up to a world of possibilities in 2018, 2019 and beyond. Make no mistake; this is a very exciting place to be in - particularly if you already love what you do.
ICS is here for you when you're ready to make your next move in your career. Check out our open jobs and see if anything fits with your goals. This year could be the year you take your profession to the next level.