2020 has changed the scope and scale of many businesses. To sustain the pandemic, many local and diverse businesses are shifting online. They are looking for new collaborations as they change their traditional working styles. With Software enterprises increasingly productizing their services, software products either become a web platform or a part of a platform. The industry is evolving in such a way that any company can now be run as a software firm.
This opens huge opportunities for aspiring software product developers. However, to take the plunge, they need to develop the right mind-set and fine-tune their skills to market needs.
Is there a company that does not need software products?
A well-designed software product creates an identity for the business it represents. Many local and diverse businesses shifting to e-commerce or planning to expand their online presence are looking for software products like websites, secure online payment services, and social media marketing tools.
Building products is interesting and is faster than providing services. For better profits and faster market penetration, many IT services firms are wrapping their services as products and pushing client customizations to the end of product development. While some build an entire software and its virtual business ecosystems (software platforms) for clients, some collaborate with companies that build tools to integrate with existing platforms, like SaaS (Software as a Service) products.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, experts predicted advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) in 2020. Many tools in AI, Data Science, Cloud were expected to hit the markets. However, the pandemic gave us other pressing concerns. The industry needed lightweight WFH (Work from Home) tools, IDEs, issue tracking software, Cloud-based IDEs, etc. to adapt to the new normal. Along with the new tools we need post-pandemic, we now started thinking back again about more ambitious projects and innovative software products.
More traditional non-software businesses in manufacturing, animations, art and design, logistics, etc. are now software-driven. Some of them build their software products, and some collaborate with other software product companies. They use them for automation, quality control, resource management, logistics, inventory management, finance, administration, security, marketing, etc. Most of them are now cutting-edge technology hubs and are functioning as a software firm. Start-ups with a vision also incorporate similar new processes and updated technologies to innovate, sustain, and compete with established firms.
As technologies advance so do the products. Remember how often you update your phone software? It is a myth that product developers stay in the same tech stack. They know the internal compositions of their products and hence learn new skills and the latest technologies as they update them. We need better and faster products to overcome the expected and unexpected challenges time throws at us.
The fascinating world of Product development
As an old story goes – "A passer-by asks three bricklayers what they’re doing. The first one replies, he is laying bricks, the second one replies he is building a wall, and the third one says he is building a cathedral". A product developer is like the third bricklayer. Though his contributions form a small part, he envisages the finished product and is motivated to build it. Product development is more about your perspective than about programming.
We spend a large part of our adult lives working to earn a living. A happy and contented life needs fulfilling work. Understanding how our contributions make the product and tackling meaningful challenges while building it makes our work-life satisfying.
Some Software programmers are experts in multiple programming languages. They may find their work boring if they do not find opportunities to use their diverse skills. But shifting to other interesting projects may not be possible. Moving to product development is a promotion that not only brings monetary benefits but also better knowledge, work satisfaction, and growth.
The 2C’s for contentment at work: Consume – Create
Update your skills (Consume)
Most Multinational software firms train their employees in specific computer language skills like Java, Oracle, .Net, etc. After working on a project for a couple of years, their skills narrow down to the specific ones used there. Product development needs a basic understanding of a wide range of skills like UI, Programming languages, backend systems, and product design. Industry experts suggest developers also get a good understanding of data structures, algorithm techniques, operating systems, User Interface functions.
These skills enable developers to think about the whole product and not only about the code they write. Their willingness to learn multiple platforms and take up cross-domain responsibilities will land them in interesting product development jobs.
Product thinking compels developers to confront their mistakes as they develop a product. The mistakes come back to them when they work on enhancing and adapting the products. This gives them a chance to rectify and learn. You may not have learning opportunities if you think of yourself as a bricklayer, in other words, as a programmer of a piece.
You can take courses on online teaching platforms like Coursera, EdX, Udemy, or on many websites like Masai school dedicated to teaching software development or any local coaching center. Online knowledge sharing communities like https://dev.to/, LinkedIn will keep you updated with the latest advancements in your field and connect you with your geeky tribe. Blogs on websites like https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/, https://www.linkedin.com/learning, https://news.ycombinator.com/, https://thehackernews.com/, https://www.hackerearth.com/for-developers, YouTube, etc. are treasure troves of knowledge that you can consume effortlessly.
Use your skills (Create)
Gaining knowledge is fun and easy with informative online tutorials, comics, animated videos. Still, breaking the inertia and using our knowledge gained to create something new is hard. Internship at a product development start-up, an established firm, or building real-world tech projects at platforms like Crio.do gives you a chance to implement the knowledge you gained.
Teenagers may boast that they don’t want to learn anything they’re not interested in. How would you know that it’s not interesting unless you tried learning about it? Our prejudice against certain skills closes new opportunities. Product development needs open-mindedness, a willingness to learn any skills that the job needs and implement them effectively at work.
With many established non-software firms as well as small-scale local businesses seeking to go virtual, there are more opportunities for software product development in a post-Covid world. Product development is interesting and offers better satisfaction at work. With the right mindset and willingness to learn new technologies, you can start your career in product development. With online resources and projects, you can successfully launch your project development career.