How software engineers help to solve technology problems
In the exciting and continually-changing technology sector, the role of the software engineer could not be more critical. There are opportunities in different areas for people with these skills at every level in conceptualization, design, marketing, and maintenance. The most significant task undertaken by software engineers across these sectors is problem-solving, and this article looks at some of the reasons why.
You can’t solve a problem if you don’t know it’s there. This causes two significant issues in tech: first, products can become dangerous or develop more serious faults because an initial defect has been missed; second, they can develop visible problems without any identifiable cause. Software engineers design monitoring systems to reduce the risk of the former, such as the safety-critical systems used in everything from smart ovens to aircraft to nuclear power plants. They also develop software models aimed at predicting potential faults in new products. Where the second issue is concerned, they are responsible for the software which undertakes data gathering, making it easier to analyze failing systems and thus identify faults. This can also be used in hospital information systems and similar contexts where identifying anomalies helps manage risks.
Before a piece of technology is designed, software can simulate it or the context in which it must operate. Simulated product design now plays an essential role in industry as it can often be done much more cheaply than creating multiple versions of a product for testing, and it’s sometimes a much safer way to explore options. By simulating workflow, software engineers can also give designers an insight into how a product will function in the real world, enabling it to be fine-tuned before release. They can also develop software to control and monitor physical simulations – for instance, in testing scale models of architectural designs to see how well they will withstand earthquakes. One area where software engineers play an increasingly important role is in biotech, where simulated cell cultures and even whole organs provide the opportunity to test new drugs much more rapidly and reliably than could be done on animal subjects.
The design process
Software engineers also have an important role in the design process itself, with their work helping designers visualize problems to understand them better and develop effective solutions at an early stage. Their work enables companies to enforce particular design patterns to ensure that products meet company standards regarding safety, branding, or overall appearance. It also makes it easier to ensure product compatibility. In addition to this, bespoke software design helps workers to collaborate on projects. It enables more effective remote working and helps workers with different specialties communicate more effectively with one another by letting them illustrate the problems they are dealing with so that others find them easier to understand.
Once a product goes out to market, manufacturers have much less control over it. However, they may still be affected if things go wrong with it, either reputationally or through warranty obligations. Software engineers can create embedded systems, making it much easier to identify and resolve issues at this stage. Usually running on a Linux or BSD kernel, these also enable updates which are not an option on hardwired devices. They can be used to make general-purpose hardware specifiable, for instance, allowing a router to be customized to work with a specific system before it leaves the factory, simplifying branding without producing multiple variations of the hardware. In addition to this, they can be used for collecting real-time data.
Regarding security, there are tight limits on what can be done with hardware alone. Because the battle between designers and hackers is an ongoing one, any accessible system which can’t evolve quickly becomes vulnerable. Sound software engineering enables a more flexible approach and thus significantly reduces the risk of a product being repurposed. It can also be used in tracing and monitoring networks to detect potential threats and, where possible, disable them.It can even be used to track the source of a threat. It is also essential for encrypting data to keep sensitive communications private and protect trade secrets, including new product prototypes and design ideas. Because widely-used security software is always more quickly cracked, in-house software engineering in this area can be precious.
Suppose you undertake one of the 18-month online software engineering master’s courses at Baylor University. In that case, you’ll have the chance to explore all of the above in detail and learn how to code concurrent and distributed systems for use with cloud computing. An increasingly important part of the job, this facilitates distributed development and, in so doing, reduces the impact of any problems on any one development process, as it’s unlikely that every computer involved in that process will encounter difficulties simultaneously. Using the cloud also makes other aspects of a software engineer’s job easier by making it possible to target more computing power at a problem over a short period of time, thus speeding up the problem-solving process.
For all these reasons and more, software engineers are in constant demand. If you get a good degree and some experience under your belt, you will never struggle to find exciting opportunities. Some software engineers work in-house while others work as consultants, either independently or through agencies, moving from one place to another to bring their specialist skills to bear upon various interesting problems. This profession will keep you on your toes, whichever route you choose. It’s one in which it’s vital to keep learning and growing to stay ahead, but it’s a fascinating way to spend your working life and will bring you great satisfaction.