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Myths about web development careers: debunked

Due diligence is an integral part of choosing the right career path - this can include researching potential employers and their opportunities, or asking your network for advice.

And an inevitable result of thorough due diligence is, of course, that you're exposed to a vast universe of information, not all of which is useful, or helpful. But the insights that you uncover help to shape your view of the career, so it's critical to distinguish the truth from the myths.

Myth: a widely held but false belief or idea.

Myths around careers in web development are commonly found, and often counterproductive: they can hold you back from entering the field or give you unrealistic expectations that set you up for disappointment.

In this piece, we’re looking at the misconceptions we sometimes hear whirling around the tech ecosystem, and distinguishing fact from fiction.

Your technical skills will make or break your career

Web development is a discipline based on science and logic, so there’s a lot of assumption that employers are primarily looking for people with advanced programming knowledge. But that’s not quite the case. Technical skills are important, of course, but they’re not the only types of skills that help you succeed in this field. Employers will always look at your ability to do the work, but they’ll also look at how you do it. In his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People', author Stephen Covey outlines seven powerful lessons in personal change that help develop fundamental effectiveness in the workplace. These habits are:

  1. Be proactive

  2. Begin with the end in mind

  3. Put first things first

  4. Think win-win

  5. Seek first to understand, then be understood

  6. Synergize

  7. Sharpen the saw

The common thread throughout Covey’s habits - they all focus on who you are rather than what you know. Technical knowledge can be rendered useless when you can’t rely on effective ways of implementing it: skills like critical thinking and creativity help when it comes to solving problems, and communication comes in handy when it takes more than one person to get a task done. Now, more than ever, hiring managers are looking for candidates who complement their team culture. Having compatible working preferences and values to the company is a good indicator of your long-term success within the organisation: it’s not just about knowing everything, it’s about enhancing the team dynamic, and embracing the company culture. So, one key to standing out to employers is balance - when you’re looking for a successful career in web development, make sure you’re not only focusing on your technical skills, but also refining - and highlighting - how you work.

A software engineering degree is a must

Possessing a degree in software engineering can certainly help towards your career prospects, but many degrees grant you transferable skills and knowledge, and with a large amount of training courses available, dedicating years of study to the subject is not the only way to break into the game. Possessing a degree in software engineering can certainly help towards your career prospects, but many degrees grant you transferable skills and knowledge, and with a large amount of training courses available, dedicating years of study to the subject is not the only way to break into the game. In fact, sometimes the first leg of your career journey is discovering what you don’t want to do, and coming across areas of interest you weren’t expecting. This was the case for our iOS developer, Rob, who came to xDesign from a slightly different background:

“I originally trained as a chemical engineer. I learned a lot from that experience, with the most important revelation being that I really didn’t want to be a chemical engineer! However, I had some exposure to programming while working in that field, and I always found it really engaging. So, I decided to invest more time into programming, and after I completed a training course, I started with xDesign as a junior developer.”

In short, if you’re apprehensive about joining the field because you don’t have the ‘right’ credentials, there’s other paths to get there. Get interested in the unknown and get active about upskilling. In doing so, there’s an opportunity to highlight your problem solving skills - one of the most effective qualities in web development - so there’s a lot of value in thinking creatively about your options: check out potential resources, widen your network through industry meet-ups and social platforms, and ask questions. You can often find opportunity in unlikely places.

Web development is a one-person job

The words ‘isolated’ and ‘lonely’ have sometimes circulated when describing careers in web development, but it’s actually a very collaborative career, in the right environment. When working on a digital development project, it’s almost always the case that it’s not just software engineers who are involved: often you have a mixture of engineers, product managers, business analysts, UX and UI designers, and project managers (to name a few) all bringing their own expertise to the table. When you’re working with such a wide range of people, communication and collaboration is inevitable and crucial. At xDesign, our projects consist of Agile teams who have multiple standups, retrospectives, and even coffee check-ins, so our team members have a lot of opportunity to mingle with others, both remotely and in-person. And the great part is, working with such a wide range of people often does wonders for your professional growth. It opens doors for new skill sets, perspectives and ways of thinking, which can give you invaluable experience, as our principal QA engineer, Dom, explains:

“Throughout my years at xDesign, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a diverse range of people, not just in gender and nationality, but also skillset and background, across a variety of specialties. When discussing an approach to challenges at our daily meetings, the diversity within the team offers unique perspectives, ranging from requirement breakdowns to delivery models and strategies within, broadening my views on what’s possible. One way of thinking is only going to result in one type of outcome, and welcoming different views has taught me so much.”

Careers in web development are actually a healthy balance of collaboration and individual contributions. Collaborative and independent work both offer significant benefits, so striking a balance between the two is necessary for your productivity and morale. To put it simply, you won’t always be working with others, and you won’t always be working alone. While both styles of working play a part in day-to-day activities, we recognise that not everyone functions in the same way. At xDesign, we place a heavy emphasis on having the freedom to work in a way that best serves you - if that means chatting things through with a colleague, or putting your headphones in and getting your head down, you’ll have access to the support you need to do the things that feel right for you and your team.

It’s a man’s world

Women currently make up 26% of the UK tech workforce, and the gender imbalance within the industry must continue to be addressed. However, the idea that it’s a “man’s world” - in the sense that men are more capable at the job than their female counterparts - is illogical and outdated. Research into this topic has clearly demonstrated that this discrepancy has no ties to capabilities, but is down to varying external factors.

  1. One study found that fewer girls participate in STEM subjects at school than their male counterparts, through discouragement and lack of awareness.

  2. Research also conducted in this area discovered that fewer women receive the suggestion of a career in technology and also lack advice and support when it comes to exploring their options in the field.

  3. Further studies uncovered that there is a shortage, or a lack of awareness of, female role models in the technology industry.

These factors were reality for our Java developer, Laura, who explains her journey into the field, and the importance of increasing awareness of careers in tech amongst females:

“I didn’t know what programming or computer science was when I was growing up, so I originally went to study Mathematics at university. In my first year, I was able to try a computer science module and from the very first lecture I knew I loved it and that this was the path for me. What I like about programming is that it’s similar to maths and logic but you’re able to apply it to something useful and interesting - I’ve always loved problem solving and now I get to do it in creative ways every day in my job. I think it’s so important to inspire girls from a young age to get into technology because often, as a child, you aren’t made aware of all the interesting careers that are available out there. I wonder how many women would have flourished as a software engineer if only they were taught about it and encouraged to pursue it as a career.”

Addressing these factors and balancing the scale will only result in increased collaboration, creativity and value in the workplace, especially at a crucial time where demand for tech talent is higher than ever. At xDesign, our dedication is to discovering and nurturing extraordinary talent, and the women within our heads of engineering, QA, frontend and backend engineering teams play an integral role in supporting this effort. To learn more about life in the web development space from a female perspective, read our conversation with Iris, one of our heads of engineering. The bottom line: a workplace without gender diversity lacks opportunity. Don’t let the numbers and factors discourage you: the industry benefits from variety, and capability has nothing to do with labels. Overall, there isn’t one recipe to follow when weighing up your career options in web development. Myths and misconceptions can be distracting, but the secret is to keep it simple: if you’ve taken an interest in the field, taken the initiative to work on your skills (both technical and interpersonal), and have the willingness to learn, this could be the right career path for you. Interested in joining our team? View our latest vacancies.