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Career Development, Coding

How to Succeed as a software engineer: turning failures into lessons

General Assembly
July 20, 2023
How to Succeed As a Software Engineer

Software engineering is one of the most in-demand careers out there. According to Statista, the demand for software engineers has doubled since 2022, and the software market value is estimated to reach $208 billion by 2023.

If you’re an early-career professional looking to find a software engineering job, it’s a great time to enter the industry. Tech talent is needed across all industries and is a thriving career path with many career growth opportunities.

In this blog, we will look at the different career challenges faced by software engineers and provide guidance on how to turn failures into valuable lessons for personal and professional growth, plus many more helpful tips and tricks.  

Top 5 challenges faced when learning to be a software engineer

Starting a career as a software engineer can be both exciting and challenging. As aspiring developers begin their journey, they often encounter various obstacles that test their skills, adaptability, and perseverance. In this section, we will explore five common challenges faced by software engineers at the beginning of their careers. 

R2D2 gif via

“A bug is never just a mistake. It represents something bigger. An error of thinking. That makes you who you are.”  — Elliot Alderson in Mr. Robot

1. Overcoming imposter syndrome and/or self-doubt

When beginning their careers, many software engineers experience imposter syndrome, a persistent feeling of inadequacy despite evidence of their competence. They may doubt their abilities, worry about being exposed as frauds, and feel unworthy of their accomplishments. Overcoming imposter syndrome involves recognizing and accepting one’s skills, focusing on personal growth, seeking mentorship and feedback, and celebrating achievements.

2. Tackling technical roadblocks

Technical roadblocks are an inevitable part of a software engineer’s journey. From challenging programming concepts to encountering unfamiliar technologies or debugging complex issues, engineers often face obstacles that require persistence and problem-solving skills. By breaking down problems into smaller, manageable tasks, leveraging available resources like documentation and online communities, and seeking guidance from experienced colleagues, engineers can gradually overcome technical roadblocks and enhance their skills.

3. Collaborating in team environments

Software engineering rarely happens in isolation, and teamwork plays a crucial role in delivering successful projects. Collaborating effectively with team members can be challenging, especially for new engineers. Communication, active listening, and empathy are key to building strong team relationships. Adapting to team workflows, leveraging version control systems, and participating in code reviews can facilitate seamless collaboration and foster a productive work environment.

4. Balancing quality and speed of development

Software development often involves striking a delicate balance between delivering high-quality code and meeting project deadlines. At the beginning of their careers, engineers may struggle with this trade-off. It’s essential to prioritize code quality, follow best practices, and write maintainable, well-tested code. Time management techniques, breaking tasks into manageable chunks, and seeking feedback from senior engineers can help in maintaining a balance between quality and speed.

5. Navigating career progressions and promotion opportunities

As software engineers gain experience, they aspire to progress in their careers and take on more challenging roles. However, navigating career progressions and identifying promotion opportunities can be a daunting task. Seeking mentorship, setting clear goals, continuously learning new technologies, and networking within the industry can help engineers gain visibility and increase their chances of advancement.

Moving past failure to reach your full potential

Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson in Mr. Robot. Gif via

In the world of software engineering, failure is not the end but rather a stepping stone toward growth and improvement. By reframing failure as a positive experience, software engineers can harness its potential for learning and development. Here are five ways you can do so. 

1. Adopting a growth mindset

One of the keys to reframing failure is adopting a growth mindset. Embracing a growth mindset means understanding that abilities and skills can be developed through dedication and hard work. Software engineers can view failure as an opportunity for learning and improvement rather than a reflection of their capabilities. By believing in their ability to grow and develop, engineers can approach failures with a positive mindset and see them as stepping stones toward success.

2. Analyzing and identifying root causes of failures

When faced with failure, it is crucial for software engineers to analyze and identify the root causes. Instead of dwelling on the negative outcomes, they can focus on understanding the factors that contributed to the failure. This involves examining their own actions, processes, or decisions that led to the undesired result. By gaining insights into the root causes, engineers can make targeted improvements, avoid similar mistakes in the future, and grow as professionals.

3. Learning from mistakes and iterating solutions

Failures present valuable opportunities for learning and iterating solutions. Software engineers can view failures as a feedback mechanism, guiding them towards better approaches. By reflecting on the failed attempts, engineers can identify alternative strategies, refactor code, or improve processes to address the underlying issues. This iterative approach enables continuous improvement and helps engineers develop more robust and effective solutions in the long run.

4. Seeking mentorship and building support networks:

Software engineers can greatly benefit from seeking mentorship and building support networks to navigate failure. General Assembly’s Career Counseling services and its global alumni community of 100,000+ alumni offer excellent resources for engineers to access mentorship and support. Experienced mentors can provide guidance, share their own experiences of failure, and offer valuable insights on how to overcome challenges. Additionally, connecting with a network of fellow engineers through alumni communities allows for knowledge sharing, collaboration, and emotional support, creating a supportive ecosystem for growth and learning.

5. Developing resilience and perseverance

Failure can be disheartening, but developing resilience and perseverance is essential for software engineers. Resilience involves bouncing back from setbacks, staying motivated, and maintaining a positive outlook. It is important to remember that failure is a natural part of the learning process, and setbacks can ultimately lead to personal and professional growth. By cultivating resilience, engineers can persist in the face of challenges, learn from their failures, and ultimately achieve success.

Tips to build a successful software engineering career & helpful advice before becoming an engineer or developer

Open conversations can cure countless office ills — even issues like coding fails that you might instinctively wish to keep to yourself.

Gif via Cargo Collective.

Now that we’ve looked at the key challenges and ways to overcome failure, here are five helpful tips to build a successful software engineering career. 

1. Continuous learning and skill development

Software engineering is a rapidly evolving field, so it’s crucial to prioritize continuous learning. Stay updated with the latest technologies, frameworks, and programming languages. Explore online resources, attend workshops or conferences, and consider pursuing certifications or additional education to enhance your skills and stay competitive in the industry.

2. Effective communication and collaboration

Strong communication and collaboration skills are essential for success as a software engineer. Practice articulating your ideas clearly, actively listen to others, and be open to feedback. Collaborate effectively with team members, project managers, and stakeholders to ensure a smooth workflow and successful project outcomes.

3. Setting realistic goals and prioritizing tasks

Set clear and realistic goals to guide your career path and project work. Break down larger goals into smaller, achievable milestones. Prioritize tasks based on their importance and urgency, utilizing time management techniques and tools such as to-do lists or project management software. This helps you stay organized and focused on what truly matters.

4. Building a strong professional network

Networking plays a significant role in career growth. Attend industry events, meetups, or conferences to connect with fellow professionals. Join online communities or forums where you can interact with experienced engineers and learn from their insights. Build relationships, seek mentorship opportunities, and leverage your network for career advice, job opportunities, and professional growth.

5. Leveraging tools and resources for efficiency

Utilize tools and resources that enhance your productivity and efficiency as a software engineer. Version control systems like Git, task management tools, and integrated development environments (IDEs) can streamline your workflow. Familiarize yourself with testing frameworks, libraries, and code editors that boost your productivity. Stay organized with documentation and code repositories to easily access and share information.

General Assembly – your partner in career development

A career in software engineering offers immense opportunities for growth and success. By understanding and addressing the common challenges faced by early-career software engineers, individuals can navigate their journey more effectively. 

However, to make this transition easier, you can always seek further support from a trusted training provider. At General Assembly, we’ve built a strong reputation as a trusted training provider for software engineering and career development. With a focus on delivering practical and industry-relevant education. 

Our SEI immersive program stands out as an immersive and comprehensive learning experience that equips individuals with the necessary technical skills, problem-solving abilities, and collaboration techniques required to excel in the industry.

We also offer various professional growth opportunities such as workshops, bootcamps, and part-time courses, catering to different learning needs and schedules. These programs provide individuals with practical hands-on experience, access to industry-experienced instructors, and networking opportunities within our extensive alumni network, empowering you to thrive in the competitive software engineering industry.

It’s easy to succeed with GA. Learn more to discover what steps you should take to get started


Matt Huntington is the lead instructor for the Web Development Immersive Remote course at General Assembly, the online version of our cornerstone Web Development Immersive course. Looking for a quick coding primer? Check out Matt’s video series, Basic Programming Concepts You Need to Know, or attend a short bootcamp or free intro class at your local GA campus. If you’d prefer flexible online learning, check out GA’s JavaScript Development and HTML, CSS, & Web Design courses.


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