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I was invited recently to return to the University of Bristol Computer Science Department as a guest lecturer. As I was reflecting on my own time as a computer science student and on my experiences as a technology business owner, I realised what a small part of a software development role is actually technical. It also occurred to me that these students preparing to launch their careers in this domain probably had a less-than-holistic concept of what might be expected of them in the world of business after graduation.

During university, there is an illusion that becoming a great software engineer is about solving the most complex problems with a high level of intelligence. Even in software engineering recruitment, the fact that a candidate can code brilliantly can often be seen as the only determining factor in their success. However, in my experience, coding is just half the story and it is a big range of other skills that actually set the best people apart. It would be easy to recruit software engineers based on skill testing and evidence of strong programming, but what would we be missing if this was all we looked for?

As I explained in the lecture hall at Bristol Uni, people are the single greatest asset of a business, particularly a service-based one like illumo digital. People – regardless of their role – are more than just a machine getting through tasks and producing work. Their personality, their attitude and their unique mix of skills can make or break a project or a system.

We have had a wide range of experience in recruiting and growing software engineers through their careers; we have learnt what works and what doesn’t. In the lecture recording, the skills that make an exceptional software engineer are all covered. From strong communication to strategic thinking, in a tight-knit, small business there are many aspects that lead to a personal, cultural and professional match.