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  • Lokajit Tikayatray

6 Challenges Faced by Every Software Developer

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

Every software developer faces several challenges when it comes to being an effective programmer. Some of these challenges are unique to the individual and their development process. But, most challenges are common to all developers regardless of their experience and skill level.

In my sixteen-year career as a software engineer, I've encountered many of these challenges. With experience, I have realized that it is better to work through them to succeed at the trade instead of crying foul about them.

This article will list six everyday challenges faced by software developers and detail steps to overcome them to have a successful career. These techniques have helped me throughout my software career. I am sure it can be helpful for you too.

1. Tight Deadlines

One of the most challenging elements of being a software developer is the continuous cycle of tight deadlines. Often the timelines are decided by the leaders in discussion with the clients. The development team has no say in when they can deliver the product.

I have also seen developers giving unreasonably short estimations for their assignments. It happens because they either overestimate their ability or underestimate the complexity of the tasks.

With such unreasonable deadlines, software engineers are forced to work overtime. It kills the work-life balance of the engineers. As they burn out due to work pressure, their motivation level drastically goes down with time.

Eventually, repeated impossible deadlines cause both people and products to suffer.

How to overcome the challenge?

  • While doing your estimation, analyze the tasks and understand the edge cases. Clarify all assumptions and add a sufficient buffer based on your prior experience with similar work.

  • Break down the requirements into smaller logical chunks. It is more efficient to size smaller tasks and aggregate them than to give a ballpark estimation for the entire project.

  • If you are given a deadline, instead of being asked to size it, still do your own estimation. If your sizing is considerably different, then talk to your manager. Explain why you think your numbers are more accurate.

Even if your manager does not accept your suggestions the first time, at least you tried. If the project encounters challenges due to timelines, your manager will be more willing to consider your estimates next time.

2. Vague Requirement Specifications

When the requirements are not clear, developers fall back on assumptions. Often they do not clarify their doubts with the product owners or the clients. They implement the task based on what they understand. Later they have to recode the requirements based on inputs provided in defects.

Ultimately, the product suffers due to inconsistent implementation. The developers become frustrated due to the rework. They blame insufficient information to be the root of the problem.

After working for more than a decade in software development, I have understood that the issue of unclear requirements is not going away. That's because developers, POs, and clients talk in their own lingo. They see and specify the problems from their unique perspective.

How to overcome the challenge?

  • Before starting the development, ask enough questions to understand the requirements. Even if it is obvious, make sure to reconfirm your understanding with the PO or the client.

  • Always confirm your assumptions with the client. It is a best practice to document the assumptions for future use.

  • When the requirements are fuzzy, it is best to develop them in smaller iterations. Validate the deliveries with users at regular intervals. Making changes at the beginning of the development phase is much easier than changing a significant part when the product is closer to completion.

3. Suboptimal Tools

Programming is a creative profession, yet we spend much of our time working in an environment that is low on productivity. It takes away the joy from day-to-day tasks, resulting in frustration for programmers. But often, companies are hesitant to spend on tools that can help increase their developers' productivity.

I remember manually logging in to individual servers to pull logs when we had production issues to troubleshoot. It was a painful task to fetch multiple files from at least ten to fifteen boxes before finding the right logline. Now we can do the same job within a minute by using a log analyzer tool.

It took years to convince the advantage of the tool and prove that it could improve productivity by multifold before we were able to procure the license.

It is just one example of how tools can improve the delivery and developers' lives. Several other tools, such as code editors, APM software, defect trackers, tools to automate CICD, etc., can help with a faster and quality development cycle.

Hence, it is understandable that the developers feel frustrated when their company hesitates to invest in tools.

How to overcome the challenge?

  • Learn the tricks and shortcuts of the tools that you have in your development environment. It will simplify your work and help you increase your output.

  • Find open-source alternatives for the tools that you want to use. Use them to showcase the productivity increase to your manager. This will help them see how a better tool can help the team and the company.

  • Write a proposal highlighting the benefits of better tools and your plan to achieve them. Share success stories about other companies that upgraded their tools and increased their productivity. Generally, real-life examples work better in influencing the decision in your favor.

4. Ever-Evolving Technical Landscape

The world of technology is changing exponentially, and new technologies are becoming mainstream within the blink of an eye. Developers need to learn on their feet if they want to succeed in this fast-paced industry.

At the same time, they also have to keep up with the delivery within tight deadlines and with the suboptimal tools at hand.

Hence, it is perfectly reasonable if software engineers feel frustrated and lack the motivation to upgrade their skills as per the market demand.

However, developers must keep up with the latest developments to stay relevant in the market. You have no other choice but to learn new technologies and stay on top of things constantly. It is futile to complain about the pace of the technological world or the lack of training provided by your company.

After all, it is your career, and you need to be responsible for it.

How to overcome the challenge?

  • If you want to learn something new or upgrade your existing skills, ask your manager for a training budget. Tell them how your upgraded skill can be helpful in the work that you are doing for the company.

  • If you are passionate about a topic unrelated to your current work, spend your time and money on it. The best investment is when you invest in yourself to help you get a better job or salary.

5. Insincere Teammate

Working with an insincere member can be both challenging and demotivating for the rest of the team.

In some teams, developers have to work with insincere engineers who impact productivity and demoralize others. They come with nothing but negativity. They undermine their team's effort by always giving reasons why something cannot be done or won't work as intended.

Insincere developers also feel threatened when a fellow team member is given an assignment that they could not do themselves. But, they will never accept their inability or take the required help. They also try to question others' codes and make them doubt their implementation.

If the insincere developer is a senior team member, they have even greater leverage in derailing the progress. They often have the reach to leadership that other team members lack. Hence, they can easily overshadow others' work, productivity, and confidence due to their proximity to management.

How to overcome the challenge?

  • Don't engage with insincere team members directly. You can never prove to them that they are slacking. And, anyway, it is not a fight someone has to win. The end goal is for everyone to share accountability and work towards the team goal.

  • Talk to your team lead or manager to share your experience. Never blame the insincere member, as you don't know their actual situation. Inform them about your concern and ask them to suggest how you should handle it.

  • Worst case, if no one helps, stick to your assigned tasks and do it with all sincerity. Don't let your performance suffer. If the delivery fails due to a lack of commitment from others, it will be the lead or manager's responsibility to find out the root cause and fix it.

6. Last-minute Defects and Escalated Issues

Last-minute defects and escalated issues are inevitable in software development. Generally, escalations need developers to drop what they are doing and attend to the problem. Sometimes last-minute defects force significant redesigns and delay the delivery.

Not just for individual developers, sometimes these challenges create problems for the entire team. If the management is not supportive, they try to find scapegoats to blame for the issues.

This makes developers finger point the unclear requirements; Product Owners blame developers for being incompetent, the manager condemns the entire team to be inefficient, and so on. The team's harmony goes for a toss until the issues are fixed and normalcy returns.

This is precisely why no developer likes escalations or last-minute defects.

How to overcome the challenge?

  • Keep your calm when issues crop up. Do your best to resolve them without making further noise. The faster the problems are resolved, the sooner you can go back to your daily tasks; and the lesser the overall impact on the team.

  • If you cannot fix the issue, take help from others. If no one is willing, then talk to your manager as early as possible. They are in the best place to handle such a mess.

  • Learn from the escalations. They can teach you how to be confident in difficult situations. The more escalations you can handle successfully, the better visibility you will attain among the leaders — which is good for your career growth.

Final Thoughts: Challenges Faced by Every Developer

If you work in an environment where some of these problems occur frequently, it is natural to get frustrated. But as I always suggest in my articles, finding solutions to problems is always better than worrying about them.

Hence, follow the steps mentioned above to help yourself have a better grip on work-related challenges. These actions can help increase your motivation and productivity by bringing the necessary change to your team and the processes.

Thanks for reading the article. I hope you find the steps helpful in your day-to-day work.


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