As SaaS companies like SendGrid continue to scale their engineering teams, we’re curious about what developer skill sets will be in demand this year. So we asked SendGrid’s Senior Director of Software Engineering, Sha Ma, to weigh in on what the landscape looks like and what aspiring applicants should prepare for.

Q: What technologies should engineers be mastering in 2016?

A: If I’m looking to hire a mobile developer, I would be interested in seeing experience in native iOS or Android programming using Swift, Objective C, and Java. Web front-end developers should have a solid background in HTML, Javascript, and CSS. Additionally, candidates should have done multiple projects with responsive designs—to enable seamless UI experience across multiple web and mobile screen sizes.

The front-end developer should also be familiar with modern Javascript frameworks such as Backbone, Angular, or React/Flux among others.

When it comes to back-end developers, having data model or database experience relating to scalability is very important. There is an increasing demand for NoSQL solutions such as Cassandra, CouchDB, or Riak in addition to traditional data sources like MySQL. Middleware languages such as Java and Golang are also an important part of a developer skill set when building services and APIs.

Q: What skills are you most commonly seeing requested?

A: Engineers who can demonstrate the ability to manage projects and bring them up to scale will be a focus area for a number of organizations. There is a demand for engineers who not only have the breadth of experience, but also the depth in their technical skill set—being able to work on major systems, support large amounts of traffic and customers, as well as maintaining the system for several years are critical skill sets that companies will look for.

Q: What are the soft skills you’d consider key today?

A: For a front-end engineer, having product or UX experience is very important. An engineer needs to be able to look at the product from a customer perspective when building a technology solution—this enables them to understand and develop a product that solves a challenge a customer is facing as opposed to just focusing on building elegant code.

Q: What are some of the most promising types of projects we’ll see developers hired for in 2016? And how can engineers best position themselves to take advantage?

A: We’ll see a dramatic increase in terms of scalability projects across the industry—more importantly, for startups that have already proved their concept and are looking to take their business to the next level in terms of number of customers and technology innovation. We’ll also see a demand for experience around scaling infrastructure and ensuring that the platform is robust and able to support a growing customer base and traffic with utmost end-user reliability.

Engineers should strive to develop career highlights by merging their talent and passion with opportunities. We encourage engineers to identify an area they are passionate about and focus on developing additional skills there. By being able to find these opportunities that build on their passion, these engineers can demonstrate that they are able to solve a challenging problem for a large number of users—a competitive skill in demand across the industry. And finally, we are seeing a gradual shift in the developer community as developers focus on specialization and become subject matter experts.

Q: What mobile and cloud skills are in demand?

A: We are seeing a growing demand for native applications that provide a fluid user experience over HTML5.

In terms of the cloud, we’ll see a demand around scalability and fault tolerance. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a great example as they provide a robust infrastructure and are geographically distributed. With AWS, organizations can now navigate through different levels of traffic spikes without incurring significant business cost.

Q: What will be different about this year from 2015?

A: We’ve seen a number of frameworks over the past few years such as Backbone and Angular among others. Developers are increasingly finding it hard to keep up with these new frameworks. I would like to see consolidation and standardization in terms of front-end Javascript frameworks to help developers focus and work toward a standard platform.


Many thanks to Sha for sharing her insights with us. If you’re interested in showcasing your skills at SendGrid, check out our current engineering openings. And for more career and scaling advice, check out these recent blog posts from our team members:


As Director of Corporate Communications for SendGrid, David is responsible for helping to shape the voice of SendGrid and his current responsibilities include global management of media relations, social media, and analyst relations.