on December 21st, 2011

First of all – best wishes for the Christmas festive break. I hope 2012 is a fearsomely good year for you and the world economy starts to grow strongly again.

Whether you are a brickie, fitter or chief electronics design engineer you will have undoubtedly heard of ‘apps’. There is now a huge growth in demand for app writers. A skill and job that wasn’t around even five years ago. When ever one thinks of an app; one would think of flashy (mobile) games running on a smart phone. However, the app field has morphed into many areas such as serious business productivity applications and is of major interest to traditional businesses. An app is thus not simply about narrow games development but considerably more than this. Apps range from informational, marketing, productivity to engineering design. Initially for the Apple iPhone platform but increasingly now for the Android, Blackberry and Windows platforms ranging in hardware from phones, computers, and tablets. Even for Amazon’s Kindle. And they are really customised products catering for niche markets.

The field is still extraordinarily new so employment recruiters are unlikely to demand much experience.

Attributes for a successful app developer
Although this is a new and rapidly growing field, the age old skills common to all engineering career are still uppermost in the recruiters minds for engineering professionals wanting to get into this area. Typical skills that would make you a successful app developer include:

  • Ability to adapt to the different products with a dizzying range of functionality required. Much of it being green fields
  • Focus and passion on what you are doing. You need to be incredibly innovative, fired up and motivated
  • Communication skills are essential to be able to communicate to the client what you are doing – and how you are tackling the various challenges
  • Being a user of apps yourself so you can measure and understand what is happening in the marketplace
  • Attention to detail is essential
  • Ability to write lean code which is not memory hungry due to the limited mobile hardware on which an app runs
  • An understanding of back-end servers and knowledge of security requirements
  • Finally, you need to devote time to refining your knowledge and keeping up to date with the fast developments in the industry

How do you make yourself irresistible for an apps job?
The tools to create apps are freely available so anyone can upload an app to the iTunes or Android stores – so create your own app to show a would-be recruiter how motivated and capable you are.

Some further suggestions for you to consider:
Consider your products and services. Can you write an app (or project manage the writing of one) and put them on a mobile platform to enhance what you are currently doing?

Thanks to the Economist and John R. Platt of the IEEE for an entertaining article on apps development work.

With the rapid development in the field of computing apps, the following comment from Robert X. Cringely is vaguely amusing: ‘If the automobile had followed the same development cycle as the computer, a Rolls-Royce would today cost $100, get a million miles per gallon, and explode once a year, killing everyone inside’.

Yours in engineering learning


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