APIs, batch processing, event-driven, file transfer, queues, are some common terms in software engineering and these integration styles help us to send information across distributed systems. In this post, we will take a step back and deep dive into the field of software integration. This post will answer the following questions:
Disclaimer: Everything mentioned on this post and throughout my site are my thoughts and opinions. They are not thoughts from MuleSoft or Salesforce, my current employer.
What is software integration?
Before we can talk about Software integration. Let’s look at the word integrate. According to Merriman-Webster dictionary, the word integrate means,
“to form, coordinate, or blend into a functioning or unified whole: UNITE”
Now let’s put that into the context of Software. Software integration blends software (or systems running that software) so that it’s functioning as a unified whole (unified system). Blending software together makes it possible for multiple systems to share data, eventually enriching the user experience for applications that support user interaction.
What does a Software Integration Engineer do?
A software integration engineer is a software engineer who specializes in building software applications that focus on integrating with multiple systems. A software integration engineer is well versed in software development, integration patterns, network protocols, security, and databases. Please note that these skills can be acquired as you grow into the role. However, in my experience, I have seen most software integration engineers start as software engineers first who move into the realm of software integration later in their careers. There are always exceptions so if you are new to tech and want to become a software integration engineer, you do not have to become a software engineer first.
The photo was taken by ThisisEngineering RAEng on UnSplash.
How can I become a Software Integration Engineer?
For one’s that are new to the tech industry, I recommend starting your career as a software engineer first and then transitioning to software integration engineer. If possible work on the backend or full-stack. Why? Backend engineers eventually have to integrate with other systems. Maybe there is an API call that a backend engineer needs to make to pull data. Maybe the architect and the lead engineer chose a microservices approach and that backend or full-stack developer is responsible for building it. Coming from a software engineering background makes the transition easier. However, one does not have to come from a software engineering background. I have seen ones come from various backgrounds transition to software integration engineers.
Learn at least 1 Programming Language
This is extremely important. Remember a software integration engineer is a software engineer. Depending on your task and your development teams, the technology stack will determine the programming language and how often you use it. There are so many languages to choose from but here are some recommendations based on my past development experiences and industry programming language trends:
Learn Structured Query Language (SQL)
Databases are not going away anytime soon and a lot of companies rely on Relational Databases that require some flavor of SQL. As much as I would like to say, hire a database developer to build my SQL, depending on the organization, you find yourself building your SQL scripts. This becomes especially important when doing a data migration (or Extract Transform Load [ETL]) project
Learn an iPAAS and API Management tool
An iPAAS or integration platform as a service is a set of products that makes it easy to build integrations, APIs, and automation. An API Management tool is a product that manages/governs an API.
Six years ago my company chose to use MuleSoft, so I chose to become a MuleSoft developer. I have not looked back since. I love building integrations with MuleSoft products. If you are interested in learning MuleSoft please navigate to the training site. I recommend taking the Anypoint Platform Development: Fundamentals course. The self-paced is free, but for those that want to sit in a classroom, there is instructor-led training as well. Lastly, if you are serious about learning MuleSoft I have put together a plan for aspiring MuleSoft developers. This plan combines training and community involvement to get you to jump-start your career as a MuleSoftDeveloper.
Despite my bias, there are many other technologies you can choose from. To find possible integration technologies, I want you to do two research exercises:
Exercise 1: Open your favorite browser and google, “2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Full Lifecycle API Management”
Exercise 2: Open your favorite browser and Google, “2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant for enterprise iPaas”
* Make sure to search for the most recent year.
Rule of Thumb: Always choose a leader in both areas or a platform that is trending towards a leader based on historical data.
Although you learn an iPAAS or API management tool, be sure to keep up with your programming skillset. Sometimes these tools allow for more low-code/no-code, but there are times where you may need to build components to extend functionality that is not supported by these integration systems.
Well, that wraps up this blog post. I would love to read your thoughts on this topic. Feel free to leave a comment in the comments section. Make sure to also subscribe to never miss an update by subscribing to my blog site in the footer section.