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Full Stack Web Developer

5 - 10 Years Experience


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  • Built 0->1 product with Cornershop by Uber
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Guide to Hiring API Developers

  • What is an API, and how is it used?
  • Why are APIs popular, and how will they benefit your business?
  • Roles and responsibilities of an API developer
  • What skills should an API developer have?

What is an API, and how is it used?

APIs are like user interfaces, except the main interactors are two separate software components. Essentially, an API is a set of digital protocols and definitions that act as an intermediary, allowing two software components to exchange data. You can also think of it as a service contract between two applications that codifies interaction between them as a function of requests and responses.

The acronym itself means Application Programmable Interface, and people have often used it as a generic description for any application connectivity interface. However, some unique characteristics have made modern APIs truly transformative to digital technology. Take the modern API standards, for example; typically HTTP or REST standards, these have made APIs more developer-friendly, broadly understandable, easily accessible, and self-described. Then, there is the general approach to APIs more as products than as codes. APIs now tend to be designed for particular users, such as desktop or mobile developers, and their versioning and documentation allow a clear picture of their maintenance protocols and lifecycle.

APIs are just about everywhere, and we interact with them all the time. From rideshare app operation and mobile payments to development environment integrations, virtually every omni-system data exchange relies on APIs. In addition, the “API economy mindset” has taken over many industries, as companies from previously less techy sectors like banks and law firms now hire API developers to help them leverage this technology to the maximum. If the trend continues, some projections see the API management market reaching $13.7 billion by 2027.

Why are APIs popular, and how will they benefit your business?

To get a clear view of how big API adoption has become in the tech sector, consider that there are now many successful startups built on API as part of their core service. For example, payment companies like Stripe and Paypal use APIs to facilitate safe and speedy transactions. Moreover, interoperability with such API-based payment services and pluggability with APIs for selling are vital facets of a startup like eBay.

More and more developers are also moving towards APIs or relying on them constantly in their work–about 63% of developers, according to surveys by Rapid, the leading global API hub provider. In fact, API development and integration are key aspects of using almost any modern programming language. So, if you’re trying to hire API developers, you will find that many developers in one programming script or the other also know API development.

Here are some of the ways your business can benefit from this technology.

  • Better and Easier Integration: The primary benefit you enjoy when you hire API engineers is that integration and connectivity between software systems become so much easier. For example, the conventional approaches to integrating applications and data assets for many organizations are methods like point-to-point connection. A method like this does have the advantage of tightly integrating applications, but therein also lies the disadvantage: making new integrations or modifying old ones becomes difficult. API-integrated applications and data systems, on the other hand, are more loosely and, thus, more flexibly and maintainably linked.

    In addition, an API provides a layer of abstraction for the developer that ensures they only have to deal with what’s relevant to them. This makes APIs easier to use than any other alternative.
  • Boosts Automation: Automation is all the rage in many sectors of commerce and industry, and APIs play a major part in its growth. A powerful API can allow a developer to seamlessly integrate enterprise applications, systems, and servers in a scalable technology stack with centralized automation.

    Already, various aspects of using APIs themselves, such as API testing, have significant automation. When you hire an API developer, they will often perform API automation testing to ensure your company APIs have no issues with latency or compatibility. If you want to leverage automation to any degree in your startup, API development is something you can’t do without.
  • Creates New Revenue Models: Especially in the technology sector, companies now hire API developers to help them tap into any number of new API-based monetization models. For instance, there are now many startups that generate revenue by offering APIs as their core service, a model known as “API-as-a-product.” Such companies basically hire API engineers to create often specialized APIs, which they then offer as a standalone product based on subscription models. Algolia and Keen IO are examples.

    The great thing is that you don’t even have to limit your company to API-as-a-product. Say you already offer other services, you can expand your operation via payment APIs, such as gift card reseller APIs, enabling your users to purchase things through their web apps and earn commissions.
  • Fosters Innovation: “Innovation” is a word that you will encounter frequently in a variety of sectors, and that’s for a very important reason. Every sector of modern business presents an ever-increasing assortment of complex problems. Thus, the startups most able to keep up via constant innovation tend to be the most successful. Increasingly, they also tend to be companies that embrace APIs, and it’s not hard to see why. Given the role of APIs as vital tools for pluggability between program interfaces, developers are able to transfer and access functionalities more flexibly than ever before. This makes startups that hire dedicated API developers able to improve product capabilities faster and more effectively than those still lagging behind on API tech adoption.
  • Cost-Effective: If the running budget for your company is limited, you will find a very cost-efficient technology solution in APIs. Why spend money and manpower resources developing an entire app from scratch, complete with native functionalities, when you can just hire an API developer to work their cost-saving magic? With an API programmer on the job, you can seamlessly integrate software functionalities via API requests, saving boatloads in funds and other resources.

    Moreover, you can reuse an API across multiple systems and applications by just making minor modifications to it—nothing that will cost you much, if money at all. Indeed, many businesses now employ API development and integration as part of their cost-saving strategies to great effect.
  • Boosts Customer Experience: No matter your business sector, it is always important to ensure your customers have nothing but the finest experience using your products or services. With effective API development and integration on your part, you will find user experience improves naturally. How, you might ask? Well, APIs also make things easier for end users of web and software services. A user who is able to seamlessly integrate needed functionalities to your product via relevant API requests already has one thing to love about said product.

Roles and responsibilities of an API developer

Given the high demand to hire API developers, the job has remained a highly rewarding one. In the USA, for instance, the average API developer takes home an annual salary of about $120,000, with entry-level developers earning an average of $102,000 a year.

Companies don’t spend all that for nothing; the reason API developers are so sought-after and well-paid is because of the responsibilities they have to take on. If you intend to hire dedicated API developers for your IT team, then you need to know what those roles are.

  • Building High-Performance APIs: While most major companies now use APIs, not every company will necessarily create their own. Some companies rely on specialized API service companies. In such service companies (and any company that creates its own API), one of the primary jobs for a developer is to create highly functional and reliable APIs. Doing this means working with the needed API design tools and building the architecture.

    Recall we mentioned before that you can write APIs using basically any programming language. Thus, every API developer invariably has to code in one programming script or the other.
  • Manage API Integrations: API management is another task that an API developer can undertake. It essentially involves managing, securing, regulating, and monitoring an organization’s internal and external APIs. Technically, “API manager” is not the same job designation as “API developer”; the latter falls under the class of API stakeholder, along with publishers and consumers. The API manager attends to all of these and addresses their needs and requirements.

    Nonetheless, you will find that an API developer is better equipped than anyone to manage a company’s API operations. Who better to oversee infrastructure that’s relevant to the security and efficiency of a company than one who designs and knows the ins and outs of such infrastructure?
  • Maintain and Optimize APIs: To ensure that APIs function optimally and reliably, it’s not enough to monitor and control their use. It’s also crucial to provide good quality assurance via regular maintenance, upgrading, and optimization.

    For most companies that don’t hire dedicated API developers, the solution here is usually to call in a DevOps engineer. However, it is sometimes more economical to have one or more API developers on your team. After all, maintaining APIs is a continuous process, and it's arguably best to have an employee for whom that’s all part of the job.
  • Design Prototypes and Take Part in Proof of Concept: This role is especially pertinent for companies that use the API-as-a-product revenue model. Before developing the prototype for such a product, the API developer (and, ideally, their team) must first conduct research and feasibility studies. Once this is done, it is their job to compile all findings into a comprehensive proof-of-concept document to convince stakeholders of the product's feasibility.
  • Perform API Testing: APIs, as we already know, are reusable, often with only slight modifications. Before reusing, however, it is often important to perform a variety of manual or automated tests to confirm that an API is still in good shape. So, when you hire a dedicated API developer, it will often be their job to perform functional testing on APIs for reuse. This entails a whole suite of test cases and scenarios, including compatibility, compliance, connectivity, UI, load, and security testing.

What skills should an API developer have?

Writing APIs is often a complex task, especially given the inherent iontricacies of some, and they often require a fair degree of skill and even finesse. So, before you go talent hunting, you need to have more than just the tools to vet the skills of API developers for hire. You need to know what skill to have at the back of your mind as you engage with your prospects. We can help you there.

  • Understanding of API Design: In order to function effectively as an API developer, a programmer needs to have strong knowledge of API design. This entails not just knowing how to use an API design framework but also how to define specifications on API contracts, validate assumptions via mocks and tests, and document resources, methods, and parameters.
  • Command of Programming Languages: In order to write APIs at all, you need to have command of at least one programming language. But that’s usually just the lower bar, as many tech startups prefer to hire dedicated API developers with a mastery of several languages at once. One reason for this is that API integration will often involve language bindings, which allow developers to map the functionalities inherent in one programming script to an interface implemented in another. The job may thus often involve making several bindings between a variety of programming script pairs. In fact, language bindings are technically APIs, so some API developers usually have to write them, too.
  • Skills in Cross-platform Development: Cross-platform integration is one more way in which flexible connectivity is possible; APIs now allow us to flexibly connect platforms together as long as they can issue HTTP requests. Especially if your company operates across platforms, you should look to hire API developers who have experience and skill in developing cross-platform APIs and software.
  • Proficiency with API Testing Tools: API testing is another vital part of an API developer’s job, and this requires that they understand the various possible test cases. Additionally, they must understand how to use both automated and manual testing methods as well as tools like SoapUI and Rapid API.
  • Understanding of Frontend Development: Startups hire API developers with frontend development skills because understanding that part of software operations is a vital factor in ensuring and assessing product compatibility. Moreover, frontend proficiency also greatly improves API development skills over time, increasing the developer’s efficiency and product quality.
  • Familiarity with REST and HTML: The REST API architectural style is common to most modern APIs, and it’s still favored by most developers building new APIs. REST architecture simply makes for lighter-weight APIs. HTML standards are not as popular; however, it’s still important that your API developer understands these standards, as they almost certainly will need to borrow a page or two out of them.

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