Software and Internet developers produce computer-based goods and services for individual consumers and companies. Software developers coordinate the production of software products, from choosing content providers, assembling graphics creators, and working with programmers, through the actual assembling, pressing and distribution of the final product. Internet producers go through much the same process, except instead of pressing a final product, they set up and maintain an Internet site that provides services to the user.
Developers spend most of the day on the telephone coordinating production with the members of the team. One developer wrote that she sees herself as a chef: “The parts I have to put together are the ingredients, and I have to decide how and when to put them together to make a beautiful dish.” As pleasant as this sounds, developers are not strangers to hard work. Late nights are not unusual; unforeseen problems are standard. “Build in an extra two weeks to any project,” said one five-year software developer, “then you’ll only be two weeks late.” Software developers should be organized but flexible, and have strong technical and interpersonal skills. A high tolerance for frustration is equally important. Software and Internet producers are self-starters by nature and tend to tackle problems head on. Those who can combine all these talents will find themselves well suited to the industry.
Developers told us the most exciting thing about the work is being able to produce a unique product that takes advantage of an unexploited medium. The final product each developer produces acts as a living resume, and many point with pride to the projects they are involved in. Also, because the software and Internet industries are so young, the field is wide open to those with talent. Talented developers are extremely mobile in this industry; ability sells, and many companies are willing to pay top dollar to have ability on their team.
There are no specific academic criteria for software developers and Internet producers, although many employers consider a college degree desirable. Those involved in coordinating all phases of projects are likely to benefit from courses or a degree in computer science, finance, English, psychology, sociology, and graphics design. Those who expect to specialize in a limited area of production responsibility (such as programming or graphic design) should focus on developing skills in that area and assembling a portfolio that demonstrates those skills.
Software developers with technical expertise can become managers or programmers. Software and Internet developers also go into a number of project-related fields that involve managerial decision-making, budgeting, and scheduling. Some go into publishing (hard copy and electronic); others go into manufacturing and product development. A few become consultants to firms, advising them on their Internet presence and providing such abilities as translation services for annual reports (i.e., turning them into interactive media).