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A Day in the Life of a Software Developer

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.

Paying Your Dues

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.

Present and Future

Software development and Internet production got their start in the 1970s when personal computers began to spring up in America. Few realized the impact these machines would have on every American’s life. One man did, and though he was a lowly programmer fighting for programmers’ rights, he maintained that authors should copyright their software, and he started a company that did exactly that. The little company he began is now known as Microsoft. Jobs in software and Internet development are expected to grow significantly throughout the next decade. Many companies are investing heavily in the Internet, and much of this money will be used to hire Internet site developers.

Quality of Life

PRESENT AND FUTURE

Software developers have important responsibilities from the start. Many are put in charge of small projects or of parts of large projects, immediately upon hire. The pace is frenetic; the project must be coordinated, deadlines must be met, budgets must be complied with. Many use these early years to learn by making mistakes, which they may spend long hours in the office correcting. Pressure and satisfaction are high.

FIVE YEARS OUT

Developers begin to address the gaps in their knowledge; experience has honed their managerial skills. Many take classes in programming, software, aesthetics, or other areas related to their profession. Job mobility is high. Salaries increase, and hours stabilize. Satisfaction is above average.

TEN YEARS OUT

Ten-year veterans of the software-development field have been in charge of a number of projects and seen them through from idea to revision. Many have given up their day-to-day managerial duties and either supervise other developers or move into strategic planning areas of the company. A number start their own companies using connections made in the industry. Quality of life increases, salaries increase, and hours decrease.