People hear the job title “software developer” or “software engineer” and, if they imagine anything, it’s probably a little boring. But the truth is that software developers (also known in some workplaces as software engineers) occupy a highly creative and exciting role in the world of technology.
Have you ever thought of a great idea for an app, or wished a feature worked differently in a piece of software? If you were a developer, you’d be able to make those visions and wishes into reality. This might start and end with computer coding, but in between, software engineers must understand the perspective of the customer, architect the inner-workings of programs, and look out for bugs all along the way.
What do software engineers do? These experts create and maintain software—which means they solve puzzles, fix problems, and ultimately create products that make the world a better place. Here’s a look at the basics of being a software developer, plus how to read a developer job description and find the new career where you’ll make a difference of your own.
A Day in the Life of a Software Developer
Whether they are working on an operating system, a desktop program, or a mobile app, the daily life of a software developer is centered around problem-solving. This might mean writing code that achieves a new assignment or going back through the program to find the source and cause of a pesky glitch.
Day-to-day specific tasks will vary based on the size of the development team, the type of product being created, and your rank and role in the project. However, with those variables aside, there are still some constant duties every entry-level software developer can expect to handle on a frequent basis, like:
- Learn about new user requirements and help create the design that will achieve them.
- Collaborate with peers to break down complex objectives into manageable steps.
- Identify areas the software can be improved, then develop those improvements.
- Balance client or stakeholder expectations with operational practicality.
- Monitor error logs to respond to any needs or security threats as fast as possible.
Those with the title of software developer tend to focus a little more on the interpersonal elements of the project, while software engineers might end up working more on the code and practical execution of the plan. However, that’s not a hard and fast distinction. Every workplace has different job titles and different job descriptions for their development teams . Generally, whether you’re a developer or an engineer, the performance, appearance, and functionality of the software is your team’s responsibility.
What Challenges do Software Developers Face?
Challenges faced by software engineers can be technical or related to the human elements in the process. Whether it’s the expectations of the end users or the limits of technology and the timeline, part of the reason software development is so exciting is that no two days are alike. Here are some of the most-common challenges software developers and engineers handle:
- Expectations vs Outcome: Key stakeholders, the developing organization, and even different developers on the team all have their own expectations and ideas of how the software will come out. It’s important not to make any assumptions during development, and to keep open channels of feedback and communication so these expectations can be managed along the way, not after the work is done.
- Development Environment and Process: Some of the challenges of development come down to disagreement about how to develop a software project step by step. The project infrastructure for software testing, end user testing, and collaboration must be in place for a quality product to be developed.
- Changing Requirements: As trends change or new data becomes available, the requirements of the software development can change on a daily basis, without the timeline extending to accommodate. Sometimes this means the need to do work over again, while other times it means the need to say “no” and manage the expectations for the release.
- Defects and Errors: Especially in the final stages of development, the emergence of a defect or error can present a major challenge, as developers have to go back through the code to find the cause.
- System & Application Integrations: Relatedly, having to connect the created software to other systems or applications can also create a serious challenge. The same is true of having to make the software function equally well across different operating systems or platforms.
As much as these challenges might make a work day stressful, learning to overcome them and solving the puzzle is a reward in itself for developers. Plus, once the problem has been resolved the first time, the next time something similar comes up you’ll have a great idea of where to start your process. That’s part of learning to be a developer, and why experienced developers get paid so much more over time.
Different Software Development Workplaces
Software engineers and developers have the benefit of being able to find a workplace in almost any industry they want to pursue. Today, every industry has become a software industry as technology and smart devices continue to revolutionize the way we work and live.
While the largest number of software developers are still employed in the software industry, it’s now a minority by percentage:
- Computer systems design and related services: 33%
- Manufacturing: 11%
- Software publishers: 9%
- Enterprise management: 5%
- Insurance carriers: 4%
However, when you do the math, these statistics only represent 62% of the total software development and engineering workforce. Other industries that are placing increasing importance on developers include retail, healthcare, education, and research and development.
While Glassdoor ranks software developer and software engineer as some of the top tech jobs of 2020, these jobs rank near the middle of the scale for job satisfaction. While the software developer salary is high, the demanding deadlines and frequent changes that are part of the software development process definitely have lots of professionals feeling like their pay is well-earned. Software developers also often work outside regular work hours, especially in a startup environment or when deadlines are pressing. Some lack of diversity can also cause unhappiness for some professionals. Overall, the workplace perks and high salary offset many of these negatives for those who choose this career.
Analyzing a Software Development Job Description
Software developer jobs are predicted to grow by 22% by 2029, more than five times the national average rate of growth, there will be no shortage of opportunities for entry level software engineers and more experienced professionals alike. So how do you distinguish between opportunities and find a work environment where you’ll be excited to problem-solve as part of a team?
First, look at the language of the job description and see how their expectations and values align with your own. For example, if you’re used to working 40 hours a week and don’t want to stretch far beyond that, look for language in the job description that reveals the expectations for your schedule. Decide on your non-negotiables and go from there.
One red flag is the expectation to work very quickly or any implication that there won’t be a margin for error in the development environment at the job. This is especially true on a small development team, or a team where the senior staff hasn’t been able to be retained. To that point, make sure you can spot viable opportunities for coaching and professional development.
Software developers often do a lot of heavy lifting and perform amazing feats, creating software out of thin air. While you should expect to work hard and face challenges at every job, your employer should also reflect an understanding of the nature of the work, and show they are willing to be respectful and considerate of their employees.
Eleven Fifty Academy was founded to give career changers and established professionals alike the opportunity to develop technical skills like software development in a rigorous environment, without breaking the bank or wasting time on prerequisites. In our software development bootcamps, whether part-time or full-time, students spend 12-24 weeks in the code from day one. You’ll learn work habits necessary to succeed as a software engineer and develop both the hard and soft job skills while building a professional portfolio to showcase your new technical abilities . Contact our admissions team today to learn more. Or take some of our free introductory software development courses to see if the tech industry is right for you.