Software engineer

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Dan, mid 20s

This role requires familiarity with a variety of programming languages that are adaptable across different operating systems and environments. A Software Developer/Programmer analyses and interprets specifications, technical designs and flow charts, develops, maintains and tests the code of software applications, constructs technical specifications and documents from functional business models and is involved in customer implementation and support.

What do you do?

I work in a small team of three software developers, one share price analyst and two people who trade shares on the stock market and are based just out of New York. I am currently working on a research project to predict movements in major stock market indices. The idea is that, once developed, the system could be used by investment fund managers to generate higher profits from their stock market ventures.

Describe an average day

I work in a very relaxed environment. It's casual and informal but productive. I'm working on a commercial research project so each day I'm designing, writing and testing programs for the system and also talking with the non-technical people in the group.

What technology skills are necessary in your job?

I need to know programming languages, particularly Java. I also use scripting languages on Linux and Windows. My Java skills were basic after graduation when I started work, but I have learned a lot on the job and they have really improved.

How did you get to where you are today?

I did maths and science in VCE and decided I wanted to do something a bit more technical so I got into engineering. I did Engineering at university but didn't really like the details of Electrical Engineering and ended up in Software Engineering - one of the three streams available in my degree. I had two part - time jobs throughout my course: the help desk in a student computer lab and then a programming position for a lecturer in the Department of Psychology, programming models and simulations. In my final year I applied for graduate positions with Ericsson and Open Software Associates. I would have taken a job there, but the Psychology lecturer asked me to join a start- up project based in New York, which was an opportunity I couldn't refuse.

What made you decide on a career in IT?

About two years into my degree I could see that I would enjoy a career in IT. I knew I wanted a career that I could travel with and would let me work part-time if I wanted to, and I saw that IT would give me that. And now I get to travel to the United States for meetings.

What do you like about your job?

I love that it's not strictly 9-5, in the CBD, wearing a suit. My contribution is measured by productivity, not by just turning up at a desk. I can work from home one or two days a week using a cable connection that the company provides and I can fit in a life outside of work.

Is there anything you would change?

I would like a mentor that I could gain wisdom from and who could guide me through mistakes. One of the drawbacks of working for a new, small and young company is that while there is a lot of enthusiasm there is little of the knowledge that can be found in people who have 20 or 30 years experience in this industry.

Where do you see your career going next?

It depends on this project. If it succeeds, I'm rich. If not, I think I would go overseas and obtain a broader exposure to other areas in the IT industry, or work for a consulting firm to work on short-term projects.

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in IT?

With any IT career you usually have the choice of working directly in the technology side of IT or at the interface between IT and the business environment it is supporting.You can succeed with pure technology skills, but because you can adapt IT to a lot of areas it helps if you have another set of skills. For example, you could mix law and software development and work on the systems and technological issues that are associated with law.

Skills listing

The ideal candidate possesses a combination of skills and experience in a variety of areas. Below is a list of the most commonly sought after skills, with highly sought after examples listed in brackets. This list is meant as a guide only.

Technical skills:

  • Knowledge of object oriented programming languages (eg. Java, C++, Visual Basic)
  • Knowledge of operating systems (eg. MS.Net)
  • Knowledge of relational databases (eg. Oracle)
  • Knowledge of database technologies (eg. SQL)
  • Knowledge of web services (eg. XML)
  • Knowledge of web server technology (eg. SQL Server)
  • Knowledge of development platform (eg. J2EE)
  • Knowledge of web related technologies (eg. HTML)

Non-technical skills:

  • Team oriented
  • Ability to succeed under pressure
  • Ability to meet deadlines
  • Hands-on approach
  • Attention to detail
  • Proactive approach
  • Problem solving skills
  • Self-motivated
  • Methodical approach

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).