Have you ever wondered, “What do computer programmers do, exactly?” If you’re considering a career as a programmer, you probably have.
So, where do computer programmers work? Many people picture computer programmers as slaving away in front of a screen full of 1s and 0s. Well, think again – being a computer programmer is much more than coding. In fact, some days, many programmers spend 80 percent of their time in analysis and negotiation and only 20 percent actually coding.
To put it simply, computer programmers are responsible for analyzing their clients' business needs and creating technical solutions to solve those business problems. This can encompass a myriad of different tasks, like designing and testing software, writing code, and debugging. Here are 5 things that computer programmers do beyond coding.
1. They work with the rest of the company to plan the product
This is the foundation of a computer programmer’s job. Whether they’re the only engineer at a startup or part of a large product team at a Fortune 500 company, planning out the product development timeline comes first. Before any code can be written, software engineers must work with the executive team, product managers, UX designers, and sales team to understand the business problem so they can design the right solution.
Team members from all departments may engage in “whiteboarding,” or collaborative problem solving to determine the approach to solving the business problem beyond writing code.
Good programmers take the time to make sure they understand the requirements, push back when necessary and translate business requirements into technical requirements so they can make estimates before work begins.
2. They write software
To streamline this process, programmers also use libraries of basic code that can be modified or customized for a specific application. This approach yields more reliable and consistent programs and increases productivity by eliminating some routine steps. In some cases, they may need their code to adapt to multiple systems platforms, like Web, mobile, Windows, or Mac OS X.
3. They test, maintain and debug software
Just as important as writing the software is ensuring that the software works correctly. Programmers need to do frequent testing of the code they write, especially if they’re working with other teammates, to ensure that their code doesn’t conflict with someone else’s. This may consist of hundreds or even thousands of unit and functional tests. Unit tests are tests that programmers write to ensure that individual pieces of code (units) work as expected.
Junior engineers, in particular, spend a good portion of their day updating current programs and running tests to find bugs and confirm that software runs smoothly.
4. They develop new features
After an application or program is debugged computer programmers update and expand existing programs. Engineers and developers design program updates, and programmers manipulate these updates into the computer’s language. For example, they may introduce a scheduling feature for a chores mobile app or integrate a Facebook API to a website so users can login to their online accounts with Facebook.
5. They frequently work on teams
Many company’s IT teams use some sort of agile software development framework to manage workflow, such as Scrum and Kanban. The Scrum framework consists of breaking up work into actions that programmers can complete within several “sprints,” or 2-4 week-long cycles. Basically, dev teams must work as a unit to reach a common goal of developing the product together.
Part of the Scrum framework calls for daily stand-up meetings and frequent collaboration between teammates. Many programmers work full 40-hour weeks, sometimes more to meet deadlines or fix technical issues.
Overall, the traits that make someone a successful software engineer go far beyond coding ability. Great programmers are organized, highly analytical, and detail-oriented. Additionally, they are excellent communicators that are able to empathize with their end users so they can create exceptional products.
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