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What’s it really like to be a software developer?

While developing an app or cool new piece of technology might seem like a simple enough idea, have you ever considered what life is like for those behind the creation of some your favourite software? Bethany Smith is a Bachelor of Information Technology graduate from Deakin University and went from grad program intern to full-time employee at Telstra.

We asked Bethany what it’s really like to be a software developer, from the skills a software developer needs, to the perks and challenges of the job.

Find out more about studying Deakin’s Bachelor of Information Technology online.

What led you to becoming a software developer?

‘I wanted to become a software developer while I was studying my degree. My first experience coding was at university and I found that I loved it. While at university I also took a year out to complete an internship in a large organisation and found that to be a very rewarding experience,’ Bethany explains.

‘From those two things I pursued a career as a developer in a large organisation and wound up applying for the Telstra grad program during my last year of university. I was successful and have been working at Telstra for just over a year now. I am currently a developer and I do a bit of everything, from mobile development to web application development.’

What does an average day look like for you?

‘As a developer I get assigned coding tasks (stories) to work on. Each morning I have a quick team meeting to discuss what each member is working on and if they have anything blocking their work. The rest of the day I’ll work through my stories, complete code reviews, run handovers with testers and work with users on UAT (user acceptance testing). I’ve worked on developing mobile applications and web applications.

‘Often when I’m working I’ll be learning something new so I might spend some time with some more senior developers to ask questions and learn from their experiences. Some days I will work from home because all of my meetings can be done remotely with the technology provided by my work.’

What do you love most about your job?

‘I love the variety of the work I do. The projects I’ve had have many different components so I can mix up what I do on a day to day basis. Sometimes I will do some front-end web development, and after I’ve done that for a while I will jump over to back-end work with servers and databases. Other times I will be given a task and be able to tackle it however I want, which often leads to a chance to learn something new.

‘That’s the other thing I love about my work, that there is always ample opportunity to learn, either through my own research, with courses or by shadowing the people I work with.’

Bethany Smith

Deakin alumnus Bethany Smith. 

What are some of the challenges of your job?

‘As an entry level developer there are many things I still have to learn, and working with more senior developers means I can sometimes be left a little confused during discussions. This can be especially challenging when I feel like there is something simple that I am supposed to know but don’t and I might seem a bit silly for asking.

‘In my experience the people I work with are more than happy to explain the more complicated concepts to me or walk me through a task. I just have to remember that everybody has to learn things some day and to speak up when I need help.’

What are the necessary skills required in your job?

‘My job requires some knowledge of programming. There isn’t a specific programming language that I could recommend but it’s good to keep up to date with what’s currently popular. Being fairly familiar with at least one or two languages makes it very easy to pick up others as needed on the job, something I have had to do a number of times already.

‘Attention to detail is always a plus when it comes to developing. By having attention to detail, it becomes easier to avoid most common mistakes that could become pain points in later development.

‘Most importantly though, is being a good team player and open to collaborating with others on projects. Bouncing concepts off colleagues, completing proper code reviews and being able to turn constructive criticism into a learning experience is key to producing quality code as a software developer.’

What school and university subjects or qualifications fit this job?

‘As a software developer it is generally a requirement to have at least Bachelor of Information Technology or computer science degree for any entry level position. Many people I work with have a Masters level qualification which can sometimes be preferred for some positions.

‘The subjects I completed at university that helped prepare me the most for my job include all subjects that teach programming (in my case C#) and working with databases, specifically subjects with major development projects that you build upon for the duration of the subject.

‘I was put on a cross-platform mobile development project only a few weeks into starting my job because I was the only person with experience, having just completed a mobile computing unit at university a couple of months before, so taking some units with a more specific focus can really help to complement the more general programming ones.

‘Last of all it is important to have some kind of previous work experience, and university is a great time to take on an internship to get that experience.’

You, too, can explore career options as a software developer. Find out more about studying Deakin’s Bachelor of Information Technology online.

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