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A Day in the Life of a Software Engineer: Coding and Collaboration

29 July 2021

A Day in the Life of a Software Engineer: Coding and Collaboration

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The tech industry is an exciting place to be. 

It’s fast-paced, always changing and growing at an exponential rate, and software engineers are at the centre of it all. 

A software engineer is someone who designs and develops the software that tells a computer programme how to function. It might be a website, app, operating system, video game or something else. They’re responsible for turning an abstract concept into a usable technological product. 

If you’re interested in designing the next big thing in tech, a career in software engineering might be for you. 

To get a full understanding of what the job really entails, we reached out to Victoria Sloan, a front-end software engineer at Teamwork. With several years of programming under her belt (including time at  Deloitte Digital), Victoria has an in-depth understanding of software engineering, as well as the tech world generally. 

Hint: there’s a bit more to it than writing code…  

Interested in gaining a unique, 360-degree experience of software engineering? Victoria is just one of the amazing speakers on our Software Engineer Programmes. Each is jam-packed with immersive career simulations, exclusive site visits and personalised career coaching, all designed to give you a more hands-on experience of the industry.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What does a typical day in your working life look like?

I work as a front-end software engineer for a company called Teamwork. I am based in Belfast but I work very closely with our HQ in Cork.

Our start times are fairly flexible but I try to keep to a consistent routine. I will usually start work around 8.30am and finish around 4.30/5pm.

I usually start my day with a coffee while I read through my emails, check my chat messages and look through my task list for the day ahead.

My team has a morning meeting called a stand up at 10am, where we discuss what we worked on yesterday, what we are working on today and if there are any issues. This is to make sure the team is aligned and ensures any issues that are blocking our progress are sorted.

Following stand up, I may need to have a quick call with another engineer if we are working on something together or have a chat with our product manager or designer to discuss a feature. Or I just jump straight into my first task. This could be developing a new feature for Teamwork or fixing a bug that has been raised by our QA team.

I usually take lunch around 12pm and often go for a walk. I find this really helps to clear my head before the afternoon.

Then, I will continue working on any tasks I have been assigned. Often, I’ll jump on a call with a colleague for a coffee and a chat, or attend one of the yoga sessions Teamwork arranges for us.

Before I finish work, I make sure I have pushed all my code up to GitHub and left comments for other team members on the tasks I’ve been doing. This way, when I come in the next day, everything is documented and I can pick up where I left off.

What first inspired you to consider software engineering as a career?

For me, it was my A-level ICT teacher. 

I didn’t study ICT for GCSE, but chose it for A-level because of all the opportunities in tech. 

When I started I managed to pick it up really quickly. My teacher asked me if I had considered computer science. Initially, I had planned to go down a completely different career route, but I’m so glad I didn’t. He explained to me all the opportunities out there, the unlimited possibilities and the challenges I might face every day. 

I started looking for work placements to get some experience and the rest is history.

The opportunities are endless in tech, just get started now...Make yourself a website or an online portfolio. Document your learnings and you will be amazed at how far you can go.

What’s the best thing about your job?

I love the collaborative nature of my role. 

We’re all constantly working together to achieve the same common goal. There’s no better feeling than getting something shipped out to customers and celebrating as a team!

What’s the hardest thing?

Working in tech means constant learning. 

Tech is moving so fast and everything changes so quickly. This means you really have to keep on top of things and consistently push yourself to learn.

What has been your biggest achievement since starting your career in software engineering?

It’s been fairly recent!

Whilst doing my current role I’ve been working on the side to learn more about product and design. [As a result of that], I’ve just secured a role as a product designer at Teamwork, which is very exciting. 

What are the perks/incentives, financial and otherwise, for a graduate looking to become a software engineer?

A graduate entering the profession will be offered a very competitive starting salary and benefits package.

It depends on the company but most companies offer attractive perks because the demand for good people is so high.

Most places I’ve worked I have been given private healthcare, gym membership, 30 days off (plus bank holidays), free lunches and an allowance to spend on travel and learning resources. 

I’ve also been able to work from home whenever I want.

Tech is moving so fast and everything changes so quickly. This means you really have to keep on top of things and consistently push yourself to learn.

Are there different pathways or specialisms aspiring software engineers can choose, and if so, what are they?

There are many.

You could start as a software engineer and work your way up to senior engineer and then team lead.

You could become a product manager, or, if you’re creative, you might want to pursue product design or UX/UI design.

Then there are QA roles, where you test the software that is built by the developers.

There are also lots of specialised roles coming up in the field of data science.

How did you find your first 12 months in the field?

I worked as an intern software engineer during my placement year with Deloitte Digital in London, and returned there as a graduate following my degree.

I spent my initial six weeks as a graduate training in London with the rest of the graduate consulting intake. This was a great experience; I learned so much.

Once I had completed my training, I returned to the Belfast office where I found out which project I would be working on and met my team.

I expressed my interests in front-end development and my manager made sure I was provided with all the resources available to help me learn these skills.

I started off small by completing minor tasks with the help of more senior engineers and worked my way up to larger tasks which I could then do completely on my own.

My typical day looked very similar to my typical day now. Just back then I needed a lot more help! 

What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

I love running, yoga and taking my dog Rusty out for long walks.

Do you have any advice for young people thinking about pursuing a career in software engineering?

The opportunities are endless in tech, just get started now. 

There are so many resources online to help you learn anything you want, from programming to UX/UI design.

Make yourself a website or an online portfolio. Document your learnings and you will be amazed at how far you can go.

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