So, you’ve realised you have an interest in technology, and now that you’ve finished school it’s time to turn this into a career – but how do you start?
There are many career paths in the technology sector, but if you have a natural flair for maths, problem-solving, or have already tried your hand at coding, then a role as a software developer may be right for you.
To give you an insight into what a typical day looks like, Alex Mann, Cardiff University alumnus and software developer at The Access Group, talks about his experience and offers advice for anyone considering this route.
Why did you decide to study computing?
I am a very logical person and one of my favourite things to do is find solutions for difficult problems. When you put these two together, you get a great talent for software development.
Before university, I didn’t have much programming experience at all, so I knew I needed to get to grips with the basics, and university seemed like the best route. My course brought me up to speed with software development and gave me a solid foundation of knowledge and skills, while also offering me insight into how a software team works.
What skills are needed for a career in software?
First off, a degree isn’t always necessary, but it does help you get a foot in the door much quicker. So long as you have some technical skills, you will be attractive to employers and these can be learned through online courses or a conversion course, if you take a non-related degree.
Above programming skills, however, is problem-solving. Employers want to know that you can think logically to overcome any challenge rather than seeing what flashy features you’re able to code. With a logical mind, employers know that you will be able to solve problems on any project.
What is a typical day like now?
My day usually starts with a team meeting (or ‘scrum’) where each member updates everyone on what tasks have been completed and what is ongoing. This helps us all understand what we need to focus on that day.
Once the meeting is over, I can then begin working through the lists of tasks that I have been assigned. This could include investigating software bugs, building new features or updating existing ones. When we have a big project on the agenda, or a new feature that needs to be built for an update, then we will usually hold an extra meeting to discuss the best way to handle it. During this meeting, we will break down the work into smaller tasks, spread across the team, to make the whole project more manageable.
For those interested in software, I would say get as much practice on the side as possible. Start working on personal projects on your days off from university or college and host them on public platforms such as Github. If you can’t think of something new to create, that’s fine. Instead, take a look at what is already out there and try to recreate it, and remember, there’s no need to ‘shoot for the stars’ on your first attempt. Start small with a calculator app or small pixel platforming game just so you get a handle on the basics.
One of the most exciting things about working in software is that the technology is rapidly changing so you have to work hard to stay ahead. Read blogs and tech news, follow the experts on social media and become part of your local tech community, for instance, by attending Meetups.
While you may not be at the forefront of new developments when first starting out, potential employers will appreciate your efforts and know you’re passionate about the industry.
- Alex Mann, Software Developer at The Access Group