Decoding the Day-to-Day of a Software Engineer: What They Really Do
The software isn’t going to write itself. More than 325,000 Americans work as software engineers, with an average salary of more than $90,000 a year.
If you want an exciting job in the tech industry, you should become a software engineer. But before you enter the world of engineering, you should learn about what the duties and average workday of an engineer are like. Here is your quick guide on the day-of-day of a software engineer.
You can expect to do a few daily tasks as a software engineer. You may spend some days on one task more than another, but you will cycle through them regularly.
You will spend most of your time at work coding. You may write new code for a website, an app, an operating system, or a network system. You may also write code that other engineers and software developers can use later.
Software engineers write code for systems, while software developers write for specific products. Most software engineers work on multiple systems simultaneously. You must follow instructions for each task and manage your hours to complete everything on time.
Most projects require two or more engineers. You must know how to collaborate and communicate with your peers so everything is done. You may rewrite and revise your coworker’s code if you are in a senior position.
Before sending your code to your clients, you must test it to ensure it runs well. You also need to create prototypes for your client’s approval. If they have suggestions, you must edit your code and run more prototypes until everything is correct.
Related: How to Become a Software Engineer
You need to maintain current systems and troubleshoot problems when they occur immediately. You may need to edit your company’s internal systems and your client’s software.
Some engineers are responsible for running security audits and updating their clients’ code. You must write and edit these updates and monitor your systems for problems.
You may be expected to update your systems even if they have no problems. You may need to align your code with new standards or create improvements so your project is competitive in the marketplace. This means that you need to follow the news and make adjustments whenever there are new standards or trends.
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Technical documentation includes internal papers for your team and external documents for the end users. You need to describe how you developed the software and how it works. You must explain to your users what your software is for and how it is better than your competitors.
It’s okay to get into technical details, especially when you are writing internal documents. But you must be able to explain to non-experts how everything functions and why your features matter. Write down your own thoughts on your product, including any ideas you have to improve it.
You may need to write several different documents for every system you develop. Source code documentation makes your code readable and provides commentary on important parts of your code. Maintenance guide documentation explains to the end user how they can maintain your software.
You can publish these documents on your website or your client’s website. Aim to create a knowledge base that answers all of your end user’s questions before they speak to a customer service representative.
Some software engineers do not work or speak directly with clients. You may need to talk to them to get feedback on your work, especially if you work at a startup or small company. For significant projects, you may meet with clients several times, showing them prototypes and pitching them ideas.
Some engineers collaborate with developers to build software. Developers may need help coding for a function on their software or connecting it to a system.
Once you move into a managerial role, you will take on more responsibilities. You may need to manage teams and oversee their projects. If you’re an upper manager, you will be responsible for recruiting and hiring new employees. You may need to find people outside your company or promote people already working for you.
Related: Software Engineer Career Path
If you’re a freelance software developer or engineer, you will spend much time looking for jobs. You can use websites and message boards to find people looking for freelance engineers.
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Most engineers work 40-hour weeks, working from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day. Engineers start the day by coding and responding to internal and client messages. As the day goes on, they may need to edit their systems or send prototypes of their work to clients.
You may need to attend work meetings. You will often check in with your colleagues for feedback on your work. You can also get information about new standards you must implement. You may meet with UI and UX designers and data scientists who can help you brainstorm your systems.
After these meetings, you can return to your desk and finish your coding for the day. At home, you can read the latest news about software engineering and learn about new trends for the systems you’re developing.
You may need to work longer hours as you reach deadlines or start major projects. Freelance engineers may need to work on weekends to find jobs for themselves or perform side gigs.
Related: The Software Engineer Job Hunt