Before I started my career as a software developer, I always wondered whether the industry’s only job was to program. Now, with years of experience under my belt in the industry, I can confirm that is not the only task professional software developers do. Hopefully, this article will give you an idea of how a typical day looks in the life of a software developer.

Before we move forward, let’s understand what software developers do. Software developers are in charge of developing systems or applications on a computer with the purpose of generating custom solutions based on the needs of a business or group of people.

Having said that, software developers spend most of their time in front of computers. Although at first, you could get the idea of a developer being a quiet and non-social person who prefers to talk to computers rather than people, in reality, there are more skills developers should have than what usually most people think of. Let’s take a look.

What Are The Skills Needed To Become A Software Developer?

The software development industry can be challenging for some people, and, for others, it can be exciting. If you have ever considered becoming a software developer, there is an infinite list of skills you can have as a software developer. However, I will make sure to mention the most important skills no matter where you work:

  • Have good problem-solving skills.
  • Know one to several programming languages.
  • Have good communication skills.
  • Be Passionate to learn on a continuous basis.
  • Be Detailed-Oriented.
  • Be capable of working with other team members.
  • Be able to understand English (for non-native English speakers).

Have Good Problem-Solving Skills

Even though software developers are required to know a programming language, problem-solving skills are by far the most important if you are interested in becoming a software developer. In this industry, depending on how long you decide to work as a developer, you will find yourself learning different programming languages, different software architectures, different algorithms, but at the end of the day, you need to solve problems on a daily basis.

Know One to Several Programming Languages

Nowadays, software developers know multiple programming languages as their jobs require them for multiple tasks. At the beginning of your career, knowing one programming language might be enough to get yourself in the world of software development. However, you will soon realize you can achieve more if you know another programming language.

For new developers, some of the most popular programming languages are Python and JavaScript to start with. However, it is important to pick the programming language based on what kind of development you are interested in working on. Nowadays, it is common to find developers with knowledge in at least 2 – 3 programming languages.

As developers gain experience, the likelihood of them knowing several programming languages increases. This happens due to constant changes in the tech industry which forces developers to learn new programming languages throughout their careers.

It is worth mentioning that developers should look to learn as many programming languages as they can. This is a common mistake that new programmers make as it prevents them from specializing in one programming language, which is what many companies care about at the moment of looking for new talent. It is important to learn the fundamentals, rather than the language itself as you can transfer the knowledge when learning different programming languages.

Have Good Communication Skills

Software developers often work in teams to develop multiple features and complete projects in a shorter amount of time. Also, developers are not the only members of a project. Usually, a project is composed of a couple of software developers, a QA or Quality Assurance or testers, a project lead, and a BA or business analyst. Depending on the project size and scope, teams can grow.

Since developers work in teams, communication with team members is important to ensure the correct development of features. Although all of the team members work within technological projects, that doesn’t mean developers can talk the same way they talk with other developers using technical jargon when they need to communicate with testers or business analysts.

One might think freelance software developers won’t need to worry about communication skills. However, this is completely the opposite as freelancer developers most likely will communicate to the clients, and if the clients are not able to understand what a developer is trying to explain, they will walk away and find other developers whom they feel more comfortable working with.

Be Passionate to Learn on a Continuous Basis

How many times have you had to update software or apps on your phone? Have you heard how technology advances at a rapid pace? It is due to this fast-paced environment that software developers need to be prepared for something new on an ongoing basis. This is especially noticeable whenever developers decide to take 6 to 12 months of break without working on their skills. Once they start working in the profession, they will soon realize how much things have changed and how much they need to catch up to stay up to date.

It is normal to find developers learning one or two new technologies every year as there is a constant need to find innovative and improved solutions. To make this constant learning process easier, software developers must be passionate about their profession. Finding excitement in using the latest and greatest technologies is often one of the leading motivating factors.

Be Detailed-Oriented

There are a lot of things to cover when it comes to developing a project. Little things such as styling issues can make the difference between a good or bad product, even if the software works as expected. Therefore, developers should be capable of identifying any sort of deficiency on the projects. No matter how big or small a bug is, in the end, it is a bug that could deter a user from using one software over another.

As software developers gain more experience, their ability to spot problematic code will be better which allows a smoother development process. However, even experienced developers make simple mistakes once in a while as there are several factors involved in the development that makes it complex to ensure correct completion of certain features after the first round of development.

Be Capable of Working with Other Team Members

This aspect goes hand in hand with communication skills. As I mentioned, developers oftentimes work in teams and the ability to cooperate with others and work in a fast pace environment can be challenging for some developers. It’s funny how the lonely programmer perception given to software developers can often be deceiving from the real aspect of the industry for those who are not in it.

Be Able to Understand English (For non-native English Speakers)

Chances are you know a little bit of English and understand for the most part this article’s content. You might wonder, “What does knowing English have to do with software developers?” Let me explain.

I was born in South America, and our native language is Spanish. However, I remember the first time I programmed something on the computer, I felt excited to see how I could make something work. As I wanted to program more and more, I needed to read the programming language documentation and go through question-and-answer websites to help me do what I wanted my project to do. Most of the programming languages’ documentation is in English, and it was a little bit of a challenge to understand at first as there were technical words I’ve never heard of before.

Therefore, being able to understand English, as dumb as it sounds, is a skill that non-native English speakers need to add to their list if they are thinking of becoming a software developer.

What Are The Typical Tasks Of A Software Developer?

The following is a list of typical tasks of a software developer:

  • Build and maintain software solutions.
  • Write code that follows best practices for testing, logging, and deployments.
  • Analyze alternative solutions based on the challenges and requirements of the customer.
  • Design and implement the software architecture to be used in a project.
  • Continually learn, grow, and expand your knowledge.
  • Fix defects found in software, especially the production bugs, in a timely manner.
  • Work on performance optimizations.
  • Implement programmatic test cases of the code written in software.
  • Mentor junior software developers.
  • Write good technical documentation.
  • Communicate clearly and regularly with team members.
  • Communicate effectively with customers.

It is worth mentioning that there could be more tasks based on the company and/or clients software developers are working with. However, the tasks listed previously are typical no matter what projects developers work on.

How Does a Day of a Software Developer Look?

First and foremost, a day of a software developer can change based on the person as well as their job. However, I will share with you how a day looks for me as a developer. Also, I’m a morning person, so I tend to start early in my days. I know other developers start working at 9:30 am or even later, but they stay working late at the same time.

5:15 AM: Wake up

5:30 AM: Go workout

6:30 AM: Go back home

7:00 AM: Eat breakfast

7:30 AM: Start working from home. I work remotely, therefore I “gain” time as I don’t have to commute for work. This could be different for other developers as some companies require them to be in the offices. I personally prefer remote opportunities.

7:31 AM: Connect to the VPN. If you are not familiar with the term, VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. Tech companies often require you to use a VPN to ensure that the data is encrypted while it travels on the internet. In other words, it is a safety mechanism.

7:35 AM: Open an online ticketing system to check what tickets I need to work on or what bugs I need to get fixed for the day. It is common for software developers to use ticketing tools such as Trello, Monday, Asana, JIRA, etc. to keep track of the set of development features, bugs, or any other tasks. In these platforms, you can categorize stages of the process, such as on Todo, In Progress, Testing, and Done.

This allows the programmer to keep track of the progress of the tasks as there could be a lot of tickets that need to be completed for a specific project.

7:40 AM: Start working on a task or a ticket. Usually, if I didn’t get to complete a ticket from the day before, I’ll continue to work on it. If I start working on a task, I make sure to update the status of the ticket from Todo to In Progress using the ticketing tool.

7:55 AM: Doing research of alternative solutions available that could work for the ticket I’m currently working on. For example, if I’m currently working on the ticket “upload the file whenever the user attaches the file and submits the form”, there’s a high chance other developers working on other projects have done something similar. Therefore, I start googling or doing research to find if someone else has looked for a similar solution in the programming language used on the project such as JavaScript.

Many developers copy and paste code from other resources and make proper changes needed to the code based on the project. This is not called cheating, but efficiently working on tasks and completing them in the shortest amount of time possible.

9:15 AM: Take a short 5-minute break to stretch or walk away from the computer. Generally, software developers don’t have to go to attend meetings. Therefore, we spend long periods of time sitting and working on a computer. Taking frequent short breaks is an excellent way to keep yourself fresh and also relax for some time if you are struggling to find a solution to a problem.

10:05 AM: It is time to review a PR. A PR is also known as a Pull Request. Pull Requests are made for developers to review other developers’ code before the code changes are accepted in case someone else is working on specific functionality or fixing a bug in a project. I have to mention that PRs can come at any time during the day.

11:00 AM: Join a stand-up meeting. Software development teams use daily stand-ups or daily meetings to communicate the activities done by each team member and the tasks that are in progress. Also, it is an opportunity to share with others if you need help or have any blockers preventing you from making much progress on a task.

12:00 PM: It is time to eat lunch and get away from the computer! This can vary from one person to another. Some people will eat lunch on their desk and keep working so they can finish earlier, while others might prefer having a 30-minute lunch. No matter what amount of time you take for lunch, at the end of the day the most important is to get a task completed.

1:00 PM: Back to work! I start by checking emails and messages if someone was trying to reach out to me during lunchtime. If you noticed, I checked my emails only after lunch, not at the beginning of the day. Software developers often don’t get many emails. Also, we don’t get paid to check emails but to develop software. Don’t get me wrong, you will still have to check emails, but you have higher priorities as a developer.

1:45 PM: Oh no! There is a production error! Hurry up and fix it! This is when you stop whatever task you are working on, and you have to find a solution for that error. Production errors are, in other words, errors happening in the live version of the software. That means users can be having issues with the software which prevents them from achieving whatever they wanted to do with the software.

3:15 PM: Time for a break, especially after fixing that production bug! Fixing production errors can be stressful enough just to hear about. Once again, software developers like to take small breaks and let their minds breathe after working on a task for a long period of time.

4:30 PM: Time to finish work.

4:31 PM: Go home. Wait… I’m already at home since I work remotely.

4:45 PM: Do research on technologies and programming languages that are interesting for me. This can be considered as the ongoing learning process software developers go through. That doesn’t mean software developers do this every day. However, some people like to stay on top of the latest trends, and some prefer to take a break from the computer.

Becoming a software developer can be a challenge in itself. It is not easy to acquire the skills needed to become one, but I’m confident anyone with a computer, internet, and willingness to learn and trust the process can become a successful developer. Yes, there are a lot of skills developers need, but it is not impossible to become a professional software developer.

The path can be tough for many people to get there. However, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences for many people as this profession offers incredible opportunities such as great pay, excellent benefits, working remote (if the company allows it), stocks, 401k (or retirement plan) matching, generous vacations, gym memberships, and even meals because you know how to solve programmatic problems.