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Careers in Programming

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Computer programmers hold the communicative keys to computer systems. They form the section of the IT industry that writes, tests, and maintains the programs end users need. From word processors and spreadsheets to operating systems and drivers, it's the programmers and the programs they create that keep computers functioning. In some cases, the development of a simple program may take a skilled programmer just a few hours to complete. However, other programs, such as operating systems that require complex detailed instructions, can take more than a year of work for a group of programmers. Even though programmers often work behind the scenes, far removed from the view of the end user, their influence on the daily usage of computers is keenly felt.

Daily Tasks

Programmers usually find themselves working in highly creative and technical environments. Often programmers must work independently, but at the same time possess a strong sense of teamwork and maintain a collaborative spirit. It is essential that programmers be reliable, dependable, self-motivated, and have the ability to cope with the stress of inflexible deadlines. Programmers are frequently called upon to perform a variety of jobs and sustain many responsibilities. Programming duties may include, but are not restricted to, the following:

  • Develop, test, and debug client/server applications. As a programmer, you will often find yourself writing, testing, and fixing programs that may be written by you or by another member of your team. These tasks are likely to constitute a large portion of your time.
  • Convert designs and specifications into computer code. This means working with a specification or design that someone else has produced.Your task is to turn these concepts into a programmed reality. If the design is very detailed, you may not have any room for creative flourishes, but if you receive just a basic outline, the rest is up to you.
  • Analyze existing program code to discover causes of errors and revise code as necessary. The process of running down errors in a program, known as debug ging, is a fundamental programming skill. A thorough knowledge of your chosen programming language is essential.
  • Deliver high quality and useable code in a timely fashion. Programmers are often faced with inflexible time lines in order to meet market demands. Late nights may become an occasional but unavoidable part of your work.
  • Develop code in order to implement well-structured and reusable design that follows technology standards.You may produce the initial program, but there is no guarantee that you will work on the same code the next time around. By writing programs that adhere to stringent guidelines, your code will be easily understood by other developers. Keep in mind that the next person to analyze and dissect someone else's program may be you!
  • Analyze, install, and test upgrades of externally developed application programs. You may not like what you see, but you'll have to work with what you have. In some cases it is quicker, easier, and cheaper to have someone else write a needed program for you, in which case, you should reasonably expect it to work the first time. But then again, this isn't always the case.
  • Monitor performance of programs after implementation to keep up-to-date with users' needs and possible software bugs.Your work does not end when the program is passed to the user. Even if there are no errors in the program, users have a way of changing their minds about aspects of the program. Alternatively, they may like it so much that they'll think of even more useful things that it can do and request updates and modifications.
  • Write or review documentation that describes installation and operating procedures, which may be tedious, but is absolutely essential.The documentation of a product can make a huge difference in its overall usability. And, in fact, the information contained in the documentation can help other developers maintain the product.
  • Design and code screen layouts, graphical user interfaces, printed outputs, and interfaces with other systems. Sometimes the appearance of a program can be like an electronic signature that a programmer leaves behind. Creating a usable and effective user interface can heavily influence a users opinion of the usability of a program.
  • Compile programs and correct errors detected in the compiling process. Looking for your own mistakes is perhaps not the most encouraging of pastimes, but it is essential nevertheless. Fortunately, modern programming languages have the capability to track down and draw your attention to errors in the code. Keep in mind that historically this was a completely manual process.
  • Interact with users at times to keep in touch with the everyday problems and bugs that may be found by the user. Often programmers have to attend meetings with users outside of their own group or company. For these events, a certain degree of communication skills coupled with a smart and businesslike appearance makes a big difference.

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