Careers involving computers?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Vidd, Aug 12, 2007.

  1. Vidd macrumors 6502a

    Vidd

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2006
    #1
    Based on the nature of these forums and the dedicated programming section, I've gained the impression that there are a fair few people involved in the IT industry here.
    I was wondering specifically how you all enjoy it.

    Before this summer ends, I have to make a couple of decisions regarding what I want to do. Before recently I was pretty sure I wanted to get into programming but because of my lack of familiarity with that scene, I have become somewhat apprehensive.
    I study ICT at the moment but it doesn't offer a lot of experience in programming since the only exposure is to Microsoft Excel and Access.

    What do each of you involved in this industry do and what is it like?
    I live in the UK but I'm sure details from other areas will help as well.


    tl;dr material, maybe?
     
  2. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

    Joined:
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    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #2
    I have a summer internship as a programmer and I love the company, but I just hate programming so I'm kind of anxious for the internship to be over cause if I see another line of Java code, I'm probably going to go postal on someone. I'm studying to be a network engineer, but was offered the programming job (since I do have a bit of background in it) and took it, just as a way to get my foot in the door (and now I'm almost guaranteed a networking job when I graduate). Love the company, love the job and the environment, just not a fan of the work I do.


    If you do in fact like programming (I don't know how anyone could like it :D) and aren't familiar with it, get familiar with it. Even if your school doesn't offer courses in it, there are plenty of books out there so you could learn on your own. Or, just Google it, you'll find free tutorials. I taught myself PHP several years ago (I liked programming a bit more back in the day ;)) and I'd say I'm pretty good at it, and I've never spent a dime on a book. The internet has a ton of info to help you learn.

    As far as languages go, they're all very similar. Once you learn one, you can easily pick up the others. C/C++ is good if you want to really get down to low level stuff and do some work and mess with memory management, Java is good if you're lazy like me and want the VM to take care of everything for you.

    Since you can ask 10 different companies what language they use and get 10 different answers, it's hard to say which one to start with. As I said, I started with PHP, mainly for fun, but I had my first "formal" programming training with 1 year of C++ in college. I then had a semester of "Java for dummies", where "dummy" is not a dumb person, but a dumb chimpanzee, because the class was very basic and watered down, and once I learned the Java specific syntax in the first couple weeks I either didn't show up to class or showed up and surfed the internet the entire time and still got over a 100% in the class (extra credit ftw). Now at my job, I'm doing Java and am doing just fine, even though the amount of training I've had in Java is almost nothing. Google has found answered to any questions I've had :D
     
  3. Vidd thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Vidd

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2006
    #3
    Actually, I had a look at Python and didn't find it too hard to understand but the syntax was simple enough and when I look at Java, it seems like a whole other idea. I'm just worried that when you have to take it seriously and it's on a large scale, it might be overwhelming.
    One person told me that their brother didn't enjoy their job, finding it quite monotonous and hating the lack of interaction with other people.

    Thank you very much for your reply. :)
     
  4. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2004
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #4
    I suppose it can be overwhelming. Everything I've done so far is fix up existing code with small changes or write new higher level code that uses some of our existing classes and APIs that do the complicated, lower level stuff. Also, keep in mind that in most corporate, professional environments, you'll have coworkers to assist you and check your work to make sure everything's working properly. For us, any code changes don't even make it into production for 6 months after being checked in because there's so much code reviews (others review your code, make sure it's OK) and QA testing to make sure nothing's broken, so it's very difficult to end up with sloppy or broken code. We also have a ton of interaction with others, seems like we have to have a meeting for damn near everything. I've never found the work loads overwhelming. It's a huge app, which is broken down into a few larger pieces, which are broken down even further and maybe broken down again, and the broken down into work units (one specific thing that needs to be added or changed). So even though the app is a few thousand Java classes and a million JSP files, one coder (or, in our case, small teams of about 4 or 5 coders) is only responsible for a few of those (except the managers, but that's why they're managers). I obviously can't speak for different companies, but I'm sure most of them have a similar structure.
     
  5. floriflee macrumors 68030

    floriflee

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2004
    #5
    I did computer science in college, and decided that programming had a "special" place in my heart. I have a love-hate relationship with it. When I graduated I knew I couldn't do it full-time just because I hated the long hours of coding big projects and not being able to leave it alone until it was done, but I also loved creating things. I do tech support for a software company now, and I get to do a bit of programming on the side every now and then. It's just enough to satisfy my appetite. It's worked out pretty well IMO. I still work with computers, do a little programming, get to create and provide training, and the long hours don't happen nearly as often as they did in school. I feel much more balanced now.
     
  6. techgeek macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2004
    Location:
    UK
    #6
    It all depends on what you enjoy doing.

    There is a lot of different things you can do as a programmer/Software Engineer. There is hacking together web-apps, desktop software, back office applications, embedded software to name just a few.
    There is also a bit of differentiation between programmer and software engineer. The later tends to get more design work as well as just churning out code. But in the UK the difference is often just in the name.

    I've been a Software Engineer for the past 15 years in the UK. For the last 7 I've been self employed.
    Now I specialise in embedded software. That is stuff in mobile phones and set-top-boxes and the like. Mostly I work in C with a bit of Perl thrown in. And generally I enjoy what I do. The pay is pretty good and you get to play with all the latest gadgets :)
    As far as interaction goes there is normally lots of it. You need to talk to people all the time in order to make your stuff work with theirs. It's not unusual to be working with people all around the world. In my current job I dealing with Korea and France. My last job was mainly Israel and the US.

    If there is anything specific you want to know ask away and I will try to answer.
     
  7. Vidd thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Vidd

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2006
    #7
    How familiar with programming were you before you took it up in education?
    Was it hard to start?
     
  8. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2004
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #8
    Most schools should start you off in an intro to programming class, which basically starts off as if you know absolutely nothing about programming. Knowing a bit about it before you start may be helpful, but it's by no means a necessity.
     
  9. techgeek macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2004
    Location:
    UK
    #9
    Well, as my nick might suggest, I am and always have been a bit of a geek. I did do quite a bit of programing when I was a kid along with designing and building various pieces of hardware. Actually I'm an enourmous geek :eek:
    I think you have to be a bit geeky to really enjoy the job, especially in the embedded world.

    Like yg17 says most college courses will start you off from absolute beginner. It gets rather boring going through the basics over and over (school, college and then uni) but you tend to get a mix of backgrounds at each stage so they have to do it.
    Learning the languages is fairly easy and once you start work you are pretty much expected to be able to pick up a new one without much formal training (maybe a week long course after you've been using the language for a few months).
    What you really need to know is some of the underlying principles and techniques. That is what they teach you at college/uni.
    In my experience it helps to understand how computers work. Once you appreciate that a lot of the harder things become a lot easier to understand.

    If you don't mind me asking how old are you?
     
  10. Vidd thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Vidd

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2006
    #10
    I don't mind at all. :)
    I'm 17 and turn 18 next month.
     
  11. techgeek macrumors member

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    Jun 11, 2004
    Location:
    UK
    #11
    So I guess you are doing A-levels or equivalent and are thinking about Uni.
    Any programming / computer science / software engineering courses you could do now would stand you in good stead for uni but it's probably not essential. I've been out of education too long too give solid advice. If you decide you want to get into programming the best thing would be speak to a careers adviser who can give you an idea of what a uni will be looking for.

    We need more people in the industry, especially in the embedded world. It's really hard to find good people these days.

    Hope this helps.
     
  12. kainjow Moderator emeritus

    kainjow

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2000
    #12
    Really? I just started learning PIC development at my college, and it's been ok. I hate the actual physical aspect (building the boards, soldering, etc), but I love the programming. But I'm assuming you need good knowledge of the hardware to be an expert. Or is that not the case?

    Anyways, I do normal application programming, which I love. If you think you're interested in programming, give it a shot.
     
  13. techgeek macrumors member

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    Jun 11, 2004
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    UK
    #13
    You don't need to know lots about hardware to do embedded software these days. A lot of devices have operating systems and abstraction layers to allow the applications to be divorced from the hardware. Of course if you want to get down into the very low levels like boot code or device drivers then hardware knowledge is a great bonus. That is the stuff I enjoy the most, but these days do the least :(
     
  14. 63dot macrumors 603

    63dot

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    Jun 12, 2006
    Location:
    norcal
    #14
    since 1999, i have been on the hardware side of IT

    but on some big projects, like cleaning up an organization's bugs caught off the net, hardware techies and programming techs would all come in and work together

    the one thing i didn't like in all those years was being a project manager once...deadlines and having to crack the whip lest you have the whip cracked on you...and bull waste material rolling down the hill hitting every techie in its path, including you

    but don't count out management positions since some people like to be the point man/woman on a big task and do all the purchasing, hiring, firing, and ultimate laying off of entire team when a project comes to completion

    if you do such a management job, don't try and befriend anybody at work, and keep your friends in your private life far away from the IT world...and definitely have non IT related things to do for leisure since that's the best bet for lasting in this field without reaching burnout

    many companies and organizations today are finding it harder and harder to keep a well rounded IT department in house all the time so project managers and techies willing to travel and do short, but sometimes lucrative, deadline crucial projects are in high demand

    for the most part, as far as education, silicon valley is still dominated by "natural" techies who are self taught and usually do not have a cs degree, or any degree...note jobs, ellison, dell, and gates, just to name a few

    but if you can get a cs degree, and more importantly, a certification or two

    and a business degree, while mostly theory, like a cs degree in some ways, helps if you decide to be an IT manager...you will learn that the company is a business and that techies are there to be used and discarded, but not to be mean, but mainly because companies still need their admin assistants, ceos, and accountants more...harsh, but true

    so stay flexible and grow a very hard shell

    i hope this helps
     
  15. techgeek macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2004
    Location:
    UK
    #15
    It's not quite that harsh in the UK. For one thing it's harder to hire and fire, but it does happen.
    If you're in a company where software is just a support function then obviously you aren't going to have the same security as in a company who's business is software. I tend to work for companies like Ericsson, Nokia, Motorola and Samsung. For them software is a big part of their business and they maintain large development teams. When they can't find the staff they hire contractors like me :)
     
  16. r1ch4rd macrumors 6502a

    r1ch4rd

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    Aug 5, 2005
    Location:
    Manchester UK
    #16
    My job falls somewhere between IT and business. I am a consultant to the pensions industry working for a software house in the North West. I don't have to do too much difficult coding and I get to work with people from all sorts of organisations. I get a nice mix of both worlds I guess. Usually I am working with the managers and the IT teams at client sites. My clients include ITV, Diageo, Masterfoods, IBM and a few more that I forget.

    My job does require a good degree (2.1 or above from a good university) but not neccessarily in a technical subject. I have a degree in Computer Science myself but I think if you want a more business oriented role you can get away with a different degree. I would advise doing a science rather than an art though.
     
  17. adroit macrumors 6502

    adroit

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    Sep 28, 2005
    Location:
    Victoria, BC
    #17
    I disagree with the geeky part. I am probably one of the least geeky engineer out there (probably help to point out that I am also a girl). I decided to go into EE mainly because I was good at math and physics in highschool. I started out in first year university not knowing any programming at all and was very intimidate by it since most of my classmates were already quite good at it. I actually failed the midterm really badly on my second Java class and decided to actually buckle down and actually learn the language. I ended up getting an B+ in that class (since the poor midterm mark brought it down).

    Anyhow, after that class I became a lot more confident in programming. I got several co-ops (internships) in software programming after that. Later, I made my way into the embedded system world (studying in EE really help that too) and I love it.

    I guess my point is that you don't really have to be a geek (or even in cs in my case) to get into programming. I actually find that I have a lot less trouble getting jobs than the more geeky people (I think it's because I'm not as shy). You really don't need to be one of the people who started programming since they were 12 to be good at and enjoy this career. But you have to find something in that you enjoy from it. For me, I love making something that never existed before. And programming is one of the fastest way you can achieve that (I like hardware too, but it takes a lot longer to achieve a milestone and it's harder to make something new).
     
  18. Vidd thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Vidd

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2006
    #18
    Thank you for all of the insightful replies.
    I'm going to look into this more based on your positive posts.
     
  19. 63dot macrumors 603

    63dot

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2006
    Location:
    norcal
    #19
    actually it's prolly a lot nicer in IT/high tech these days in northern california, too....compared to the absolute failure of a lot of startups and major company projects during dot.bomb

    people were running so far away from tech after the crash that for some time, the whole internet industry had some sort of self imposed curse on it, and having the second largest drop in income in world history did not help at all

    a year before it all fell apart, i left business grad school to become a vp for a san jose dot.com and i thought i made the best move in my life...people treated us like billionaires even before we had a businessplan

    the scariest part was when international drug dealers and middle eastern terrorists called up and wanted to join and make a quick buck :)...heck, can't they buy webvan.com or something?...actually, we and all others dot.com would have made a great topic for a michael moore movie
     
  20. techgeek macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2004
    Location:
    UK
    #20
    Damn, it must be just me then. :eek:

    You are very right about not being shy. You need to be able to talk to people easily and not be afraid to challenge what they are saying sometimes as well.

    Nice to see some other embedded people around here :)
     
  21. adroit macrumors 6502

    adroit

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    Sep 28, 2005
    Location:
    Victoria, BC
    #21
    Definitely :)

    Just thought about this a little more, I guess you do have to be a tiny bit geeky. I think my presence at MR proves it :p

    To the OP:
    Just my personal opinion, but may be you should consider Electrical or Computer Engineering as well. Especially, if you just want to do something technical but not sure what to do. Most universities teaches enough programming classes in those degrees that you shouldn't have any problem picking up programming jobs later. And if you find out later that you don't like programming then you will always have the hardware to fall back on.

    But as much as I like to see more people going into programming, it is not for everyone. I've seen too many people dropping out after first year from CS or SE because they went into the program because they like working with computers (A lot of them ended up in IT, which is not too bad because most of the first year courses are still transferable. However, I know of 2 that ended up in Music though :confused: ). It's one thing enjoying making couple of little programs at home, and to spend every single day doing it.

    But don't get discourage, you might ended up loving it like me and techgeek ;)
     
  22. 63dot macrumors 603

    63dot

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    Jun 12, 2006
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    norcal
    #22
    being in the belly of the beast in norcal, here's some pros and cons i have observed through my whole life living here

    cs degree...largely programming and hopefully in current languages, easier than a traditional science or engineering degree, and more creative

    ee, or el degree...broader education, more math/physics/science and thus harder, but safer in the long run and able to withstand downturns better

    in the end, many companies need both engineers and programmers...one is not better than the other

    my personal post bachelor's education has centered more around software engineering, network admin., and programming, but mainly due to the fact that i find ee and el a little over my head, but that does not mean programming is easy, just easier, for me at least...some people i know cannot program to save their lives but are math, chemistry, and physics geniuses :)

    to each his/her own
     
  23. janey macrumors 603

    janey

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    Dec 20, 2002
    Location:
    sunny los angeles
    #23
    Hey, nothing wrong with Music. There's so many interdisciplinary programs out there that are completely awesome if you're just really torn over all these fields of study you are interested in...like with me, I'm sort of thinking about changing majors to cogsci, which is like this huge mesh of different fields - computer science, psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, biology...you get the idea, as opposed to just computer science and some longing to learn more about the others.

    Personally, I like programming. It was a way for me to solve problems I run into everywhile using a computer, and it gave me an immense sense of satisfaction to do so. It's definitely not something I really want to do all the time as a career (that'll have to be something else :) ) but something I do on the side because I enjoy doing so. And also because I can and do get paid nice bucks to fix other people's problems too. ;)
     

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