Do you have a job/career in technical programming?

Discussion in 'Mac Programming' started by MrFusion, Apr 3, 2010.

  1. MrFusion macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2005
    Location:
    West-Europe
    #1
    Hi everyone

    At the moment I am writing my Ph.D. in applied physics, and thus soon I will be out looking for a new job or maybe even a new career. I am keeping my options open, so I attended a job fair recently. At the fair I had an interesting discussion with some manager about technical programming. This kind of job is not so much programming the latest iPad software, but programming e.g. the latest intel chip fabrication machine. It should also be less programming but more understanding and solving a technical/scientific problem and implementing it. The manager also said about 1/3 of the time is spent programming. Since I have never worked as a programmer as such, I don't have a basis of comparison for his statements. I am sure some of you do.

    I have read over the last few years a few things about IT and CS type of jobs, but never really about this technical programming. Is there someone on this forum who does this type of job and wants to share his/her experiences? Or someone with a math/physics/chemistry/... background who is/was in any kind of programming. I am very much interested in hearing your experiences.

    Perhaps some of you care to voice your opinions on a career in programming in general or share your experiences? When I read about programming jobs, I think and sometimes read "stay the hell away". Though when I consider the academic career path, I have similar thoughts. My friends in industry like their jobs, but I am not sure I would. Programming seems to be more my thing, but is programming worthwhile to pursue in this day and age or should I stay the hell away?

    Thanks for your insight! I appreciate your replies and will carefully think them over in the next few weeks.
     
  2. mdatwood macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2010
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    #2
    I haven't really heard the term 'technical programming' before. IMHO, it doesn't matter if you're programming a fab machine, an iPad (or other embedded systems), genetic algos or whatever, in all cases you're using software to solve a problem.

    I've written software for over 10 years and during that time the most I've spent 'programming' was maybe 75% (probably closer to 50% now). I've been lucky enough to always be a part of all phases of software engineering (my current title is Senior Solutions Architect), and not just a programmer cog. This has always meant meeting with the customer, understanding their needs, and then proposing solutions. Early on while still in undergrad I worked with a local contract software firm where we would build custom solutions for other businesses. Now I work for a giant company where I come up with and write custom software to give them a competitive advantage.

    What I have found in my experience is the most of the time your customers have no clue what they need, what's possible, or even what their true problem might be. One of the most interesting aspects of my job over the years was simply learning about so many different types of fields in order to really solve the problem. I have a quote that I think rings true, "90% of the solution is figuring out the problem." The actual act of coding up the solution ends up being one of the smallest pieces of the whole project.

    Now, is a career in 'programming' a good way to go now? I don't know. There is a lot of global pressure on the programmers who simply take specs and turn them into code. Those types of programmers are going to be either outsourced or eventually replaced by a computer. What people want to hire is a partner who will help them solve whatever problem it is they have. I think there will always be work for these types of people.
     
  3. lee1210 macrumors 68040

    lee1210

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2005
    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    #3
    I think that the person you were talking to was just puffing up what they were "selling". They wanted you to think that job is more elite, etc. than others. There are a few programming areas (I.e. the space shuttle) that are truly "different" in terms of how things are done. Otherwise software is software.

    I work on systems used in healthcare. I started out knowing nothing about healthcare, but I think that's part of the fun. I've learned a lot of the problem domain while honing software skills.

    I think this is a great career *for me*. I'm betting when people say "Stay the hell away" they don't say "I decided to stay the hell away". It's personal. I would write code whether I was being paid for it. In fact, I don't know what I would do for money.

    In terms of how long I'm actually programming vs. other tasks... I'd say on a good week I'm coding for 15-20 hours. In a bad week it's 5-10 hours of coding. Otherwise there's meetings, planning sessions, support, analysis (this is sort of programming), travel, etc.

    I guess what it comes down to is this:
    do you love programming? Are you going to do it whether it's your job or not? This isn't required, but I would expect programming to be a bad job if you don't like to program, just like anything else.

    -Lee
     
  4. MrFusion thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2005
    Location:
    West-Europe
    #4
    Could be. He was definitely looking for people with math skills. The bio-engieer before me got the cold shoulder.

    Perhaps, but the problem domain is surely different. I wouldn't mind working on the space shuttle, but I rather not program another office clone 24/7.

    15-20 hours sounds a lot better than 40 hours a week. I have no plans on being a code monkey.

    I do, but not the entire time. The project probably plays an important part of the joy as well.

    Thanks for the reply.
     
  5. MrFusion thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2005
    Location:
    West-Europe
    #5
    That sounds promising. How much freedom did/do you have in chosen your projects?

    Thanks for the reply.
     

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