4 answers

What's it like to work as a computer programmer/coder?

Asked Lynn, Massachusetts

4 answers

G. Mark’s Answer


I have found that being a coder can be a high-pressure job. Many times you are either designing and coding on a deadline because your goal is to produce a product. After code leaves your hands, it will be stressed by testers and eventually customers. And you need to be cognizant of potential problems in the field to support customers that need your code in turn to support their customers. And there will occasionally be problems that are very difficult to isolate or solve. But be aware that folks who choose to be programmers are very often in love with the job. There are as many ways to build systems as there are coders themselves. Quite often there will be a theoretical approach or philosophy that someone will claim is the end-all and be-all of methods and that that will be the final answer. But technology does not just march on, it sprints (see what I did there with the pun thing?) Staying on top of technology is tough. So usually someone will focus on the latest flavor of the month in terms of operating systems, languages, processors, design approaches. As I said, though, programmers are often having a great time. Stress, yes. But many folks just think and dream in code and the latest sexy machines. There are many great books about the people behind these efforts. One rather old book but one that I think really captures the flavor of these labors of love is Tracy Kidder's "Soul of a New Machine". I first read it when Kidder gave a talk about it at Bell Labs quite awhile ago. It's available in audio books. Get it.

Thank you and I will take a look at the book.

Gus’s Answer

Best job in the world! I have a EE degree but the moment I took my first CS class (pascal programming) I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. No regrets so far. Being a programmer let’s you be creative, keeps you interested since you tend to attack a different problem everyday. Downside sometimes is that it can consume more time (taking work home, etc). So be sure to maintain your work/life balance. All the best!

Joshua’s Answer

Updated Albuquerque, New Mexico

I absolutely love my job as a programmer. Everything said above is true - it can be a very high-pressure job and depending on the exact work you do, late nights/early mornings can definitely be a thing. Burnout is actually a big issue and having been in the field for 15+ years, I've not only seen a lot of my colleagues suffer from it, but I have, too.

However the rewards are great, in my opinion. I recently heard a quote that I can totally relate to. From a podcast where Jamis Buck was the guest (look him up if you don't know who he is; big name in the world of Ruby, for sure). He said "Writing your first program is like discovering you can cast magical spells." I couldn't agree more. It's an incredible feeling to know that you can make a computer do/say/act however you want.

So pressure? Yes, sometimes. Rewarding? No doubt about it. Depending on the type of progammer/coder you're thinking about becoming, there are lots of resources online to write quick "Hello, World" programs for almost every language/framework you can think of. If you want a feel for this "magic", I'd suggest just doing a quick google search for "ruby on rails hello world" or something with the language/framework you're interested in, and going for it. If programming is something you're cut out for, you'll be addicted.

Sonya’s Answer

Updated Richardson, Texas

I really like G. Mark's Answer. I think coding is fun because you can be creative and effective at the same time. The language is your building block. Like an architect designs a building you can design your solution to a problem or purpose. You can make things happen in real time. You can see the results of your work immediately.