Case study

Software developer — Alex Mann

Alex studied an MSc conversion course in Computing at Cardiff University. Discover how he secured his role as a software developer at The Access Group

How did you get your job?

After leaving university, I began working as a junior developer in a small tech-start up called Mobizio. I worked there for a year before The Access Group acquired the company, which led me to work on new software improvements and features for its health and social care division.

What is a typical day like as a software developer?

The start of each day usually begins with a team 'scrum' meeting, which involves an update on completed, and on-going work, as well as the tasks each person will focus on that day.

After that, I start working my way through the ticket queue (a list of tasks I have been assigned). These could include building a new feature, improving an old one, or investigating any errors or bugs, which I then fix.

If there is a big piece of work coming up, or a new feature that needs to be developed, we may hold an extra meeting to discuss the best way to implement it. We then break the project down into smaller, more manageable tasks and divide these among the team.

What do you enjoy about your job?

One of my favourite aspects is being able to find solutions to problems, both individually and as part of a team. Whether this is diagnosing why code isn't working or deciding the best way to implement a new feature, there is always a logical answer, and it's incredibly satisfying when I find it.

The fast-paced nature of the software industry means that new ideas, methodologies and possibilities are emerging all the time, making it a fascinating area to work in. Our software, for example, is intended to help the care industry deliver services more easily and cut admin costs. I like the fact that what I do makes a difference to people's lives on a personal level, while also helping save money in an industry that doesn't always have sufficient funding.

What are the challenges?

Our industry is constantly changing and while this is exciting, it does mean it's quite difficult to keep up with all the developments. Sometimes you feel like you've only just got comfortable with a particular way of doing things and then a new update arrives and makes the things you knew before obsolete.

Also, every now and then you come across an issue in the code that you need to diagnose, and it's almost impossible. You can spend hours going down different routes and trying out new solutions to no avail. It can feel like you're banging your head against a brick wall, but it's moments like this that give me the most satisfaction when I finally crack it.

In what way is your degree relevant?

I had very limited programming experience before starting my course, so it really helped me get to grips with the fundamentals of programming and how software development works as a team-based process. While you don't necessarily need a degree to be a software developer, it does help you get a foot in the door.

How do I get into software development?

First off, you need to make sure you know the basics. Solving problems algorithmically is a key part of working in this sector, so you'll need to get a good handle on this early on. Logical thinking and problem-solving skills are more important than knowing how to create fancy things in one programming language - it's the ability to adapt and evolve which is valuable in this industry.

Even though it's difficult to keep up with all the latest developments in the technology sector, it is important to try. If you show that you are actively trying to learn as much as possible, recruiters and interviewers will see how passionate and engaged with the sector you are.

Finally, practice your own projects as much as possible and host them on public platforms such as Github. If you can't think of any new ideas, recreate something that already exists, like a calculator app or a simple game, to prove you can do it.

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