Case study

Software engineer — Luke Ward

Luke's role has developed as he's built experience, allowing him to lead development projects and organise team meetings

How did you get your job in software engineering?

My placement year at a technology company gave me great experience working in software development. I got through to the assessment centre stage at a digital services company after some time applying for graduate roles, which involved a technical interview, group exercises and a presentation. The group exercise was to design a system that was almost identical to my final year project.

What's a typical day like as a software engineer?

I'm currently working in an Agile scrum (project management) team, using C# to implement a large system designed to improve infringement management and citizen interaction for an overseas government.

Much of my time is spent writing code. Normally, as part of my Agile scrum team, we organise 'user stories'. I'll have tasks for my user story that I'm currently working on and I'll split those tasks into code that needs writing.

Each morning we have a team meeting to discuss our current work and problems. I’ll often 'pair program' with a member of my team on a large user story, with one of us reviewing code as it's being written. This really helped me when I started out writing production-level code.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The variety of challenges I face every day. As each area of functionality required for the system is different I find myself having to design and implement new functionality each day. Every new project requires different coding languages and skills that I need to develop, so I'm continuously learning, which I love.

What are the challenges?

The main challenge is changing between different teams and projects. It's common for software engineering firms to have many different projects and clients that involve a range of different technologies. Keeping up with change can be a challenge but also adds to my enjoyment of the job.

In what way is your degree relevant?

Before my degree, I couldn't write a single line of code so it gave me programming skills and an ability to transfer my knowledge between different languages. I developed a general understanding of software projects and development processes, allowing me to hit the ground running. I was able to fit into the team development process easily, understanding the basics of processes such as Agile and Waterfall.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

When I first started it was primarily a programming-focused role. However, as I've progressed I've found myself taking on more responsibility, such as taking the lead on development features. This often extends into designing how features will be implemented, refining user stories with the business analyst and organising team meetings.

I have now been in software development for a few years and I've started to see which projects and systems I particularly enjoy and hope to spend more time on these.

What advice can you give to anyone hoping to become a software engineer?

Practice your programming. As coding is key to software development it's good to keep honing your skills, even if you just read an article about a new language or follow an online tutorial.

Keep learning about software development tools and practices. Knowing what's happening in the software engineering sector can help on your course, in job interviews and in the workplace.

I found doing a degree really helpful. While you don't need a degree in software engineering to be a software engineer, I think it really gave me the head start and confidence I needed to start my career.

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