Software Engineer

As promised, here's a description of a day in the life of software developer. For reason of client confidentiality and so I don't get into trouble at work, some names have been changed, or just plain left out.

As usual I left the house at dark o'clock (06:15 to be exact) and walked the half mile or so to the station where I met my brother Matt. We got the 0637 train bound for London Victoria.

(Fast forward 2hrs)

Owing to overrunning engineering works, the train was almost half an hour late by the time it arrived so a great start to the week there by SouthEastern trains. After doing battle with the Victoria line for a bit we emerged at Warren Street tube then wandered down the road to the office. In the tiny lift up to the top floor and into the office.

First things first, I take my laptop out of my bag and plug all it's various wires in ready to go. Whilst it wakes up I have a chat with our project manager about what I'm up to this week and carry on the conversation with the director when he comes in shortly after me.

It seems one of our clients is having an issue with a data feed to their site that is currently undergoing UAT (user acceptance testing). Well, it's more a case of UAT and development as there's still a fair bit to do so we're fixing/changing things whilst they test it. It's far from an ideal situation but like all software projects this one is an exception and doesn't quite follow our strict processes. 🙂

Whilst poking about under the bonnet looking for the data, Dan cracks first and makes the first round of drinks of the day. (Although the building has a kitchen with all tea/coffee supplied as part of the rent, it's 4000 floors below us and we're all too lazy to traipse up and down. So in the morning one of us goes down to the kitchen and loads up a tray with the supplies for the day. We bought a kettle for the office, and each floor has a tiny sink for water supplies)

Mid-brew the client rings up and we discus how to tweak the layout of a couple of pages so they fit into a screen 1024 pixels wide. During the numerous design/feature changes another column was added to the right of the page that made the center of the page look a mess when resized down to the lowest resolution. We agree on a change or two over the phone and then I capture a screenshot of what I was talking about and email it over to make sure we're understand each other.

The client then rings back to clarify a few things and I make notes on what I need to do.

First on the list is to hack about with….I mean change some XSLT to filter some of the data out so it doesn't appear on the screen. Once I'm done with that Cat makes a brew (yay). Over a cuppa I speak to Anthony via MSN about .htaccess and redirecting http traffic to https.

Then it's time to play css-in-the-dark. Basically, the site I'm working on is an American horse racing site. (I don't think it's a trade secret) All the data about races, runners, odds etc is updated every few seconds from a body in the US that takes betting data from all the tracks and issues it to companies who offer betting. How that data gets to us is a long and complex process which is still being ironed out.

Today though, there's sod all data. That makes it very hard to work on the pages that render that data, so I spend ages faffing about making changes that I can't really test. Later on this week we've got a sales presentation to make to another potential client, so I spend a while with the director in his office next to ours discussing what it's all about and which sales smile and batch of positivity I should use on the day.

After that I wander back into our office and Matt makes a brew. I drink said brew whilst modifying the layout of a table that shows different bet types available for a given race (which change from race to race)

Lunchtime! Nothing exciting here and most of us wander off to Boots just after 12 for three pounds fifty worth of scoff. We wander back and eat whilst catching up on important worldwide events via the tinterweb.

The afternoon sees me getting fed up of hacking about in the dark and sneak my modified css file onto the UAT server for some on-the-fly tweaks. Luckily my changes made using the power of the force actually work as hoped so I make a few more and its job done.

To finish the day I poke about some more trying to see why we're not getting any data and as far as I can tell we're just not being sent any.

Five oclock makes an appearance and I start the battle with the public and their transport and to cut a long story short, arrive home just after 7pm.

And that's just about it for a fairly typical 'day in the life'.

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