Lifelong learners

Learning the business: There’s more to being a developer than writing code, says Hassanin.

IF YOU want a job where you’ll never stop learning, be on the constant lookout for “elegant solutions”, and create products that everyone will use, a job where you’ll never be bored, try being a software developer.

With the increasing growth and use of technology in the world today, software developers are high in demand and can pursue a range of career opportunities. While it can sometimes be taxing, most developers agree that there’s something truly satisfying about the work that they do.

For software engineer Hassanin Ahmed, 26, his average work day is 10am to 8pm at the office.

“The most enriching thing about being a developer is the ability to learn something new every single day, especially if you’re curious enough about the ecosystem and everything around it. It’s easy to be immersed in learning new techniques, patterns and ideologies,” he says.

He admits though, that this is a double-edged sword.

“The toughest thing about being a developer is temptations! Whether it’s newer technologies or other job offers. You have to stay motivated with the work that you’re doing.”

Hassanin, better known as Hass, says that there’s a lot more to being a developer than just writing code.

“When you work on a project, you get to learn domain knowledge on a specific sector or business,” he says. Hass is now a software engineer at KFit, a lifestyle and fitness app.

In spite of his years of experience — he began learning programming when he was 14, Hass still continues to go through a range of resources, from books and articles to video and Internet tutorials, in order to keep learning.

He also looks to more senior developers for help and mentorship.

“It’s an ever evolving learning process, which gives me so much pleasure,” he says.

“In the last three years, I started joining a lot of developer meet-ups which opened a lot of doors for me in both learning opportunities and also job offers.”

Start a freelancing career

While there is a large demand for software engineers in most companies these days, due to the rise of technology, some developers choose not to tie themselves down to any one company.

Wong You Jing, 30, began his developer journey as a freelancer in the Ruby programming language. He was also a mentor at NEXT Academy and training other programmers allowed Wong to “further solidify his basic understanding of programming”.

After freelancing for some time, he set up his own company last year — NoNonsense Labs. He and his partners build web applications for Malaysian startups.

He agrees that being a developer is a never-ending learning process.

“Online or offline courses, learning and teaching in the community, working professionally in the industry — all these are key elements to being able to upgrade myself and be a better developer,” he says.

Wong is currently in San Francisco attending a mobile development bootcamp, where he is learning how to build mobile apps.

His average work day lasts about 12 hours, sometimes more when he has deadlines to meet. When asked how many meals he eats a day, he quips, “Three meals a day, like normal humans!”

Then he adds, “Except when I’m too focused on solving a problem and forget.”

Despite how busy he gets on certain days, he says that work is “almost never boring”.

“The people [in the developer community], who are almost always friendly and intelligent, are a delight to work with. There’s also a constant learning process and different projects to work on,” he says.

One of the toughest things he faces as a developer is the design portion.

“Clients always focus on the end product, and how things work, but not the logic and code behind it. Having an eye for design and knowing which colours go with which is an enigma to me,” he says.

Becoming part of the startup community

After Christian Edelmann, 28, completed his internship at a consulting company, he went on to co-found several app companies and worked as a freelance software engineer.

His latest company, where he is now chief technology officer (CTO), is Dah Makan, a healthy food delivery company based in Kuala Lumpur.

Being the owner of a business means that Edelmann doesn’t get to abide by normal working hours.

“Most of my time during the day is spent coordinating the different parts of the business. Software development is a team sport.

“We have a local team in KL, developers in India, software testers in Ukraine, designers in Spain and Italy, and mathematics experts in Canada,” he says.

As CTO, he has to coordinate all the different team members involved in the building and maintenance of the app. However, he still finds time to work out and stay healthy.

“First thing I do [each day] is either go to the gym or work out at home,” he says.

While he admits that it can be tough to break down complex problems into individual parts in order to solve them, he says that he loves being involved from the conception of an idea, all the way to its completion.

“Being a developer is rewarding because it can allow you to find an elegant solution to a large problem. It’s such a rewarding feeling to work on something that makes thousands of people happy every day,” he says.

This is a series of articles on programming. Jeannette Goon is a writer and web developer.

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