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What do coders do??

Okay, I am applying for a coding job.

FYI I live in a small town, (80k people) to my knowledge their are only 3 firms that hire coders, two are clients for the accounting firm I work for, the other is a regional bank.

The regional bank has a job come available. This is exciting, the downside is that they had a job available 6 months ago, I applied, was interviewed and knocked back.

It was a horrible interview, I haven't been to an interview where I am compared to other candidates. I have worked at McDonalds (the manager knew my mum and the interview was a formality) I worked for accountant number1 (someone I knew told me she had left, so I went straight around knocked on the door and they said start Thurs), and my current job, well I sent my resume to an acct headhunter firm, got me a sunday interview, and the partner got on well with me (see he did not have to compare me to other candidates).

But this bank coding job, I was not at all prepared for the questions.
What do you think you will be doing?
I had no idea.
Tell me about good team work experience?
...I am sure you know.

I couldn't think. and in alot of case I had no good answers.

ie I realise that I am not a team player. I always think I am smarter...But it is something that I have worked on. so good did come out of iT.

But the question 'what do you think you will be doing'
well I have no idea what a 'day in the life of a coder'is.

What do you do?
I am guessing some coding, a fair bit of debugging, some meetings, do you spend hours poring over textbooks, asking questions online, do you collaborate much with colleagues over problems, do you talk about startrek?

I would love an insight.

Aussie Chick
Saturday, October 18, 2003

I'm no interview expert but asking "What do you think you will be doing" is a stupid question on the bank's part (it wasn't NAB was it!?). How can you be expected to form a reliable opinion on your duties before working there?

Your guess is pretty accurate. It also depends on the style of the company. Eg some places may view you as goofing off if you read textbooks at work, so you may need to do this at home, or print out documentation or read from the screen. Some may want you to ask questions, others may not like it and expect you to find things out yourself. I had one job in Perth where the IT 'manager' forbade me to speak to the accounting dept, because he didn't want to show up the ignorance in 'his' department. You have to find out what colleagues and managers expect to happen, and follow this.

Bill Rayer
Saturday, October 18, 2003

That kind of question is an opening for you to
control the interview. Say something like:

That would depend  a lot on your company. Could
you tell me more about what you do and what
you are looking for?

Find out what they want and craft your answers
accordingly. Remember, most people don't like
interviewing and just want someone to be a clear
enough winner that they don't have to argue
about who to pick.

son of parnas
Saturday, October 18, 2003

First, don't ask them "what do you do?"  You should research the firm before going in to the interview.  Know what their major line of business is. Try to learn a little bit about that interview.  You probably won't be able to learn enough to converse intelligently about it with them, but you will be showing that you care enough to investigate.

As for what a coder does all day, that depends on the day.  It's not the kind of profession where you're doing the same thing day in and day out.  You'll have days that you spend writing new code. You'll have days you spend debugging that code.  And you'll have days that you spend dealing with problems that the customer is having that may not be in any way code related.  If you're lucky, you'll have customers who you do custom work for, and you'll get to spend some time learning their business so that you can adapt your software to their specific needs.

You'll also have days wasted in meetings.  It seems to be unavoidable, since all time in a meeting is time that you could have spent doing something productive.  Unfortunately, they're a necessity for exchanging information, no matter how ineffective they seem to be.  Also, the auditors get pissy if you can't justify the expense of the big meeting room for something besides a place to take lunch.

Clay Dowling
Saturday, October 18, 2003

Respectfully, Aussie Chick - are you prepared for a day to day life of coding? That was the first thing that occurred to me when I read your post.

But, your suppositions on a day in the life are pretty much correct. Usually, a programmer in most companies is given "tasks" such as - develop this app to do bla bla; or, fix the problem where bla bla when the user does yatta.

Based on the info you provided, the kinds of organizations that you are contacting about programming jobs sound more like "end users" than experienced programming and IT organizations. That's not bad in itself but it indicates strongly that whomever they hire will have to provide their own structure for the duties of the job itself, in addition to dealing with whatever "management" that the organization wants to impose. It may be a PITA, in other words.

So if you're unclear what a working programmer does in order to get their job done, this may not be a good fit even if you do get in.  Most end users make one fight pretty hard just to do the work that needs doing. So if you are expecting to learn on the job, it may not be a good match.

Or, I'm misreading your question or concerns and the interviewers are simply blindsiding you with uninformed questions based on their own lack of process.

W/o being there it's hard to know.

Bored Bystander
Saturday, October 18, 2003

You would have to be stupid to accept a development job with a bank now. Not as staff anyway. Only do it on fixed term contract with forced payout to end of term.

Training to be a plumber
Saturday, October 18, 2003

> What do you do?  I am guessing some coding, a fair bit of debugging, some meetings, do you spend hours poring over textbooks, asking questions online, do you collaborate much with colleagues over problems, do you talk about startrek.

Coding is part of it (maybe "coders" *only* code, but I'm a software developer involved in more parts of the software develoment lifecycle than just coding).

For me it begins with specifications: saying what the software is supposed to do. This means getting to know the functionality of the system that my new code will interact with (may be a business system, computer operating system, peripheral), and the users' requirements.

After the specification, the design: the architecture of the software to be written, its major components and the inter-component protocols.

Somewhere in there, writing the development schedule: how many people doing what for how long.

Writing the test plan: the list of test cases which will test whether the software is behaving to spec.

Then the coding; actually the smallest part of the job (I'm currently doing about 3 weeks of coding on a 3 month project).

Debugging: hopefully not too much of this, more time spent setting up and running (successful) test cases than in debugging unsuccessful test cases; now that I'm more experienced I prefer to "abug" than to "debug", i.e. I prefer to not write bugs in the first place, and failing that to write code in which bugs are easy to find.

Delivery: handing it (code, specs, test cases) over to QA for testing and/or to the customer for acceptance testing, and perhaps talking with sales people who are going to sell it.

I collaborate in the sense that I need to get requirements from someone when I write specs; I may need to get managers to agree to my schedule, and (if I'm not the architect myself) perhaps an "architect" to agree to my "design"; if anyone else is coding with me, I need to explain what I expect from them, and inspect what they deliver; and I may need to hire people occasionally, or to be hired.

Christopher Wells
Saturday, October 18, 2003

as far as i can tell, coders do the following:

whine, spend up to 8 hours a day surfing the web, often whilst simultaneously using an internet chat program, watch japanese cartoons, play video games, and drink lots of soda.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

One interview book I read said you should prepare a sales pitch that emphasizes 6 to 7 points, and develop things to say around it. Whenever you're asked a question then, it's an opportunity for you to discuss in depth these points, or give an overview of these points. "Tell me about yourself" would be time to give an overview. "Tell me about a time you disagreed with your boss, and how did you handle it" might be an opportunity to go into depth about one of those points.

These open ended questions are more likely designed to rattle you and see if you crack under pressure, so to speak, than to actually get answers from you. Think from the point of view of the interviewer. Does he really care what you think you'll be doing, or does he care if you can get the job done, will get the job done, and will be a good fit for the company?

With 6-7 talking points, every open ended question is an opportunity to sell yourself, and remind whoever is interviewing you that you are:

intelligent, competent, experienced, work well on teams, follows through, and lives to code.
Saturday, October 18, 2003

bored bystander:
>Respectfully, Aussie Chick - are you prepared for a day to day life of coding? That was the first thing that occurred to me when I read your post.

What makes you say this?

I am seriously curious because the answer is no. 'When someone asks me what I do, I want to say "I create solutions", and computer programming is just my medium. I love solving things, my manager told me the other day that noone else in the firm can lateral think the way I do (they are all accountants) she said I have a talent for "taking a mess and turning it into something organised and efficient", she summed it up nicely, that is exactly what I love doing. I love watching a process and saying "hey I could create something to make that faster, more efficient, more error free". It is nice to be recognised, but she knows that I am not going to stay with them forever (as I said, they are accountants, and I spend half my time binding reports and typing letters for them), she was cool and chatted for a while about ideas for how I could take my talents to other accounting/legal firms and make a business of it.

But I still have some more learning before I take that step. So in the mean time what do I do?

I would like the chance to become a more proficient coder, see what the software development process involves from some people with more experience then me, and working with 10 other codes at a regional bank sounds like a good opportunity.

The question, do I really want to do this? No, I would rather be in my study putting into action ideas and having that kind of autonomy.

But, you have to crawl before you can walk, and I need some confidence, I need to spend a year coding and realise "hey I am as good as those guys".

Aussie Chick
Saturday, October 18, 2003

Why not try to get a show on television about crocodiles?

Guy Incognito
Sunday, October 19, 2003

What the?

Aussie Chick
Sunday, October 19, 2003

Aussie Chick, I see where you are "going" with this idea. I think your goals are excellent. However, marktaw called it right - I am infinitely suspicious of employers who throw the open ended type question into the interview as a "stress test" and that's how I read this. Asking what a developer "does in general" - as though you're supposed to develop your own job description - is ka-ka.

A developer gathers functional requirements, writes software from thos requirements, and does what it takes to make that software work. And the term "coder" connotes to me a narrow niche that doesn't even exist anymore. Every company and organization will have its own unique and idiosyncratic idea about the burden of meetings, documentation, end user interviews, and development model. So asking "what a coder does" is almost meaningless.

Also, I am uncertain whether you're going to get a representative idea of the life of a developer from a bank. End-user employers can be the most abusive and clueless and can throw up all kinds of obstacles to doing "real" work in your speciality, and the politics of dealing with management that doesn't understand code can be a big distraction from your goal of learning how to be a proficient developer.

Your comment about the local area not supporting SW development hits home, too. I am in the same boat. That's why I am looking to get out of SW. Can't make a living doing something that there is no market for. And that alone should give you pause, unless your ultimate goal is to develop your own product.

Bored Bystander
Sunday, October 19, 2003

thanks for your comments.

You have really explained it well.

You are right, unless I plan on developing my own produtc/service there is no market for my skills in this small city.

The thing is ultimately I would love nothing more then to work for myself. Solving problems with little applications is what really appeals to me. It is scary though.

There are so many possibilites I do not know what to do.
But in any event that is another topic, one which I would love to talk about. However your comments have been helpful, and if I do apply for this job, which I probably will, then I will be able to go in more confidently and say 'that is an unfair question'...

Aussie Chick
Sunday, October 19, 2003

Aussie Chick, it doesn't make sense. An Australian bank with development jobs in a regional centre? They just don't do that. They used to be centralised in Melbourne and Sydney, and even a lot of that has gone to that nation to the north west.

Monday, October 20, 2003

In my hometown, in rural North Dakota, significantly smaller than the town you describe (about 9000 people), there is a guy who does exactly what you describe. He builds small MS Access "solutions" for various businesses.

He also does systems administration, network administration, consulting (selling advice), outsourced desktop support, acts as a VAR, etc. He makes between $100K and $200K USD per year, which is a good salary no matter where you live (in that town, a NICE home costs about $40,000, so he is doing very well).

He is the IT department for the local high school, local farm university extension, one of the local banks, consults with the local phone company,  built an access solution for a local nursing outreach organization, one for a mechanics shop, a web site for an insurance agent in town, sets up wi-fi for local doctors, farmers, and so forth. He employs local high school students in the summer as "interns" to help him out, for about $10 per hour, which for them is great, because it beats the $6 an hour they would make at the Dairy Queen.  He takes a month off in January to go to Hawaii, and takes another vacation in the summer time, travels quite a bit during the rest of the year, has a lake home, etc.

If you are amenable to doing a bit of everything, and can build up a good reputation starting with your first bank job, I see no reason why you couldn't run a business such as this.

Contrary to popular opinion, a rural area is not necessarily a place where no market exists for IT work, even programming work. Perhaps no one has a need for working out 3-D rendering algorithms, but everyone around has a computer these days, and small firms always end up having some sort of database or accounting system, programming work that is not unlike what you would be doing at a bank, anyway. You have to have a small business mindset, rather than an employee mindset, but other than that, you are only limited by your own skills and hustle.

An hour away from where I grew up, in the great metropolis of Fargo, ND (which itself is only about 110,000 people), some guy started up "Great Plains Software" which he sold a few years back to Microsoft for a stock deal valued at over 1 BILLION dollars. So really, the sky is the limit.

Monday, October 20, 2003

>An Australian bank with development jobs in a regional centre? They just don't do that. They used to be centralised in Melbourne and Sydney, and even a lot of that has gone to that nation to the north west.

Perhaps I wasn't clear when I said regional bank. This town (80k people) has the HQ of a small bank. The bank is probably almost the biggest bank in town (even bigger then the big-4 banks NAB/CBA/NAB/forgotten the fourth one). It has branches in all the areas around the place.

So when I say regional I guess I mean that we are what is considered a regional area, and this bank is soley in this region.

The bank had a huge 15-20 storey building in the middle of the CBD, it just pops right up there. So yes, they are not a big bank, but as I was told when I went to interview no.1, they may be small but customers still want the same functionality. ie netbanking which is a big one, ATM's another big one, teller operations etc.

Sorry if I was unclear on that.

Aussie Chick
Monday, October 20, 2003


You inspire me. It is good to hear, heck on that note I may even make my husband happy by moving back to his (small) home town with him.....maybe not.

But it is good to hear, perhaps in a town of this size I wouldn't need to be as diverse.

Another reason why I often wonder whether it would be best to stay working for this accountant and slowly move into my own business. I work for a large accounting firm (well 30 staff) and it operates with the wealthier clients, it is a great stepping stone into a market as if I impress the bosses I have access to a wealth of contacts, and accountants are often very trusted by the businessmen.

Aussie Chick
Monday, October 20, 2003

NB I have very good friends who did live in Bismarck before moving to the St Paul. So ND is probably my favourite US state. Have often toyed with the idea of moving there, even 10 minutes ago while reading one of their emails....Why are we compelled to travel to other countries, and get incredibly excited about everything.

I mean you see a tourist getting so excited about something you find so ordinary. it always amuses me (yet of course I am afflicted in the same way)

Aussie Chick
Monday, October 20, 2003

I'm assuming this is the Bendigo Bank?

Seems to fit the description anyway.

Sum Dum Gai
Monday, October 20, 2003

Actual the Heritage, and it is only about 10 stories, I counted it this afternoon.

Aussie Chick
Monday, October 20, 2003


Guy Incognito
Monday, October 20, 2003

Guy Incognito = Asshole

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

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