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A Career in Programming / Software Engineering


Who is a Programmer?

Who is a programmer? What does it take to become a software developer? It should be obvious that Programming/Software Engineering plays a vital role in the IT industry. Itís simple. Programs are needed to make computers function. Without programs, computers have no value. Programs tell the computers what to do Ė simple or complex tasks for payroll calculation, word-processing, operating systems, computer games, business processing, banking applications, etc.




What do Programmers/Software Developers do?

Programmers/Software Engineers write software. They write the instructions that tell the computer what to do. Programmers are IT professionals who create such programs that run on various platforms including operating systems, the Internet, handheld gadgets, computer-aided devices, or a combination of computer equipment.  


Job Titles

In the programming environment typical job titles are: Software Engineer, Application Developer, Systems Analyst, Software Tester, Software Developer, System Analyst and Programmer. There are also variations of these titles such as Senior Software Developer, Software Analyst, etc. However, while you should be aware of these titles, focus more on the actual duties and expectations in a particular organization or programming environment.

To many people in IT, although titles may also vary with your level of experience, application developer, programmer, and software developer all mean the same thing.


Programming Languages

Get into the software development field by learning a programming language. Computer programs/applications/software are written in such languages.  Programmers can decide to master one or more languages. The best languages? I donít know about that, but people choose to use certain languages based on familiarity, personal preference or what the environment demands. In terms of market demand, programmers usually prefer languages such as:


C++ (,


Java ( and


Visual Basic (


In addition the IT industry depends on programmers to create new programming languages and to modify and enhance existing ones.


Nature of Work

Coding in computer language is not all a programmer does. Programmers are involved all aspects of the software development process, also known as the product development cycle. Letís take a look at each step of the process to get an idea of what the job is like.


User Requirements. What does the user want? Interview and interact with the users to determine their expectations. Donít assume for the user. What should the program do for them? An understanding of the business need helps. Getting user needs requires good communications and business skills. 

Specification. There is a need to write expectations of users into "specifications" that describe the details and functions of the program. It will specify what the program will do. 


Design and Develop. The program must be designed to meet the specifications and the design and specifications must be converted to computer code. Coding, writing the program in the chosen programming language based on the specifications, is regarded by many as the core programming skill. Coding must be done with functionality, security, resilience, usability and future maintenance of the software application in mind.


Testing. Completed programs need to be tested for bugs or mistakes. Is the program working to specification? Testing can be done within the programming team. Testing can in addition be done with the users to ensure it meets specification.

Interaction with users enables you to get feedback on the programís actual performance. And note that insufficient and inadequate testing is a major cause of bad software Ė software that doesnít work to specification, software that is ridden with bugs.


Documentation. Write or review documentation for user and system procedures. This is helpful and is a key requirement for future maintenance.


Maintenance. As a programmer, you may need to change an existing program to meet user requirements or to remove bugs. Debugging, tracking errors in a program is in fact a critical programming skill.


Technical assistance. You will get enquiries from users regarding programming errors, problems or questions. Training of users could be part of your duties. Such interaction with users again requires first-class interpersonal and business skills.


Depending on their level of experience and the nature of programming environment, programmers can play any of the roles described above. Newcomers may be only involved in some areas of coding, or software testing.

A lot depends on the programming environment. Software developers at small companies may be involved in all of these areas, while Software developers at large organizations may specialize in particular steps of the development cycle. Senior software people usually do less coding and are more involved in the managing the entire software development process.


Success factors in the programming field

Is programming a science or an art? That is a debate for another day. What I know is that it requires a large dose of creativity and is both interesting and challenging. To succeed in software development you need be very detail-oriented. You must love details. If you donít love details, you will find debugging stressful and frustrating.


Your mastery of details must be combined with logical thinking and the ability to focus for long periods. How creative are you? Can you see beyond the surface of problems? Programming knowledge is essential for designing software solutions and for problem-solving.


Though the meat of programming is coding, to be a successful programmer you canít afford to be careless with your business and communications skills. Excellent interpersonal skills assist cooperation and interaction with colleagues and clients. This is essential for understanding a customerís needs (specifications), providing technical assistance to users and for teamwork.


Most importantly, while the ability to program is key, you must have a positive, can-do attitude to enable you complete programming assignments efficiently and effectively. When things donít jell as you expect, attitude helps you become resilient and build your backbone.

The ability to manage programming staff and perform project management is key for senior software engineers. At this level organizational and management skills are essential.


Knowledge and Certification

As noted earlier, you must learn a programming language - Learning involves practice, proven results and understanding how programming can be used to solve problems.  Certification is useful in helping you benchmark your skills. Popular certifications are those for VB, C++ and Java, i.e. Microsoft's MCSD, Sun's SCJP (


However, though getting certified can get your foot in the door, certifications alone are not enough to grow your career in the programming field. Your ability to deliver results with a particular language or tool is paramount. Degrees and certifications are nice, but employers and clients are more interested in your proven expertise with the code.


Other Matters

With the complexity of modern systems, and with the rapid advance of new programming technology, tools and platforms, you need to find a way of keeping up-to-date in this field. Be prepared to learn new skills quickly. You must be ready to cope with the demands associated with constant learning.


Beyond programming language and operating systems knowledge and good soft skills, professionalism facilitates growth. I'm sure you realize now that the value proposition you offer should be more than just software expertise alone. Be willing to take on challenges, even if it's not strictly programming. You canít beat the combination of initiative, integrity and business savvy.


Interested in the programming field? You should now know what it takes to build a career in programming. I hope youíve seen that it is both interesting and challenging.  The question is: is it for you?


I wish you all the best in your IT Career,




Jide Awe


Jide Awe is the Founder of



What Do you Have to Say? Post Your Comments about this article Here 

COMMENTS for "A Career in Programming / Software Engineering":


June 2010


The Team @ says:



It is not too late but you must be prepared to make extra effort especially in terms of getting experience as a new entrant. You should be ready to start from scratch and must be creative in acquiring the required experience, you should understand that no matter how exciting or powerful we find IT, it is not always easy and straightforward for newcomers to get experience in IT.

In the programming field in particular your ability to develop programs is what counts not really the training or certification. In addition to learning programming skills you must create REAL programs with your know how, and you will therefore need to use your personal networks and other resources to getting working experiences and also create your own experience in unique ways.

You should also attend the next FREE IT Career Seminar for other issues you need to consider in developing a career in IT. details are on:

Wishing you the very best!



June 22, 2010


Omale Sunday says:



Am I late? Though I have been greatly enlightened by your article on career in programming. But I need to ask if I am a late entrant into the programming world because I am in mid 30.
Will be glad to get your reply. 



November 8, 2008


Ogbor Andy .O of Lokoja, Kogi State, Nigeria says:



I think with this article, a typical computer user will see that Instructions (Programs) control the Hardware Elements (Devices) that does the job. Nice piece there. 



October 8, 2008


Geofrey of Kericho, Kenya says:



I am a young computer programmer. Please send me more articles on the same. 



August 28, 2008


Ige Moses of Jos says:



Interesting and eye opening article. Anyway, i am not surprised at all. I only pray once again that God will keep JIDAW for we the youth, so that they can extend their services to other parts. 



August 26, 2008


Rakesh of Delhi, India says:



An excellent article especially for people like me from non IT field, looking to carve a new career in this field. 



August 15, 2008


Ige Moses of Jos says:



JIDAW has really done a great work. I am a programmer. Please has JIDAW added programming courses to her list of courses?
God uphold JIDAW for us the youth. 



July 31, 2008


Nisreen Kanchwala of India (Maharashtra) says:



The article is a wonderful piece of information! it covers all the aspects of the topic and leaves the reader with absolutely no doubts. 



July 14, 2008


Ike Henry of Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria says:



Thanks for the good job and thanks for enlightening me on the subject matter. 



May 1, 2008


Obinna Chinonso of Paraclete Limited, Makurdi, Benue state, Nigeria says:



This site is greatly educative and can positively change people's mind about programming. 



March 12, 2008


OGUDEBE JUDITH, a student in Lagos, Nigeria says:



Honestly, this article is mind-blowing, inspirational and educational! 



January 21, 2008


Olumuyiwa of FUTA, Akure, Nigeria says:



It is really a nice article - interesting and encouraging. Infact many of your articles are going to change many people's lives in Nigeria and beyond. Great Job!  



November 5, 2007


Umar O. from Kano, Nigeria says:



Great article. I now know what it takes. Programming holds the promise.  



October 31, 2007


Femi Adesina from Lagos says:



Thank you very much! I have always wondered about the development cycle.  




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