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dirtsider
01-14-2010, 06:45 PM
One of my characters is a computer programmer but I want him to be able to work out of his house. He would do some limited travel but not all the time and most of it should be local. This is mainly due to his having a bad knee.

Any suggestions on what type of job and degree he would have. Also what type of work schedule would he have? Basically I'd like to know what kind of day a person like this would have.

hammerklavier
01-14-2010, 07:07 PM
Let's suppose he is a web programmer. He would receive mock ups of the web pages and requirements for what the system should do. He would use HTML editors and programs like eclipse to insert JavaScript and computer code into the web pages. He would be running an application server on his machine that acts like a mini version of a server. He would test the pages and programs he writes and write test scripts for them. He would also write database code (SQL pronounced sequel) to store and retrieve data and would come up with test data. After writing or changing each program he would do a build prior to testing the code.

Alternately, he would recieve incident reports (bugs) on a system such as remedy, and would have to fix and test these. He would have to check the code out of the company's source code repository.

When his code is working, he would store it (check in) on the company's server in a source code repository such as subversion. There a build would be done to integrate it into the system that already exists on the test server and integration testing would be done on the whole system to make sure it works with the other parts.

Some jobs require that the programmer gather requirements, that is, talk to the people who will be using the programs about what they should do. They like to do this face to face, but could do as a web conference also.

Each day, probably around 1 or 2 pm, there would be a team meeting over the phone or web where everyone says what they are doing and what problems they are having. Often, with large companies, there will be people from Europe, India, Mexico and the US on such calls (if India, they like the meeting to be 5pm EST at the earliest for obvious reasons).

He might be programming in Java a language from the company Sun or .NET (C# pronounced c-sharp), a language from Microsoft.

He would have a bachelor of science in computer science degree, or possibly a master's degree.

RobinGBrown
01-14-2010, 07:50 PM
One of my characters is a computer programmer but I want him to be able to work out of his house. He would do some limited travel but not all the time and most of it should be local. This is mainly due to his having a bad knee.

Any suggestions on what type of job and degree he would have. Also what type of work schedule would he have? Basically I'd like to know what kind of day a person like this would have.

Many computer programmers would love to work from home. Most managers aren't keen on this approach though...

Realistically he'd be more likely to be a freelancer running his own business rather than an employee. This would mean days and weeks of programming in order to complete a project followed by days and weeks of looking around for a job.

It's not dissimilar, from a point of view, to being a writer. Just a different product at the end.

Lastly, a degree is not necessary to be a computer programmer. Many programmers have done vocational courses and learnt by doing. Don't assume, as many do, that a programmer with a degree is better than one without.

Oh and some of us like to be called Software Developers.

dirtsider
01-14-2010, 08:09 PM
Sorry, Robin, should've said "education" rather than degree. And I think a freelancer would suit his personality better than working for a company. Plus this wouldn't exactly be his only job, just the one he tells people he has when asked about what he does for a living. (Can't exactly tell people he does magic for a living in my WIP.)

Hammerkliever - thanks for the breakdown. That's definitely helpful.

What are the different types of programmer? I know that there's more than one type: Software Developers, as Robin mentioned, and System Architects (who create the overall concept of a software system) for starters.

RobinGBrown
01-15-2010, 12:46 PM
Web developers too - although people would ask to see what websites he has built (I can never show my 'portfolio' to others)

Database architects and administrators.

However if I wanted to cover up my activities by pretending to be a computer person and not have people ask me to 'fix their stuff' I would say that I was a 'freelance AS400 software consultant specialising in the reinsurance industry' and memorise this page in order to bore people to death: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_System_i

Ms Hollands
01-15-2010, 04:10 PM
However if I wanted to cover up my activities by pretending to be a computer person and not have people ask me to 'fix their stuff' I would say that I was a 'freelance AS400 software consultant specialising in the reinsurance industry' and memorise this page in order to bore people to death: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_System_i

^^^^THAT!

dirtsider
01-15-2010, 05:19 PM
Oh, he's a legitimate software consultant so that won't be a problem. That's his 'day' job. Since software consultants have downtime between jobs like you mentioned, he can still do his magical work too. He's just not troubleshooting the magical angle as much with having knee problem.

Ms Hollands
01-15-2010, 06:37 PM
Yeah but the thing is, that when you're in IT, everyone asks you to fix their computers. If you guy wants time to do magic and not fix people's computers, give him something really obscure as a day job. Honestly, once word is out, everyone wants you to fix up the little problem they have. I managed three seasons as a ski bum before anyone reailsed I had any useful skills. I stupidly fixed a friend's computer, then word got out and no joke, at least once a week, someone would ask for my help, which usually involved a night of IT work.

CEtchison
01-15-2010, 09:11 PM
^^^ Ha! I had to giggle at this because it's completely true. My father is a retired IBM systems engineer. He never was a programmer or wrote code. He worked on mainframe systems for huge oil companies, universities, and government agencies. And yet, he still gets everybody and their dog calling him to fix their desktop or laptop.

Hell, I've never taken a computer class in my life, but I have people calling me about their computer problems. And that's because they know my dad worked for IBM!

Priene
01-15-2010, 09:12 PM
I stupidly fixed a friend's computer, then word got out and no joke, at least once a week, someone would ask for my help, which usually involved a night of IT work.

That was your big mistake. You should have botched the job. Word would get around just as quickly.

dirtsider
01-15-2010, 09:28 PM
Any suggestions on what he should do?

Tsu Dho Nimh
01-15-2010, 11:02 PM
One of my characters is a computer programmer but I want him to be able to work out of his house. He would do some limited travel but not all the time and most of it should be local. This is mainly due to his having a bad knee.

Telecommuting ... easy to do, and he'd occasionally go to meetings at employers and clients' places of business.


Any suggestions on what type of job and degree he would have..
How much money do you want him to make?
How much boss versus independent business (needs to schmooze clients)?
Would any particular industry help out the plot?


Also what type of work schedule would he have? Basically I'd like to know what kind of day a person like this would have.
::: looks at telecommuting sweetie sitting by the window::: he's a design engineer, chip design, not programming, but the work pattern is the same.

On salary, so time worked is less important than results. It tends to be low-intensity, but spread out over more hours than a non-home day.

Get up, check e-mail for hot problems, check status of last session's compiling, exercise, shower, coffee and breakfast, check e-mail, launch something to compile, check results of more stuff, fix errors and start another run, IMs are frequently popping up. Lunch ... more of the same ... dinner... maybe more of the same, and last thing at night set up a long run to be ready in the morning.

AND he's listening to music from Pandora. While waiting for runs to finish he's sporadically playing a computer game, checking newsgroups and blogs, reading news, talking to me, and playing with the cat.

He's also helped me with some small garden projects for a break.

K Ackermann
01-16-2010, 11:39 AM
If he's a hardcore, down-in-the-trenches software engineer writing compilers, video games, or microcode for new machines, then...

He works at night when the phone doesn't ring... possibly in his underwear, but at the most, shorts.
He works in the day yelling at people... possibly in his underwear, but at the most, shorts.
He smells funky.
He has a large collection of Red Bull cans, or possibly Mountain Dew bottles.
He might have a little dope near him.
He nods at all the right times, but doesn't actually hear any words.
He says, to nobody in particular, things like, "You motherfucker!", or, "It lives!"
He buys expensive things and doesn't open the package for ages.
Contrary to popular belief, he's very efficient at getting women into bed. After that, they are free to hang around until they get bored, and leave.

DrZoidberg
01-16-2010, 12:41 PM
I'm a programmer. Right now I'm more into other stuff, but it's essentially what I do. I work for one of the world's largest international software consultant companies. I can stay at home and work whenever I want. There's no limitation. There's phone meetings, e-mail, instant messaging and even more. I've been on projects where every team member where spread out all over the globe, and only a few of them where at the same site. In situations like that it makes absolutely no difference if you're home or at the office. And it's not all that uncommon. I'm still mostly at the office, because I work better at the office, but nobody would care. It's just me. Coming in for meetings is handy, because I think face-to-face meetings are more productive.

The project I'm on now has all members working in the same city (Stockholm). But still there's a couple of guys on this project who rarely come in to work. The focus is only on productivity, and the overall result. Nobody cares about being chained to your desk just to keep up appearances. Since we work remote on the office servers our manager has absolute and total oversight over our work and what we do, regardless where we're at. It's not like we can loaf around if we're at home.

I think this is a very culturally dependent thing. Not only countries, but corporate cultures. In Sweden the type of culture I described is pretty common. But there are variations. When Microsoft set up shop here in the 90'ies they had problems finding people because few wanted to work for them with their stiff corporate culture. Swedish programmers had other more flexible employers to go to, so they did. I know Microsoft has since then changed their corporate culture, and aren't as "American" any more. Some have suits at work (my colleagues in Australia do), some don't (I don't). So you've got pretty free hands.

Your character would probably have a degree in computer engineering. There's tonnes of engineering degrees with varying focus that includes computers. Just google. Better universities tend to lead to better jobs (naturally). There's a few who got hired in the IT boom and are self-taught. But that is far from the norm and they tend to not be as good.

He would probably put in at least 8 hours a day. IT projects are habitually late and at crunch time it is then expected that he sacrifice everything for a couple of days or possibly weeks and work 12 - 20 hour days. He would then get compensated with either money or more paid holiday. This seems to be pretty universal in the world of programming. It doesn't really matter which 8 hours a day you put in. If you're a morning person, you work morning. If you're an evening person, you work evening. And this is regardless if you work from home or at the office.

In projects that span the globe meetings are around lunchtime since then both India and Europe are at work. We also habitually forget each others holidays, so we in Europe can show up for phone-meetings and the other Indian team are off celebrating Divali and assuming everybody in Europe would know this.

Going to company parties are extremely important for ones career because it is in many cases the only time we get to meet our bosses and talk face to face. But in IT there's no shortage of Asperger type people who don't get this facet of IT careers.

I hope that helps. I'll be happy to help you if there's any specifics you need.

SPMiller
01-16-2010, 03:56 PM
It's worth stressing that there are other degrees than just BS in CS. For example, some universities offer a BS in software engineering. Offhand, I can't think of two supposedly-related disciplines that are actually farther apart than computer science and software engineering. CS is more about math and correctness and algorithm analysis, while SE is more about methodology and design and management. There's some overlap, but not as much as an outsider might expect.

Another thing I need to stress is that code monkeys don't need degrees to do grunt work. The average Jill off the street can learn enough to do good work on simple business solutions. Say, the middle logic of a traditional three-tier web application. A person of above-average intelligence could learn enough, given time, to do harder work. Say, GUI code for desktop applications. (And code for both of the preceding examples is commonly autogenerated by modern IDEs.) For the tricksy stuff, however, you need a much more intelligent person... or a university graduate, which are in general much easier to find than geniuses.

RobinGBrown
01-18-2010, 12:41 PM
My degree was in 'Computing for Business' (UK) and it was a mix of coding and business classes.

A lot of programmers don't get to work from home for a simple reason: managers don't trust them.

Management tend to be the problem in business, managers manage people, and if the people are all working from home then it looks like the manager isn't needed. If the people are all busy working in an office then obviously a manager is worth their salary. QED.

It's stupid but that's how most business people think.

SPMiller
01-18-2010, 05:31 PM
My degree was in 'Computing for Business' (UK) and it was a mix of coding and business classes.

A lot of programmers don't get to work from home for a simple reason: managers don't trust them.

Management tend to be the problem in business, managers manage people, and if the people are all working from home then it looks like the manager isn't needed. If the people are all busy working in an office then obviously a manager is worth their salary. QED.

It's stupid but that's how most business people think.I agree: that's terrible reasoning. In the real world, you need a better manager to manage people working from home. It's far easier when they're all at the office in physical proximity. That applies as much to programming as to any other office job, of course.

RobinGBrown
01-19-2010, 12:52 PM
The thing is that programming is one of those jobs that really can be done 90+% from home (or anywhere with a bit of peace and quiet) so having all those programmers sitting in a heated office, using company computers, at company desks, and with all the facilities needed...

You get the picture I assume?

There are good reasons to get programmers together for design discussions and such but the rest of the time keeping them at the office is an unnecessary expense.

Sigh.

SPMiller
01-19-2010, 12:58 PM
Well, I happen to agree with that, too, but I don't think telecommuting is suddenly going to become popular just because it makes financial sense.

dirtsider
01-19-2010, 05:45 PM
Thanks, everyone. This is a great help, especially the home vs. office discussion. Helps flesh out things.