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Case Study: Computer Applications Programmer - Lucy

What do you do?

I'm a computer applications programmer. This means that I design new programs that help companies store, organise and process information. I also help companies to analyse this data.

What is your background?

I completed a degree at university. After I graduated, I got a job with a large computer company, even though I had no computer programming experience up to that point. The company placed me in a training course. At first it was difficult but I stuck with it. After a while, things started making sense.

After four years of working with them full-time, I left and moved to Australia for two years to work as a consultant. When I came back, I carried on running my own consulting business.

What characteristics do you need to be successful in your job?

Writing programs and the accompanying instructions demands a logical mind. A good programmer should be able to anticipate and avoid problems before they occur. He or she must also be flexible and able to adapt to changing technologies and tools.

You must remember that programmers have to deal with people, not just machines, so they need to have good communication skills. During the development and installation stages, programmers are constantly interacting with the business people who will be using the programs they are working on.

What other jobs could you do using the skills from this job?

An experienced programmer could work as a systems analyst or co-ordinator. He or she might also consider working as a technical support person in a large business or government department.

What changes will there be in the future?

Companies need good computer programs but they don't always need full-time, in-house programmers. Most programming services in the future will be provided by consultants who work on a project-by-project basis, rather than by permanent employees. The demand for consultants will therefore rise, and the number of full-time, in-house programming jobs will decrease.

Are there many opportunities to enter this career?

The use of computers in business is becoming universal, and computers are useless without good programs that meet the needs of those businesses. There should always be lots of opportunities for capable programmers.

What do you like about your job?

The thing that I like the most about my job is the satisfaction I get from creating something useful, something that people actually use.

I get respect as an expert in a technical field, and I really like being treated as an expert. I like being the person who knows the answer to questions that other people don't know.

I also have lots of control over how and when and where I work. And the money is very good.

What do you dislike about your job?

The thing I dislike most about being a self-employed computer programmer is the paperwork. I have to do invoices and generally do lots of administration - I don't enjoy it.

Another thing that I don't enjoy very much is writing technical documentation. It takes a long time to do well. Every program needs documentation and it's boring.

I have to sell myself well. I find that stressful.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?

At first, you might find a degree in computer science intimidating and complicated, but if you stick with it, you will understand it. I know I did. And now I've got my own company and can travel the world.

A day in the life

7:00 am - 8:00 am

Checking and replying to voice mail and email.

8:00 am - 11:00 am

Working on the analysis and design of a new project.

11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Documenting the work I have done for other programmers.

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Lunch.

1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

Conference calling with clients, answering any questions they might have.

2:30 pm - 3:30 pm

Reviewing the status of current projects with a manager from one of my client companies.

3:30 pm - 6:00 pm

Working on the analysis and design of a new project.

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