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The Insider’s Guide to a Programmer’s Life - What People Think It’s Like vs What It’s Really Like

Posted  by Gosia Podzorska

You’re determined to change your career, become a professional programmer and break into the lucrative world of Tech, sounds right? Besides putting all your precious time and energy into honing your coding skills you’re probably wondering what the life of a programmer is really like!

Check out our 6 depictions below that give you a sneak peek into the reality of programmers’ lives and at the same time debunk certain myths that surround this exciting profession. Here we go!

From a Cubicle to NASA’s Cybersecurity Expert

  • Preconception: You’ll Become the Baddest Hacker that Might Eventually Hack NASA!
  • Reality: You’ll Most Probably Start as a Junior Developer, Working in a Progressive Start-Up or a Software House.

man in a cubicle

Is there a difference between a hacker and a programmer? Programmers solve problems by tweaking and playing with computer code. A hacker is someone who creates things by programming and in a pop culture sense, it mostly refers to a person that exploits bugs in the system to override security and access critical data.

All hackers are programmers but not every programmer is creative enough to be called a hacker. Let’s go even further and say that not every hacker can be considered a developer as developers are usually formally trained in writing the code using certain fixed rules.

As a programmer, you’ll have an option to follow different paths, the most obvious and accessible one is starting from a junior position in a start-up or a software house and gradually building your portfolio, experience and your skill set, get promoted to a higher level. It’s like any industry really, you’re not born an accomplished programmer but you can become one. Your career might start in a cubicle however the world of Tech is changing fast and software developers are extremely sought-after, which can open many doors and give you unlimited possibilities, except maybe hacking NASA ;). However, cybersecurity jobs are on the rise due to a more intense focus on data security in recent years, you could always consider that field!

Programmers vs Know-It-Alls

  • Preconception: Once You Finish Training You’ll Become a Brainy Coding Sorcerer That Knows All the Answers
  • Reality: You’ll Most Probably Have to "Google Your Way to Success"

In programming learning never stops. You might think that if you’ve mastered one of the most popular programming languages used in the industry, like Java, you can stop there. Nothing further from the truth! Programmers must be able to find joy in learning new things, googling their way to discover new syntaxes or getting acquainted with new programming languages on a daily basis.

In 2017 Java was on top whereas last year it was overtaken by JavaScript according to the 2019 HackerRank Developer Skills Report. You have to keep close tabs on what’s happening in the industry and which programming language would be worth learning next. HackerRank says it’s Go in 2019 ;).

Refactoring as Your Favourite Pastime

  • Preconception: You Will Build Amazing Custom-built Functionalities That Will Awe Your Co-workers
  • Reality: You’ll Most Probably Spend a Considerable Amount of Time on Refactoring the Existing Code

Anyone in programming knows that coding is extremely creative. You can build software completely from scratch just relying on your knowledge, available tools and Google. You have a direct impact on the development and final look of the product that has the potential to be loved by millions.

Before entering the world of Tech you might think that you’ll be only involved in creating new features, writing new lines of code every single day. To be fair, it’s quite possible you’ll be responsible for streamlining the already existing code to make it cleaner without necessarily changing its functionality.

There will be times for you to shine and try out your incredibly cool ideas in practice though. You need to be wary as sometimes the custom elements might not work well with the original code, and you will need to spend yonks on rewriting everything so that it fits this one cool feature. However, when it works, the sense of elation will be incomparable and your hard work will totally pay off!

Unshaven Geek Redefined

  • Preconception: All Programmers Are Geeks, They Don’t Sleep, Have No Social Life, and Only Survive on Pizza
  • Reality: Programmers Exercise, Are Conscious About Their Food Choices and Have a Varied Social Life!
silicon valley cast drinking

If you’re a fan of a ‘Silicon Valley’ TV series, you probably have this stereotype in your head of a computer programming whiz that doesn’t shave, is addicted to junk food and spends most of his nights glued to a computer either playing computer games or solving programming riddles. You might be surprised that most programmers are actually very conscious of what they eat, they exercise regularly and they are the life of the party during the weekends.

Nowadays all the major Tech hubs offer free healthy snacks, fresh fruit boxes, subsidized gym access and lots of other options to make sure you move those muscles after hours of sitting at the desk and staring at your screen. The image of an unshaven geek has undergone a major transformation. Programming buffs are into all sorts of sports from lifting weights, bouldering to swimming and marathon training. In case you dream of joining one of the key players in Tech check out our article about the most ridiculous perks programmers wished they had at their workplace. Some Tech giants actually fulfil those whims!

Programmers vs Math Gurus

  • Preconception: If You Want to Be a Programmer You Have to Be a Math Genius.
  • Reality: Everyone Can Learn How to Code. You Don’t Need a Degree to Excel at Programming!
math test gandalf

According to the Stack Overflow report , 86% of developers taught themselves a new language, framework or tool without attending a formal course. Developers are self-taught unicorns that never stop learning. They don’t necessarily need Master’s in Computer Science in order to land a lucrative position in the Tech industry. The most important part of the programmer’s résumé is their skills, which can be developed anytime and anywhere with online coding bootcamps. Anyone can sign up regardless of their previous experience or knowledge as more often than not, these types of courses teach the programming skills from scratch.

On top of that, 80% of developers claim they code as a hobby according to the report. Programming is highly addictive, hence those that excel at coding are passionate about what they do and don’t treat it solely as a means to pay their bills. As a programmer, you’ll experience highs and lows but nothing compares to the euphoria you’ll feel once your program works as intended. You are the creator, shaping how users interact in the online world, it’s definitely one of the developers’ superpowers and anyone can obtain it through hard work!

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

  • Preconception: You’ll Be a Lonely Coding Jedi Working Solo on Different Projects.
  • Reality: Programming Means Teamwork. In Today’s World Software’s are Built by Teams of Coders, not Just One Coding Guru.

When you’re a programmer, the work is done in teams. It would be quite uncommon to see coders work on their own when developing a particular software as business projects have become just too big to be handled by one person. Working in a team is brilliant for enhancing programmers' coding skills as they can bounce the ideas off their colleagues and whenever they’re stuck pick their co-worker’s brains on solving a particular issue. However, when at work, be prepared for endless discussions about which programming language is the best, just saying!

Coding is an exciting journey of marvellous yet sometimes challenging moments. You get a healthy thrill of endless possibilities and it’s easy to slip into the zone and think about nothing else. From startups to corporations, each working environment varies. Be prepared that each company has a different culture and different rules, however, once you become a programmer your working week shouldn’t exceed more than 40 hours and you might have a flexible working schedule starting between 7 and 10 am, unless you're self-employed or working part-time. It’s also quite common to do occasional overtime especially when deadlines are tight!

In most companies, programmers are treated with the utmost respect as not everyone understands what they really do. They get to play with the latest tech, create really cool apps and useful software.

Turn coding into your passion, make it yours and see if programming is for you by taking our free aptitude test below!

Free Aptitude Test Click Here!

programmer's life misconceptions vs reality