|Robert Healy talk to Smart Futures about his career as a Software Developer in SAP.
What are the main tasks, responsibilities and skills required?
A software developer’s job is, of course, to develop software. A computer consists of two main components, hardware and software. Hardware is the physical components like the keyboard. Software is the instructions you give to these components in order to make the computer do what you want it to.
I work within a team of developers that are developing a large application for numerous customers, so my main responsibility is to make the application behave in the way the customers want it to. Making a computer do what you want it to do is rarely straight forward. Thus, the main skill required for a software developer is the ability to solve problems quickly and intelligently.
Describe a typical day?
On a typical day I am given a certain task from the product owner on my team to complete. The product owner is the person who finds out what the customers are looking for and then explains what I, as the software developer, need to do to achieve this. I will then think about how the task could and should be done while also relaying any extra questions I need answered to the product owner for complete clarity on the task. Then comes the fun part, I get to develop this new piece of functionality the way my colleagues and I feel it should be done.
I am very lucky to be a person who loves his job. Before I started working in this sector I pretty much did the same thing as a hobby in my free time. I really enjoy solving problems, much like doing a crossword or Sudoku puzzle. However I also like computers. So when I want the computer to do something, I really enjoy the entire process of finding a solution to the problem and also the feeling of overcoming the problem and getting the solution I want.
What are the main challenges?
Sometimes your brain just stops working. You start out processing a million things per second and everything is working out great. Then you hit a bump in the road that just completely stumps you and literally fries your brain. Then tasks like adding two numbers together just become a huge effort and you feel like you’re getting nowhere. With practice you realise that when you get into these stumps you need to just get up and take your mind off the problem.
I find the majority of the time in these situations when you come back to the problem with a fresh head you can nearly solve the problem within five minutes. I’ve also learned that this doesn’t just apply to my job, it’s much the same in life!
Who or what has most influenced your career direction?
Absolute sheer luck. I remember trying to fill out my CAO after not getting what I wanted in my mock exams and not having a clue what I wanted to do. I literally sat thinking wow, I don’t know what I want to do in college. I started scrolling through random courses and then eventually I saw a computer software course. I figured I kind of like computers, sure why not. I am so lucky that I ended up really liking it and actually being good at it which led me to be where I am today.
Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
Yes completely. My job has no negative impacts on my life whatsoever.
What subjects did you take in school and did they influence your career path?
The only subject in school that I think had an impact was Maths. I loved Maths and did higher level all the way through school. Doing this really evolved my passion for solving more difficult and complex problems.
What is your education to date?
After completing my Leaving Certificate I attended DCU doing Computer Applications for four years.
What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
Oh my education from DCU definitely. I had absolutely no idea about computer programming or about software in general until I started my course in DCU. Those four years are what educated me for my job. Although I suppose all my life having a love for solving problems also aided me.
What advice would you give to someone considering this job?
I would never tell someone what they “need” in order to “be able” to do this job. Do a job you would enjoy doing, then you’ll figure the rest out. As regards my job; if you enjoy solving problems, having your brain tested and at least a small interest in computers then you would like this job.
What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?
Any kind of software development internship is a great help. Luckily, in 3rd year in DCU you get to spend half the year as an intern for some real-world exposure. They have a large amount of companies offering internships. In fact, I did my internship with the company I currently work with, which shows you how valuable it is!