Choosing a career remains as one of the most significant decisions that people undertake as they consider their position in the job market. The situation is structured in a manner that a lot of effort has to be dedicated for one to end up in a career that they are both qualified for and appreciate. I decided to settle for Programming as my career choice in spite of numerous other choices I could have picked. I have always been fascinated with how technology works and more on computing dynamics. This meant that taking a degree in Computer Science was a natural choice as this would help towards honing my skills in the field. My goal has always been to eventually become an efficient programmer and thus the degree was one of the ways that I could achieve this in spite of currently having the capability for basic coding.
The main duties undertaken by computer programmers include writing and testing code which forms the basis of software programs. Programmers take program designs as created by developers and turn the same into sets of instructions which can be executed by a computer. This process includes debugging and ensuring that the expected functionality is achieved. Given the nature of the institution, the duties of a programmer and a software developer may overlap (Giannakos, Pappas, Jaccheri, & Sampson, 2017). The work environment for programmers is normally within offices. However, since the work involves writing and reviewing code the same can be accomplished anywhere with a conducive environment. Since programmers tend to work alone, the work can be completed either within a regular office or from home allowing one to enjoy greater levels of flexibility and convenience (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019). Given the size of a project, a programmer maybe required to work from a central location as this helps towards ensuring greater levels of coordination.
Basic educational requirements includes a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Specialization in several programming languages is always an added advantage as this increases their scope since different technologies requires a different level and style of programming (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019). The degree in computer science ensures that the student has the necessary skills required in being able to understand and learn coding languages. Therefore, the skills that are gained through the classroom environment include direct approach to writing and debugging software codes. The knowledge is critical as it allows one to be able to identify the basic structures of a code even in cases where a new coding language is used. Advances in the field lead to the emergence of different coding methods within the same language hence learning in the field is a continuous process. This allows one to remain relevant in the job market given rapid advancement in technology.
One of the significant qualities expected of a programmer includes the ability to learn quickly. This has to be complemented with being able to learn on their own which allows better understanding of new technologies. One has to analyze information on the go and determine quite fast which is necessary and practical for their project. Fast changing technological environment requires that one remains on the lookout for new inventions and be able to determine if the same would result in significant improvement on their current projects. The ability to self-learn comes handy in such situations since the volume of information one has to sift through maybe too huge to rely on other people and still be in a position of meeting targets. This helps greatly towards improving the end user experience as they get to enjoy the best user experience given the technological advancement in the marker at that instance.
Programmers are also expected to have a positive mindset which is reflected in the final product. Clients may have an idea but aspects of the same when it comes to computing may be obscure due to lack of adequate knowledge on how the systems operate. The programmer has to take the initiative and help the clients towards seeing the big picture in regards to what is able through programing. Positive attitudes also comes handy when undertaking complex and time constrained project. Such factors tend to increase the level of pressure on the programmer in addition to the expectation that the software operates as expected. Moreover, having a positive attitude ensures that one’s ego does not come in between their ability to accept criticism regarding their work. This is complemented through the use of effective communication skills where all aspects of the job are broken down leading to effective solutions.
Another quality that helps in the determination of a great programmer includes the ability to manage tasks within the allocated time frame. The market operates on the basis of deadlines where some maybe flexible and other fixed depending on the intended use. Programmers have to be able to accurately determine the amount of time and resources required to complete a particular project. Accurate predictions on both aspects is beneficial to both the programmer and their clients as each team can plan accordingly on the basis of expected delivery time for each project. This quality is complemented by having great competency when it comes to when it comes to working with various technologies. The importance of continually learning new technologies as they emerge cannot be overstated given that one’s style of execution can very quickly be overrun by time resulting obsolescence. Optimal solutions can be obtained easily once the conditions have been met contributing immensely towards end user experience.
According to data from the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median annual wage for programmers is $84,280 where the hourly rate is $40.52 per hour (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019). The figures illustrate that half of the people within the industry earned more than the amount stated while the rest earned less than the amount. The majority of people working as computer programmers undertake the same as fulltime jobs as a lot of time is required during the development of computer related technologies. However, the industry has a negative job outlook at -7 per cent for the period 2016-2026 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019). This emanates from core aspects of the job which includes the ability to work from anywhere. This allows companies to outsource some of the work to markets where the rates for the same type of work are much lower. This trend continues to limit programmers who are located in the United States and other developed markets where higher rates would be expected.
The definition of a comfortable lifestyle is relative to one’s understanding of their role within the society. Given an annual median salary of $84,280, it is clear that I would have to live a minimalist lifestyle in order to avoid going into debt which could hurt any future career goals. The income tax at 25 percent translates to $21,551 and annual expenses at $64,654 or $5,388 monthly (Texas Reality Check, 2019). While the expenses are at maximum levels, it is clear that the amount left for saving is minimal. The goal is to ensure that the amount for expenses is reduced to a minimum. One way I can achieve this is through using public transportation and human power to commute. For housing, I will settle for a studio apartment conveniently located to my place of work to reduce the amount of time spent commuting which would make cycling an option. For health care insurance, the basic or premium individual cover would be adequate. The measures will ensure that I am in a position of saving some of my income for future investment.
With a median annual salary of about $85,000 for computer programmers in the US, this would require a significant lifestyle change is I was to relocate from Houston to Boston, Massachusetts. The cost of living calculator indicates that assuming one was living a comfortable life with an annual salary of $85,000 in Houston, they would require to earn at least $128,150 yearly in Boston just to sustain the same lifestyle without any significant improvement in their living standards (CNN, 2019). The price difference for most expenses that one would incur under normal circumstances are much higher in Boston, MA hence the expectation for a higher salary. One of the significant differences is in housing which is 97 per cent more in Boston. Another significant contributor is the cost of health care which is 48 per cent more in Boston as compared to Houston. Utilities and transportation are higher at 28 and 14 percent respectively further contributing to the higher cost of living within the city (CNN, 2019). It would be difficult to live in Boston as a computer programmer under the current salary.
Volunteering provides a channel for providing services to the community as a sign of personal commitment to the overall wellbeing of everyone within the community. One of the organizations I would like to work with includes the Houston Food Bank. This organization provides millions of meals to around 800,000 people by working with about 600 partner agencies each year (Houston Food Bank , 2019). The main focus for the organization is to provide meals to needy people which also includes school going children. The organization offers corporate volunteer opportunities which would be critical given that certain organizations recognize the same and direct their corporate social responsibility towards such activities hence greater benefit to the food bank. While the application of my soft skills may not be in great demand within the organization, volunteering will help towards increasing the manpower available for chores such as packaging and delivering to various locations within Texas.
I would also like to volunteer at the Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation. The foundation seeks to attain a future when each child with the Houston area will be in a position of reading given their grade level in addition to having books at the comfort of their homes. Being able to read is an important aspect of development which dictates the level of personal exposure that one is able to enjoy. The organization operates a program by the name My Home Library from where children can login and pick about 6 books (Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, 2019). Numerous children have been taking part in the program which indicates its growing popularity. My soft skills as a computer programmer would be of great benefit within the organization for the back end management of their various libraries. In addition, this will give me an opportunity of learning how such systems operate in addition to being part of the community fighting against illiteracy.
One of my long term career goals as a computer programmer includes being in a position to run and own a software development company. This will allow me greater flexibility in choosing the type of programmers that I would want to work with and the general nature of projects that we undertake. This will be followed with development towards the manufacture of technological devices that use our in-house developed software. Being able to provide solutions of currently existing social challenges through such developments would be my definition of success through the company. Another career goal would be to be in a position of mentoring other people to undertake careers that they are passionate about and more so encourage more people to join computer programming as a career choice (Giannakos et al., 2017). The variability of talent increase the level of quality for any industry.
The first step towards attaining my career goal includes successfully completing my bachelors in computer science. This will form the basic framework on which I can hone my skills as a programmer. The next step would be to get into employment from where I will be able to gain adequate experience on how the corporate side of software development companies work. This will also provide me with initial capital for my startup company. The last step would be on deciding how I will transition from being an employee to becoming an employer once I have a concrete idea that requires my full attention. Some of the challenges include the lack of funding for the initial program. Since programming can be done from anywhere, this challenge can be addressed by relocating to a city where the cost of living is lowest relative to my earnings. However, employing a minimalist approach will be critical to the initial survival for the company and its eventual success in the market.
Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. (2019, June 25). IMPROVING LIVES THROUGH THE POWER OF LITERACY. Retrieved from Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation: https://www.bushhoustonliteracy.org/
CNN. (2019, June 25). Cost of living: How far will my salary go in another city? Retrieved from CNN mONEY: https://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/index.html
Giannakos, M. N., Pappas, I. O., Jaccheri, L., & Sampson, D. G. (2017). Understanding student retention in computer science education: The role of environment, gains, barriers and usefulness. Education and Information Technologies, 22(5), 2365-2382.
Houston Food Bank . (2019, June 25). Volunteer at Houston Food Bank. Retrieved from Houston Food Bank : https://www.houstonfoodbank.org/
Texas Reality Check. (2019, June 25). Occupation: Computer Programmer. Retrieved from Texas Reality Check (TRC): https://texasrealitycheck.com/OccupationsDirectDetail
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2019, June 25). Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved from Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-programmers.htm
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