As a software engineer, you are responsible for developing and maintaining software applications. But what does that actually mean on a day-to-day basis? In this article, we’ll take a look at what a typical day in the life of a software engineer looks like, as well as the factors that influence it.
Who is a software engineer?
A software engineer is a professional who applies the principles of software engineering to the design, development, maintenance, testing, and evaluation of computer software.
Software engineers are involved in all aspects of software development from the initial feasibility study to the final product release.
The role of a software engineer is to turn a client’s or employer’s needs into a working, reliable software program. This process involves first understanding what the customer wants and then designing, creating, testing, and maintaining the software that meets their needs.
What does a software engineer do?
The main task of a software engineer is to develop and design new software programs, as well as support and improve existing ones. They also need to liaise with other departments within the company, such as sales and marketing, to ensure that the software they produce meets the needs of the customer.
Software developers also test their programs to ensure that they are free of errors and bugs, and that they meet the specifications set out by the client.
What are the responsibilities of a software developer?
The day-to-day tasks of a software engineer can vary greatly depending on the company they work for, the project they are working on, and their level of experience. However, there are some common tasks that most software engineers will perform at some point in their career, such as:
Responsibilities of a software engineer may include:
- Analyzing user needs and developing software solutions
- Estimating time and resources needed to complete tasks
- Designing, coding, testing, and debugging applications
- Documenting work procedures and standards
- Coordinating with other team members to complete tasks
- Troubleshooting and resolving issues that arise during development
- Updating existing software programs to reflect new features or changes
- Training users on how to use newly developed software programs
- Researching new technologies and ways to improve existing systems
What are the working hours of a software engineer?
A software engineer typically works standard hours, around 40-44 hours per week. The hours are influenced by a variety of factors, such as the company’s size, the project deadlines, and the engineer’s role within the company. Additionally, some companies allow their employees to flex their hours, which means that they can start and end their workday at different times.
What are the working conditions of a software engineer?
A software engineer typically works in an office environment or remotely from home.
The engineer’s desk is usually set up with a computer, multiple monitors, and other tools of the trade. Some engineers also have access to a standing desk, which allows them to work while standing.
The offices in tech companies are usually well-lit, open and collaborative, with plenty of meeting rooms and common areas.
In Big Tech companies such as Google and Microsoft, offices can be quite entertaining. They often have game rooms, nap pods, and free food to keep their employees happy and productive.
What does a day in the life of a software engineer depend on?
Several factors influence what a given day in the life of a software engineer looks like. These include the company culture, location, job position, remote vs. in-office work, productivity framework the company uses, and personal habits and preferences. Let’s take a look at each of these one-by-one.
The company’s culture will heavily influence the day-to-day schedule of a software engineer. For example, some companies may have a more relaxed atmosphere, while others may be more fast-paced and high-pressure. Some companies may also promote social activities and bonding time outside of work hours, while others may encourage their employees to focus solely on work during business hours.
The software engineer’s location can also play a role in their daily schedule. For example, those who work in a city may have a longer commute and face more traffic, while those who work in a rural area may have a shorter, more seamless drive to work. Additionally, those who work remotely may have more flexibility when it comes to their schedule, as they can often set their own hours.
The job position of a software engineer will also dictate their day-to-day tasks. For example, those who are in management positions may spend more time coordinating with other team members and less time coding, while those who are in entry-level positions may spend more time coding and less time in meetings.
Remote vs. in-office work
Another factor that can influence a software engineer’s daily schedule is whether they work remotely or in an office. Those who work remotely may have more flexibility when it comes to their hours, as they can often set their own schedules. However, those who work in an office may be expected to adhere to a more traditional 9-5 schedule.
The productivity framework that a company uses can also have an impact on a software engineer’s daily schedule. For example, some companies may use the agile methodology, which means that tasks are typically completed in short sprints. Other companies may use the waterfall method, which means that tasks are completed in a linear fashion. Some other productivity frameworks include the scrum method and the Kanban method.
Personal habits and preferences
Last but not least, a software engineer’s personal habits and preferences can also play a role in their daily schedule. For example, some people may prefer to work in the morning, while others may prefer to work at night. Some people may also take breaks more frequently, while others may prefer to focus on work for longer periods of time without taking a break.
What does a day in the life of a software engineer look like?
Now that we’ve looked at some of the factors that can influence a software engineer’s daily schedule, let’s take a look at what a typical day in the life of a software engineer looks like.
In truth, no two engineers will have the exact same routine, even if they work in the same company and have identical job titles. Besides, the workday is often influenced by the factors we outlined in the section above and personal responsibilities.
Thus, we decided to give you several real-world examples of a detailed daily routine by several engineers that work under different work circumstances.
Engineer 1 – Junior Software Developer, 1 year of experience, in-office work
- 7:00 am – Wake up, shower, eat breakfast
- 8:00 am – Start commute to work
- 9:00 am – Arrive at work, chat with co-workers, check email
- 10:00 am – Stand-up meeting to discuss progress on the current project
- 11:00 am – Begin working on assigned tasks for the day
- 12:00 pm – Lunch break
- 1:00 pm – Resume working on assigned tasks
- 3:00 pm – Take a break to grab a coffee or snack
- 4:00 pm – Finish working on assigned tasks for the day, start working on side projects
- 6:00 pm – End of the work day, commute home
Engineer 2 – Mid-level Software Engineer, 4 years of experience, remote work
- 7:00 am – I wake up, drink coffee, and have breakfast
- 8:00 am – Check email, catch up on news
- 9:00 am – Start on code reviews, make a to-do list for the day
- 9:30 am – Start working on the primary project
- 10:30 am – Take a break to walk my dog
- 11:00 am – Resume working on the primary project
- 12:00 pm – Lunch break
- 1:00 pm – Resume working on assigned tasks
- 2:00 pm – Attend meeting #1
- 3:00 pm – Follow-up on meeting notes, take a break
- 4:00 pm – Attend meeting #2
- 5:00 pm – Start working on the secondary project
- 7:00 pm – The work day has ended, so I relax for the rest of the evening
Engineer 3 – Senior Software Engineer, 8 years of experience, hybrid work
On a day that I go to the office, I usually wake up early in the morning, around 6am. I like to get a head start on the day and have some time to myself before work starts. I usually spend this time reading, working out, or just relaxing. I leave for work at around 8am, and I drive to the office.
I start my work day by checking my email and reviewing any new tickets that have come in overnight. After that, I’ll head to our team standup meeting, where we go over what everyone is working on for the day. Once that’s done, I sit down at my computer and start coding. I usually take a break around lunchtime to eat and catch up on some reading (I’m currently reading Clean Code by Robert C. Martin). After lunch, I will usually have a couple of meetings with various stakeholders. These could be anything from design meetings to status update meetings.
After my meetings, I go back to coding. I usually try to wrap up my work day by 6pm, so that I can have some time in the evening to rest. After work, I’ll usually go home and relax for a little while before doing anything else. Maybe watch some TV or play some video games. Then I’ll go to bed and do it all over again the next day.
Engineer 4 – Software Engineer Manager, in-office work
I’m a software engineer manager and, like most managers, my day is varied. I may spend some time coding, but my real focus is on overseeing the work that my team is doing and making sure that everything is on track.
I usually start my day by checking in with my team. I want to know what they’re working on and see if they need any help. I also take this time to answer any questions they may have. After that, I’ll often spend some time coding myself. This helps me stay up to date on what’s going on and it also gives me a better understanding of what my team is working on.
Throughout the day, I’ll also meet with other teams or individuals to discuss projects or upcoming deadlines. I always try to be available for my team, but I also need to make sure that I’m keeping an eye on the big picture.
At the end of the day, I usually spend some time reviewing what went on and figuring out what needs to be done tomorrow. There’s always a lot going on in a software engineering department, so it’s important to stay organized.
What do software developers do outside of work?
Now that we have given you some examples of what a typical day in the life of a software engineer looks like on duty, you might be wondering what they do outside of work.
For many developers, their work is also their passion. They enjoy spending their free time working on personal projects or learning new programming languages. Some developers even enjoy attending conferences or meetups to stay up-to-date on the latest trends.
But of course, not all developers are the same. Some enjoy spending their free time outside of work doing things that have nothing to do with computers. This might include hobbies like hiking, biking, or playing sports. Others might enjoy spending time with their families or friends, or working on home improvement projects.
Here are a few accounts of software engineers sharing their life outside of work:
I like to spend my free time outside of work doing things that are active. I enjoy hiking and biking, and I even play on a soccer team. I also like to spend time with my family and friends. We usually go out to eat or see a movie together. And of course, I also enjoy working on personal projects. I’m always tinkering with something, whether it’s a new website or a small piece of software.
I’m really into music, so I like to spend my free time going to concerts and festivals or just listening to music in my headphones. I also enjoy traveling, and I’ve been to a few different countries. When I’m home, I like to relax and watch movies or play video games. And of course, I also work on personal projects. Right now I’m working on a new app. It’s been a lot of fun and I’m learning a lot.
I like to spend my free time outside of work doing creative things. I enjoy painting and photography. I also like to cook, and I’m always trying new recipes. I also enjoy spending time with my family and friends. And of course, I like to stay up-to-date on the latest technology trends.
Is software engineering a good career?
There are a lot of factors to consider when trying to decide whether software engineering is a good fit for you. But ultimately, it boils down to what you want out of a career.
If you enjoy challenges, problem-solving, and working with technology, then a career in software engineering might be a good fit for you. You’ll have the opportunity to work on cutting-edge projects, and you’ll be able to see the impact of your work on a daily basis.
Additionally, a career in software engineering can be very financially rewarding. According to U.S. Bureau of Labors Statistics, software engineers make upwards of $109,020 annually, which is more than twice the amount that an average American earns in any given year.
Besides the compensation, software engineers enjoy great benefits, work-life balance, and overall quality of life.
If you’d like to know more about whether software engineering is the right career for you, check out our article “Is Computer Science the right career for me?”.
How can I become a software engineer?
If you like what we wrote about the software developer lifestyle above and are starting to seriously think about becoming a developer, we are here to outline the next steps for you.
The first step is to get a degree in computer science from a university. Alternatively, you can attend a coding bootcamp. These programs range in length from 12 to 24 weeks, and they will teach you the basics of programming. If you want to learn more about how to choose between a bootcamp and a university degree, check out our article “Coding Bootcamp or Computer Science degree: which route should I take?”.
Once you have your degree or bootcamp certificate, the next step is to find a job. The best way to do this is to start by applying for entry-level jobs at various companies. Once you have a few years of experience under your belt, you can aim for larger companies and more advanced positions.
If you want to learn more about becoming a software engineer, check out our article “5 Ways of Switching Careers to Computer Science”. This guide will walk you through the steps of getting a computer science education, finding a job, and advancing your career.
So there you have it! A typical day in the life of a software engineer. As you can see, it’s a pretty varied job – no two engineers ever have the same schedule. If you’re thinking about becoming a software engineer, hopefully this gives you a better idea of what the job entails.
Thanks for reading!
Elmar Mammadov is a software developer, tech startup founder, and computer science career specialist. He is the founder of CS Careerline and a true career changer who has previously pursued careers in medicine and neuroscience.
Due to his interest in programming and years of past personal experience in coding, he decided to break into the tech industry by attending a Master’s in Computer Science for career changers at University of Pennsylvania. Elmar passionately writes and coaches about breaking into the tech industry and computer science in general.