A software engineer is responsible for the complete life cycle of a new/modified software product, from research and design to implementation, training and support. The work of software engineers, or programmers, varies hugely depending on the organisation and the software being produced. They must apply a high level of technical and mathematical knowledge. There are two distinct areas of expertise: applications and systems. Application involves writing programmes that process and manage incoming information on the computer, including anything from payroll data to scientific calculations. Systems focuses on the internal operations of the computer.
Depending on your level of experience, you could find yourself engaged in one small but vital aspect of this, testing for example. Generally speaking, more experienced software engineers who have moved a few rungs up the career ladder will get involved in the writing and design stage. Such technical work can conjure up images of solitary ‘maths brains’ working alone in front of a computer, but software engineering is most definitely a team experience and involves a huge amount of communication and interaction within the team, in addition to consultations with clients (depending on the type of organisation employing you).
Typically the first year of a job could involve writing the code for a program under supervision, or formulating the objectives of a program. An average of three years’ experience is normally required before an engineer has a high enough level of technical competence to prepare detailed specifications from which programs are written.
- Investigating current applications.
- Liaising with users and providing guidance and training.
- Producing specifications.
- Costing new or modified systems.
- Agreeing proposals.
- Writing new software and operating manuals.
- Solving software-writing problems and maintenance issues.
- Testing the product to ensure that it operates satisfactorily.
- Handling support and feedback.
Travel: can be part of the job when visiting clients or attending training.
Working hours: typically standard office hours, but longer hours may be required around certain deadlines.
Location: jobs are found with IT consultancies, software firms and organisations throughout the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Excellent technical and problem-solving skills are essential. Good communication and teamwork skills are also required, together with motivation, creativity and a willingness to learn.
A degree in computing, software engineering, physics, mathematics or electronics is necessary for most entry positions. For graduates with non-computing degrees, full-time, part-time and distance learning postgraduate IT conversion courses are available at a wide range of institutions. The Irish Computer Society offers training and skills qualifications.