5 Min

A day in the the life of a software developer: Interview with Gulnara Ibragimova

What sparked your interest in the tech industry? Did others inspire you to take this path?

As far as I remember, I just enjoyed learning whatever school had to offer (except maybe history) and never focused on anything specific. I think I only started to develop particular interest in STEM at 15, when I began to feel the chilly air of upcoming school exams and passive social pressure to define what I am “once and for the rest of my life”.
I think that from when I got my first computer at the age of 13, I was looking for any excuse to spend my time trying out all kinds of programs I could find and playing video games, of course. I can’t deny that I might have been playing too much Half-Life 2 when I was supposed to be making a well-reflected life decision. Please keep that in mind when reading the next sentence.
First I thought of becoming a nuclear physicist, and just kept informatics as a plan B for my school leaving exams. Surprisingly, the results for my fallback option happened to be noticeably better than for my initial choice, so I changed direction.

I feel super lucky because I still don’t regret that choice and I’m quite happy with where I am at the moment.

How did you become a software developer and how were you able to break into this industry successfully?

Well, I finished university with a computer science degree and good GPA. But I didn’t exactly get off to a smooth start: right at the beginning of my career, I had to change positions several times at different companies within a year to find a decent role with healthy working relationships. My friends were a great support to me during that period by sharing their experiences.
Fortunately, my university was in partnership with SMS group and I gained an internship writing a master’s thesis. For the first time I was developing something that could actually optimize a process. I was in a positive working environment that enabled me to sharpen my skills.
I don’t think that at any point in your life you feel acknowledgement for “breaking into the industry” or “officially becoming a good developer”, at least I’m not there yet. I believe it’s more about improving slowly.

What do you like about your work as a software developer?

When you’re writing code, your objective is to create some sort of black box that will solve issues based on the user’s requirements. Your tools are like fancy magic spells and sometimes it’s pure voodoo. Basically, it’s like being in a Harry Potter book, except there isn’t an age limit of 11 to join the team.
As for my favorite parts of the job, I would say the option of working from home, my teammates, and interesting tasks.

What is your day-to-day life like as a software developer?

For a software dev like me, a normal day consists of checking email, checking board, discussing requirements, learning something new, inverting a binary tree, helping colleagues, testing and breaking code, thinking of that variable name, and fixing code.
I find ways to make the app secure, stable and user-friendly. I get together with other colleagues to discuss ways of improving programs and estimate the time it will take me to do so.

Are you also active in the field in your spare time?

In my free time, I read professional literature and attend meetups on software development (which are mostly online because of the current global situation). I recently started a practical course for Python developers at Yandex to learn about other technologies as well as their benefits and tradeoffs. It doesn’t mean I do it non-stop, sometimes I just want to let my brain muscles rest and take my mind off work completely.

Is the tech industry a profession or also a vocation for you?

I’m barely ever certain about anything, which is good for my job. I hope one day I’ll be 100% certain about it being my vocation, but now I’m at 70% or so (remember, my job is also about estimating stuff). Anyway, I really like the people I meet along the way, and I think it’s a good sign.

What skills does a software developer need to have?

In my daily work, I appreciate developers who pay attention to detail and are patient, thorough, good at explaining things, and think logically. However, digitization in general is slowly finding its feet and, as is inevitably the case in so many areas now, I would say that it isn’t the only way to succeed. We need all kinds of people with all kinds of skills, and if you don’t fit a stereotypical idea of a person from this field, that’s even better.

What tips would you give to others who are considering becoming a software developer?

Never give up on learning new stuff. Try all forms of gaining new knowledge: podcasts, books, videos, courses, or chatting with colleagues. It is not one thing that helps you learn, it’s a whole bunch of things. Get to know people with experience in the same field and those who are experts in the area you’re working in, and be good at understanding both what you are doing and who you are doing it for.
Sometimes your environment might be not especially favorable for your aspirations or you might feel like you’re stuck and not making any progress, but you’ll get there eventually. Every day it gets a little easier, but you have to keep at it every day.

Madita Bayer
Marketing & Communications
SMS digital GmbH