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What Is a Typical Day for a Software Developer?

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Editor’s Note: This is a special, guest post from our Senior Engineer, John Sykes. John is currently the only Jixee employee that works remotely. He’s located in Orlando, Florida. 

If you’re beginning your career in software development, you may wonder what your typical day as a programmer or engineer might look like. Of course, a lot of factors impact the average day for a software developer—are you a freelancer or a full employee? Are you working for a startup or an established corporation? Are you working in an office or from home?

To get an impression of one software developer’s “day in the life,” we spoke to John Sykes, Jixee’s senior engineer and only current remote developer.

Since our Jixee team is based on the west coast, and John is on the east coast, his work schedule runs three hours behind the usual 9 to 5 EST.

“I typically have a schedule from roughly 12–1 p.m. until 9–10 p.m. That means during crunch times or on weekends I may find myself the first to log in, but I tend to be off earlier than the rest of the team on the rare ‘very late’ nights because of the time difference.”

So how does John start his workday? Well, not unlike you and me—with a strong cup of coffee while he boots up the computer.

“I tend to load up four terminal windows, two instances of Sublime Text Editor, pull from two different repos, and then launch both the local server and local app aspect of the server for my current project. Right now I work on a project collaboration tool. It is a mix of server engineering and web developer mindsets. So I also start with three Google Chrome windows for API, UI, and for usage of the project.”

Then of course there’s the email checking and tracking errors and notifications that need attention. And what about daily meetings?

“I actually don’t spend much time in meetings,” John say. “Typically around 10–20 minutes each day for scrum meetings.”

Like many other agile software development teams, Jixee uses the daily scrum meeting (also known as a stand-up meeting) to organize development workflow. These meeting tend to happen at the same time every day and aim for a set length of 15 minutes. During the daily scrum, each team member answers three questions:

What have you done since yesterday?

What are you planning to do today?

Any impediments or stumbling blocks?

Especially when working with remote teams, having each person quickly answer these three questions helps to sync up the workflow, address concerns, and set the tone for the day ahead.

Working Remotely as a Software Developer

As a remote employee, John’s work environment is a little different than the average engineer.

“The commute isn’t very long,” he jokes. “I am mostly not too far from my wife and laptop. I have two desks and a large chair that I switch between throughout the day. When I leave apartment life and get a house, I will most likely have a dedicated office—especially if I need to work more closely with others.”

Collaboration is a huge component of developing great software. So in addition to the daily scrum, many developers will spend some portion of their day brainstorming with colleagues off and on—problem solving to improve the product. Then everyone retreats to their corners to implement the new ideas and solutions.

“I enjoy collaborating with other engineers and writing components to fit into a larger set that others have built,” John says. “But ultimately, being alone is where I can focus best.”

If you’re an introvert like John, working remotely could be a great fit for your personal workflow. “I had one job that was often noisy and had a lot of chatter. It got frustrating,” John said. “I may have appeared antisocial as a result as I reached for the headphones.”

John says the middle of the day is generally his most productive time. “Everything is set up and running, and tasks are progressing. [The hours from] 3 to 7 p.m. generally fly by quicker than the before and after.”

And what about breaks? Even remote employees need to step away from the screen at some point. “I try to run for 20 minutes for my lunch breaks four days a week,” John says. “Or I’ll grab some coffee and sit somewhere else for a while, browsing on a mobile device. But typically I don’t spend a full hour away from work. I like to grind through tasks and not stay as late.”

Obviously, not every developer’s day will look just like John’s, but there are some consistent themes: short meetings, some brainstorming time, and lots and lots of coding.

Are you a developer too? What does your typical day look like? Share with us in the comments. We want to hear from you!