What do you do?

It seems that a lot of people don’t really have a good idea of what it is I actually do at work, so in the spirit of the Day-in-the-life series of entries I did back in August, today I am going to write about exactly what I do here at work.

First, some background information. I am a software developer. Some people like to use the term software engineer, but to me that is an insult to those people who have worked hard to get an engineering degree. Other people like to call themeselves software “architects”, but I don’t like that either, for similar reasons. A software developer is the simplest description of what I do. I work for the “Applications” group within our IT organization. The “Applications” group is responsible with internal application development and implementation with the company.

I am currently working on two projects. The first project, and the one on which I spend the bulk of my time (75%) is building a project tracking system for one of our large research divisions. Currently, much of the project “meta-data” for this division is tracked on Excel spreadsheets. They would like a searchable, web-based database of this data which would help them in seeing what the state of various projects are, in addition to providing them with an easily accessible source of information when putting together future proposals. The project is being done in three phases. The first phase was to build a prototype system. That was completed several weeks ago. We are into the second phase now, which is to harden the prototype into a usable application, and integrate it with other corporate systems. The third and final phase involves quality assurance. We are taking a “rapid application development” approach on this project. This means we are focusing less on design documents and more on getting the code written and the application up and running. We then show what we have to the customer and make changes based on their suggestions.

The second project I am working on is a project to develop software that will make it easier for staff members to reserve conference rooms and related services. I am working on this project in an advisory capacity. I have been overseeing the quality assurance (testing); I also worte the code that integrates the off-the-shelf product we purchased with our work order system. And I am supposed to be developing the information and metrics reports. I spend about 15-20% of my time on this project.

Today, however, I am spending all of my time on the Projects database. And the first order of business today is to convert the internal identifer for people from one value to a more standard value. This will make it much easier to integrate this system with other corporate business systems. You see, right now I have stored the ID numbers for staff captured in this system as integers, not the actual employee IDs we use here. There were good reasons for doing this when we started the project, but now that the prototype is complete, these integers needs to be converted to normal employee IDs. This involves two steps.

  1. The existing data must be converted to the employee ID
  2. Certain parts of the code must be rewritten to use the employee ID going forward

One that is done, the next step is to begin the design of an integration between this project database system and our financial system. I am hoping to make good progress on both of these things today. But sometimes, reality rears it’s ugly head (in the form of meetings and other interruptins). So let’s see how things go.


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