To be totally honest, until recently, I had an extremely limited knowledge of what it actually meant to be an "engineer." Luckily, though, I have since educated myself more on the profession, and set out to find out what a day in the life of someone who holds the prestigious title is really like. What I've learned, though, is that the term "engineer" is actually an umbrella term that encompasses multiple disciplines. The profession is made up of solution-seekers who have a unique ability to access and solve complex problems in cost-effective and practical ways. Engineers are builders, designers, calculators, planners — and their jobs could take the form of app development, coding, software development, and much more.
To gain a better understanding of the diverse opportunities available as an engineer, we partnered with Dice, your go-to resource for discovering opportunities, insights, and connections in technology. Together, we talked to Ashley Speicher, a software engineering manager for Microsoft's Xbox division, who leads a team of developers with a collective goal of making Xbox's gaming and broadcasting features as smooth and fast as possible.
Below, find out what a day in the life of an engineer actually looks like.
1. Okay, You’re A Software Engineer. What Does That Mean?
“I am a Software Engineering Manager at Xbox. That means that I lead a team of coders (around 40 in total) building a bunch of cool tech and applications."
2. Is There A Big Difference Between What People Think You Do And What You Actually Do?
“Yes! Before I got into computer science in college, I thought CS and engineering were just all about math and about coding in your underwear in the basement. Very isolated. In reality, it is not like that at all. Engineering is intensely collaborative, with frequent conversations between folks across many disciplines — visual designers, artists, user researchers, hardware engineers, software engineers, data scientists, product managers, and the list goes on. Engineering is also so much more creative than I had thought. There isn’t a single right answer. There is problem-solving, certainly, but also craftsmanship and creativity in how you solve those problems.”
3. What Is A Typical Day At Work Like For You?
“My days are pretty varied, but I’ll give you an example of a typical Monday. I get in by 8 a.m. so I can get ahead of email and other tasks while it’s nice and quiet in the office. I have my staff meeting at 10 a.m., where I meet with my dev leads and get a plan together for the week. Then at 11 a.m., we have our ship room meeting, where we see whether we are on track for shipping our various applications. After that, my day is generally packed with architecture and engineering design reviews, user-experience reviews, strategy meetings, interviews with candidates, and one-on-one meetings with team members. I also mentor a lot of folks at various levels across the company, both in group settings and one-on-one. In between meetings I try to catch up on email, review specs, or work on PowerPoint presentations.”
4. How Have Your Perceptions About Engineering Changed Since Entering The Field?
“As I mentioned earlier, I learned over time how important collaboration is in engineering, whether it’s in software or other branches of engineering. An awesome thing that I am seeing now is how we are starting as an industry to recognize the importance of team culture and to invest in it. There is a lot of energy in the industry to cultivate diverse and inclusive teams that reflect a variety of viewpoints and personalities, so that we can build the best products possible for a diverse user base.”
5. What's the Coolest Thing About Your Job?
"Every two to three weeks, the team gets together for snacks and demos on a Friday. It’s very informal. We just walk around to people’s desks, and they show off what they have been working on while we munch on chips and cookies. Since I’m a manager, I don’t get to write a lot of code for my job these days. The most coding I do is fiddling around with programming Arduinos, or writing video games with my son. So I live vicariously through my team’s accomplishments. It’s really fun to watch products come to life. It’s what I’ve always loved about computer science — building cool new experiences with the characters that I type into a computer. That these experiences reach millions of users just makes it all the cooler.”
This post is sponsored by Dice.