Someone walking into work

What Do Programmers Actually Do at Work?

If you’re contemplating a career switch into programming, you’re probably wondering what it’s like.  And I don’t mean in the existential sense.  Rather, on a day-to-day kind of basis, what’s it like?

Well, today we’ll take a look at what programmers do in the office.

What Do Programmers Do at Work?  The Short Version

If you’re looking for an abbreviated answer or a summary, I can certainly provide that.  After all, I spent a lot of years working as a programmer in an office.  So I can speak at length and summarize quickly.

So what do programmers do at work?

Well, not surprisingly, they spend a lot of time programming computers.  But they don’t do so in a vacuum.  They also spend time doing activities that support programming, such as research, learning, collaborating with peers, collaborating with people outside of their group, and participating in the office as general workers.

For the rest of this post, we’ll look at all of this in a little more detail and talk about what it’s actually like.

Understand That Programming Isn’t the Movie Swordfish or Whatever

Before we go any further, you need to get something out of your head.  And that’s the idea that programming is any semblance of the way movies portray it (or hacking).

I might be showing my age by citing the (terrible) movie Swordfish, where, apparently, programming involves Hugh Jackman tossing around virtual cubes… or something.  But other movies show things just as ridiculous.  People wearing ski masks, banging on computers like they’re pianos in a jazz bar, bypassing the mainframe and accessing the router.  For programmers, this portrayal hews the line between exasperating and hilarious.

Forget all of that.  If you were to film professional programming, the result would be like a less interesting version of watching someone play video games.  Think more like watching someone make a spreadsheet.

None of this is to say that programming itself isn’t interesting.  It’s a lot like doing puzzles all day for money.  But it’s nothing like the way popular culture portrays it, from how programmers dress to how they interact with the computers.

Continue reading “What Do Programmers Actually Do at Work?”


Should Programmers Learn HTML?

Should Programmers Learn HTML? I haven’t thought about this in a long time, but I recently came across a programmer who didn’t want to learn HTML. He does mobile app development for Android and iOS. He has an opportunity to learn HTML and add it to his repertoire, but he won’t. I think everyone should learn HTML and here’s why…

You Can Get a Job Using HTML

A quick search on a job board like returns about 30,000 jobs using HTML. The salary range for those jobs is from $30k per year to $130k per year. There are even jobs that are not programming jobs where they want HTML experience.

That just goes to show what I think anyway: anyone and everyone should learn HTML. Not only does it enhance your career options, but it gives you an idea of how the web works. We all use the web, don’t we?

HTML is Everywhere!

You find HTML all over the web. The page you’re reading right now is HTML. If you want to see the HTML, use the “view source” feature of your browser. Usually, a right-click will get you there. Alternatively, you can use “Ctrl + U.” You may need to use “Ctrl + Click” or “Alt + Click” depending on your operating system.

Did you go cross-eyed looking at the page source? It can be daunting if you don’t know how to read it! But when you understand HTML, you know how to use one of the most powerful tools of our modern era.

HTML is so ubiquitous, it’s like how everyone in 1837 shoed a horse or something. Well, except that it’s much easier to learn. You don’t even have to leave the comfort of wherever you are right now! Seriously, let’s try it…

You Can Do HTML Right Now

That’s right! You can literally make a web page right now. Here’s how you do it:

1. Open a text editor. It needs to be a basic text editor like notepad or TextPad.
2. Type or copy/paste the following into the text document:
<h1>Hello, World!</h1>
3. Save the document as “hello.html.” You need to change the type of document from “.txt” to “*” in the save dialog.

Now find where you saved the document and open it. It should open in your browser, and you should see a good message in big letters!

Did you follow along? If not, that’s OK. You can still see how easy it is to write HTML. There are a few rules to keep in mind, but not many.

HTML is Like XML

We’re trying hard to kill off XML in software-land. JSON is taking its place in many ways. But it won’t go away for a long, long time. HTML used to have a lot in common with XML. It’s gone its own way since the introduction of HTML5. There are different standards because, frankly, it has a different use.

XML is for exchanging data in a structured way. HTML is for expressing the structure of a web page. The difference here is that XML has to express data types, namespaces, etc. HTML has a standard set of elements like

  • Input
  • Form
  • Label
  • Div

It doesn’t have to be everything to everyone; it only has to be everything to a web page structure! It’s like XML, but it isn’t. It’s a bit simpler.

I Want to Know More

OK, so here’s what HTML looks like:

Hello, this is some text inside a paragraph. I can put a link in the text like this <a href=””>awesome!</ a>. There are many other cool things I can do with HTML. I can make something <b>bold</ b>. I can make a list.
</ p>
< hr />
<h4>this is a list</ h4>
<li>item 1</li>
<li>item 2</li>
<large>this text is large</ large>
Inside another paragraph of text, I can put an image <img src=”” /> but that kind of tag is “self-closing.” Some tags are like that. Others can have something between including other tags. Some tags can’t go inside other tags.
</ p>

If you caught everything in this sample of HTML, you’ve learned a bit about a few element types and the basic structure of HTML. There are some rules. It’s a structured markup language. You can nest some elements inside others. Other tags are self-closing. When you learn HTML, you’ll learn about all the nuances. They aren’t tough to follow once you get the hang of it.

You Should Learn HTML

Yes! You should learn HTML. It’s easy to learn, and it’s useful. You’ll find many opportunities where you would have to know HTML. You’ll probably need it at some point, even if you don’t need it right away in your first programming job.