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Programming in the Real World

By TZapf ·
This may sound like a dumb question but I'm gonna ask it anyways. I'm currently a senior in college working towards an MIS Degree. During this time I've had to take languages such as COBOL, VB, C, Java, XML, HTML, ASP and some database designclasses.

What I was wondering, is how people program in a busniness environment (ie. the real world). In my classes we have individual programming assignments, then at the end a large team assignment consisting of 4-5 members. The problem is, we never know how to divy up the work properly, and 1 guy ends up doing it all (usually me).

How is work divied up in the real world. Are people assigned modules to write?? Do 5 guys sit at one monitor and hammer it out (probably not, but I have no idea)?? I'm just wondering because our team assignments in college are not organized properly, so I was just wondering how it is done in the real world. I am also planning on entering the workforce as a developer, and just curious to what it is actually like out there??

Thanks for any feedback,


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in the real world

by ray.mcbain In reply to Programming in the Real W ...

Many programming tasks require "divvying" up of assignments to many programmers. The approach is (after contract is signed):
1. Determine contractual requirements.
2. Develop a plan to meet those reqmts. Lead programmers get involved here to estimate programming task times based on historical data and comparison with the tasks to be done on this contract.
3. Develop the schedule, with emphasis on the phases of development.
(The phases include:
determine reqmts
estimate skills required, time to complete each phase, determine assignments
determine system design (and get customer agreement)
model the programming problem solution
write and test programs (perform unit test) to fit the model
submit programs to configuration mgt.
perform final system testing (last phase)
4. Hire / transfer programmers to fit the plan.
5. Follow the dev't phases.
6. When done, deliver the product.

That, in a very small nutshell, is the process. In practice, the details are much more compex and intense.

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What I laughingly call the real world

by epepke In reply to Programming in the Real W ...

Don't feel too bad. As near as I can tell, all group programming assignments in school are screwed.

Typically in the real world, there's a technical architect or manager who divides up the work. There are probably as many ways of dividing up the work as there are people who do it.

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Wide variation

by generalist In reply to Programming in the Real W ...

You'll find that you will find a wide variation in how to do thing in the so called real world.

Some organizations will have a nice, formal team structure where everything is done according to the ideal practices found in books, classes and ISO standards. These organizations tend to be on the large side and the entry level programmer is a mere dot on the organization chart.

Other organizations use the Jack of All Trades approach with a programmer/analyst who does everything from initial design to user training and documentation. If resources are really scarce and results are essential, major short cuts are taken relative to 'ideal' practices. (Imagine having to fix a set of fields in an essential file that the entire company uses and needing to do it right the first time with a four hour time limit...)

The organizations using the JOAT approach tend to be on the small side. Experienced programmer/analyst JOATs are known throughout the organization and often serve as the help desk. Entry level programmers quickly become well known as they 'inherit' applications.

You'll find organizations that fall between those two extremes. I suspect that there are some organizations that have both extremes in different areas.Hope that helps. School and reality are different universes at times.

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Hello World

by BloomU In reply to Wide variation

I too am a senior in college, also pursuing a MIS degree. I have had two internships one in the technical support of a small company, and another as a COBOL :-( programmer for a large corporation. I started the programming internship this summer, and to tell you the truth, just to get a test module approved required 40 signatures. I left that internship, and was happy to do so. I am currently back at the company were I interned last summer, in training to become the Sys Adm. I do not know if you have had any on job experience or how much you have done on your own but I can say 80% of what I use, I learned on my own. Makes you wonder why you spend all that money on college? Certain majors, like MIS, I feel should be much more involvedwith ?REAL LIFE? business practices. I think I could teach a monkey how to write a program that says, ?Hello World!?

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The 20% is worth it

by epepke In reply to Hello World

When I just got out of school, I felt much the same way you did about how irrelevant it was. Now, two decades later, I realized that it is that 20% that separates me from the dummies. Business rules and practices you can pick up, and they're goingto change from company to company and year to year anyway, so you're going to have to deal with this no matter what. Even if schools gave "real world" experience, it wouldn't be the same "real world" as the company you find yourself working for.

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But is experience worth more???

by BloomU In reply to The 20% is worth it

I feel I can easily separate what I have learned and what I will use. When it comes to programming languages I think, for me at least, that all my knowledge and skill has come from experience and personal trial and error, not from college. Maybe Ihave had bad teachers? When it comes to business, management, etc? things that I also learned in college, outside of computers, I think I will use A LOT!!!!

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It depends on your philosophy

by epepke In reply to But is experience worth m ...

There are two philosophies that I have seen:

1) Be the best.
2) Be good enough.

My philosophy is #1. There are a lot of people with philosophy #2. I think that the recent boom enabled a lot of people with philosophy #2. Now a lot of them are laid of and are griping about H1-B people.

If your philosophy is #2, you can probably do without a good computer science background. But then again, you'll have to put up with a lot of uncertainty.

If your philosophy is #1, you need a good CS background, which usually means a degree.

I can't persuade you of the value of what you've learned in college about computers, because you're too young. It'll take you about ten years to realize it.

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40 signatures for a test module?

by generalist In reply to Hello World

And to think that I could get away with installing a new version of a major order entry program in production simply by calling one person and having them make sure that nobody was using the program. And this was for a company that was making $200 million in sales about fifteen years ago.

That is further proof of the large variations in practices that you'll find out there. A lot depends upon corporate culture, resource availability and your end customers.

Even with the variations, having a degree helps, especially if it isn't highly focused on MIS or IT. You'll find that technical and persuasive writing is useful. And knowing something about graphic design helps. If you want to go into IT in specific fields, knowing something about those fields can be very useful when dealing with your clients.

And sometimes it helps the soul to study something that has interested you, even if it doesn't add to the degree.

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Studying and Real World

by PMercer In reply to 40 signatures for a test ...

The thing I regret most about not attending college is the opportunity to study interesting subjects that don't necessarily directly apply to the 'real world'.

The thing you learn as you get older is that those things you study purely for theirinterest almost always have life lessons that are valuable and applicable at some point in your day to day living.

I have taken several college courses as an adult and find them interesting, challenging and enlightening. The advantage is I thinkI appreciate them more now than I would have at 20 years old.

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Older students

by generalist In reply to Studying and Real World

A lot of educators at the college level have noticed that older students are often the best students. These students are back at school because they really want to learn and they have had life lessons that have shown that knowing things can greatlyimprove your life. Even if they take longer to get their degree because of jobs and family, they'll put out the extra effort to get the most out of their classes.

A lot of older students have also noticed that they appreciate their classes more. Even if there isn't a direct correlation to their end goal, the classes they take are a joy unto themselves.

Then there are the older students like me. Because I needed a wider skill set, I took a vocational tech course in web design and networking. It was two classes that resulted in a greatly expanded knowledge of web design and certifications that have proven useful (A+ and Network+). I ended up with a straight A average and perfect attendance, something I didn't manage in college.My plans are to continue training in other areas as I can afford them.

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