Just about everything you can do on a computer—checking your email, posting to Facebook, online banking and shopping—is powered by software. The people who come up with that software, and keep it working efficiently, are behind the scenes of a big portion of our lives.
At Capital One, Software Engineers Briana Augenreich and Erin Geoghan build and develop programs that make it easier for people and small businesses to handle their finances. They often work in teams or in pairs with their colleagues in order to write and edit the code behind the software.
“I like to be with my team a lot and talk through problems,” says Geoghan.
But sometimes they need to step away and work on a problem in solitude, away from the group. Sometimes taking their work outside or to a coffee shop offers a helpful change of scenery.
“We have the flexibility to work where we need to work,” says Augenreich.
While it certainly takes an analytical mind and a sharp eye for detail, building software also involves a lot of creative thinking.
“Every day I get to solve new problems and get new challenges,” says Augenreich. “It’s exciting and constantly changing.”
What is Software Engineering?
It’s the work behind the computer programs we use every day. Software engineers design their solutions using problem-solving skills to build software that does what consumers need it to do, as quickly and efficiently as possible. They tailor these programs according to the devices they will be used on and the changing needs of the consumer.
Where Do Software Engineers Work?
They might work for a specific software company, building a product the company can distribute to customers. (For example, the internet browser and operating system you are using right now are the work of software engineers.) Or they might work for any company that needs specialized software to make its websites user-friendly, or its internal software more efficient and useful. (For example, an online retailer that wants to make its inventory easier to search, view and compare.)
What Kind of Education is Required?
Most software engineers have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field. Many employers will prefer a candidate who also has a master’s degree.
Throughout their careers, they will need ongoing education to stay up to date on the evolving technology of computers. They may also benefit from education related to the field they are building software for: banking, healthcare, aviation, etc.
Before you get to college, you’ll want to soak up as much computer science as you can. In 2016, Virginia adopted computer science as a core subject so that Virginia graduates will have a head start on careers in computing. Virginia’s Department of Education has this summary of computer science education available for K-12 grades.
What are the Job Prospects in this Field?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this area is projected to grow by 24 percent from 2016 to 2026! And it brings a solid paycheck, too: The median salary in 2016 was just over $100,000.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has a great summary of software engineering jobs, including the kinds of environments they work in and what education is helpful.
What are Some Resources for Students Interested in this Line of Work?
Capital One’s C1 Coders program partners with schools and community leaders to foster an interest in software engineering in middle school girls and boys. Since the program’s creation in April 2014, Capital One Coders has partnered with over 75 schools and nonprofit organizations, reaching 9,000 students.
The MathScience Innovation Center offers a variety of computer science courses through its Camp Innovation summer program. They have also partnered with the League of United Latin American Citizens to offer TECHNOLOchicas, a program for high school Latinas interested in computer science careers.
CodeVA offers a variety of computer science classes to middle schoolers and even younger age groups. Check out their class schedule and topics.
Club SciKidz has camps where students in grades 7 through 9 can learn video game coding. Check here for locations and schedules.
ID Tech offers a variety of coding and computer classes at college campuses across the state. See the offerings at The College of William & Mary, University of Richmond, University of Virginia, and Virginia Tech.