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Interview Report

Sakib Amin

March 05, 2019 

The Life of a Software Engineer: Christopher Tramel

            “Just love what you do and always be curious. Never shy away from something because you don’t know something– learn it!” Said Christopher Tramel when I asked him about what advice he would have for a freshman in college. I have had the pleasure to interview Christopher Tramel over reddit to find out about his work experience. He is a principal software engineer that currently works at PowerDMS which is a company that condenses documents into a searchable online source for different organizations. His job is to oversee all day to day work of multiple projects and to make sure the code quality of the individual components are correct. Once he confirms that the code is correct for the components a software architect checks to see if the components can fit together to complete the overall project.

            When I asked him about what inspired him to work in this field he told me that this was not always his first choice of work. He initially went to school to get a BS in Statistics at the college of sciences at UCF because he had an interest in the mathematics field while growing up. However, he did code as a hobby because he loved that coding is endless and he can learn a million things and still have more to learn. This interest grew, and he decided to go back to school to get a master’s in computer science.

            But even before he completed his degree in computer science he had a job in the computer science field. His first job was at his university where he oversaw data entry. To make his job easier he made a couple of scripts which are programs that perform a task that could be easily done by an individual. After doing this he got promoted to automation engineer and now his job was to automate the task of other departments of the university.

            His second job is the current job at PowerDMS. He further elaborated that his job can be broken up into 4 parts. He said “ I probably spend 30% of my time in meetings talking about projects in the next 3 to 6 months, 20% of my time code reviewing work from junior and senior developers, 30% of my time writing code to move projects forward, and 20% of my time doing tech planning which basically involves figuring out the best way to build something and writing that down in a google doc to share with the team.” He then went on to talk about how this process would allow him to complete projects. He mentioned several projects that he had completed but the project he is most proud of is the redesigning of the search technology. He moved from a SQL Server Full text Search to an Elastic Search. He explained how this basically just enabled users to have a better time with organization. Another project that he is specifically proud of is the automation testing framework which enabled his collogues to experience a easier way to writing text to cover their API and web clients. These are the main things he does at work but if we look at his daily schedule it is much different.

            Mr. Tramel said that no 2 days are the same but generally he would get into work at around 9:30am. He would then check emails and get everything ready to lead the daily standup which would be at 10:15am. After that he would spend two and a half hours reviewing code or writing code for ongoing projects. At noon he would take a lunch break and after he would do whatever needed to be done such as coding, tech planning, reviewing projects, or participating in a pre-scheduled meeting. At around 5:00pm he would get ready to go home and spend time with his family. If extra work needed to be done, he would then usually spend an hour or two at home working. Overall, he would spend about 8 hours a day working.

              Out of that 8 hours he is working majority of the time he is doing some sort of writing or communication. Coding is the most important type of writing he does since his job deals with reviewing and writing code. However, he did say perfecting your coding skills is important because being efficient is key at a work place. Besides that, there are multiple instances where he does other types of writing. He said that it is extremely important to perform technical writing. For example, when writing to other developers he tends to use a technically writing style so that they are able to understand what he is trying to convey to them. He also uses this form of writing when talking to a higher profile customer to satisfy their needs.

Other than writing to developers and customers Mr. Tramel does a lot of writing to collogues as well. He mainly communicates with collogues face to face, but the main source of written communication is through a app called Slack. Slack is a program that allows a team or group of people to communicate in order to efficiently complete a task. Other than these forms of communication there are times in which meetings are done through Google Meet.

To conclude the interview, I asked Mr. Tramel what advice he would have for someone like me that is going to college to have a job in the computer science field. He responded with the quote I mentioned at the start of this essay, but he further elaborated that everything I learned in college would come in use in the future. Even if what I was learning didn’t seem important now. He also told me not to limit job search to what I learned in college and rather I should search for jobs that I am more passionate about.

Overall, I think this interview was helpful to me. It gave me a clear understanding to what I am getting myself into and this interview is giving me more reassurance that this is the field for me. Before doing this interview, I didn’t know what kind of job I wanted to do with a computer science degree but now I am interested in working as a software engineer.

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