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‘Creativity’ a must for developers

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South Africa’s cellular industry is one of the jewels in the crown of the country’s economy. From just 4-million landlines in 1994, the industry can today point to more than 80-million active cellphones.

That South Africans have adopted mobile technology with enormous enthusiasm is clear from the fact that the country routinely scores above global averages when it comes to text messages transmitted, mobile Web access and more.

With a massive mobile sector comes massive mobile marketing opportunities. Mobile marketing refers to marketing to consumers using their mobile devices as platforms to showcase products and services using SMS, Please Call Me messages, USSD menu-driven applications, and the mobile Web, among others.

There’s a current shortage of talented software developers who can create the mobile applications that make mobile marketing possible. With the local economy expected to splutter along at a dismal pace this year, any news of an employment shortage in a specific sector certainly sounds like opportunity.

Below is a conversation we had with Clint Reynolds, a developer at leading software development house, SMSPortal. The answers should prove especially enlightening to any bright young person with an inclination towards the practical and creative that is coding:

Q – How did you get into this line of work?

A – It wasn’t a straight road to getting into this line of work for me. I first went into Multimedia Design and Production and touched on programming there. I loved it and decided to go in that direction. So I completed my BSC in Computer Science and Mathematics, and here I am.

Q – What’s the best part of your day?

A – I don’t really have a “best part of my day” so to speak. I enjoy what I do, so it’s all good. I do, however, love to spend my day creating something completely new. Something that is not yet implemented in our system/environment. That’s where the fun is.

Q – What achievement at SMSPortal have you been most proud of so far?

A – There are a few. One big one would be completing my degree while working at the same time. And the other would be being a part of and contributing to the development of our team’s values and growth. We really have an awesome team.

Q – What study options are available for would-be developers?

A – There are many avenues, in this regard, for those interested in becoming a developer. Obviously some avenues are better than others when it comes to what you want to do and where you want to end up. If you are interested in going into this field, then I would advise asking yourself what you want to do and where you want to end up. Also, do some research before making a decision on which direction you wish to take, this is important if you don’t have a clear idea. Look at the type of companies you want to work for, what do they require from you as a developer. I would personally recommend a degree in Computer Science, especially for those more technically minded. A degree opens a greater range of opportunities in the industry. If you want to get into research, then doing your Honours is a must, and Masters highly recommended. A diploma would offer a somewhat limited, but more practical application, of the knowledge base than a degree would. If you are serious about getting into the industry then go for the degree.

Q – What makes a developer tick?

A – From what I’ve seen, more than a few cups of coffee a day…I don’t drink coffee so I’m not 100% sure about that. But for me, it’s a passion for creating. When I am creating, I am in my element.

Q – Do you feel part of a team, or is the life of a developer a lonely one?

A – That depends on where you find yourself. I’ve worked at a place where I was mostly on my own and had the freedom to code as I please. That is wonderful, but working with a team is great too. You can learn a lot from the people in your team. Currently where I am, you definitely feel that you are part of a team. There are opportunities here too that pop up every now and then where you can find yourself doing work on your own for a time.

Q – How do you describe what you do to your mom?

A – My mom actually works in the IT industry, so it’s quite easy for me to explain to her what I do. But I would most likely say that I write code. That I’m part of the design, implementation and testing phases of various projects.

Q – Do you get to see the results of your work?

A – Absolutely. That is probably the most rewarding part of working in this environment. If it’s working, you know, if it’s not, you know. The time periods between the coding and the knowing may differ, but at the end of it, you know. I think the most rewarding part of this process is knowing that the code works and also that your implementation is slick. If you can get that right, it’s a great feeling.

Q – Do you interact much with clients, or mostly fellow employees?

A – 99.9% of the time with employees. The 0.1% is if we get clients visiting the offices, which happens very rarely.

Q – Do developers call the shots at SMSPortal?

A – Yes and no. I all depends on the situation. We have the freedom to share/voice our ideas, opinions, and concerns. Everyone brings with them a unique perspective depending on their background and who they are, so when the floor is open, we discuss and problem solve as a team.
Then based on those outcomes we make a decision. There are times when we need to do something because it has to be done, that is the same for any business, but the how is more often than not open for discussion.

Q – What do developers really covet when it comes to their work environment?

A – Again this differs from developer to developer. I can only really answer for myself in this case. So personally, it is about having the freedom to explore and create to my heart’s desire. It’s about being in an environment where people support and help each other to grow.