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John Shepherd Software Developer
John Shepherd is a software developer for Alcatel-Lucent. He has worked there for 27 years. Currently, he is working on software for faster wireless data calls. I sat down with him to discuss his career.
What kind of education do you have?
I have a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s degree in computer science.
Why did you choose your job?
I chose my job because its fun to see software that you have written work and be used. Also, debugging a problem is like doing detective work and is quite fulfilling when the answer is found.
What is your favorite part of your job? Why?
I like the sense of accomplishment when you figure out a problem. Also when you work with a team of people to design and implement a solution.
What kind of things do you do in an average day?
It varies depending on the phase of a project. Some phases require meeting with other designers, writing design documents, writing software, and writing tests. Other phases require running your own tests and debugging failures or debugging failures that other testers find. The reading and writing of emails is heavily required in all phases.
What skills do you need to do your job?
You need to be able to design, write, understand, and debug software programs. The programming language we use most is the C language. We also use C++ and the Unix operating system. You need to be able to lead and participate in teams that do these things. We use Microsoft office for communication; word, power point, excel, and outlook.
What are some of the challenges you face in your job?
I think the hardest part is that problems can arise at any time and often have to be fixed quickly, even though it can take a lot of time to determine the root cause of the issue. Also, it can be hard to schedule meetings because co-workers are located in multiple time zones. Another challenge is that all of my co-workers world wide can communicate in English, but sometimes accents and cultural differences can make clear communication tricky.
Increased competition and the global outsourcing of information industry jobs to low cost centers has made it challenging to stay employed with the same company.
How has technology changed since you started?
Everything is much smaller. When I first started, hard disks were the size of a washing machine. Now you can hold them in your hand. Everything is much faster. When I first started, computer terminals printed on paper and ran at 300 bits per second. Now they run at speeds of megabits per second. When I first started, lab test models were very expensive and had to be used 24 hours a day because the company didn’t want to buy too many of them. So you could be assigned lab time anytime of the day, or night. Now the lab equipment is less expensive, so there is more of it and it can be used primarily during the day. Tests that are run overnight can be automated and don’t require a person to be running them in real time. When I first started, the people I worked with in the company were primarily located in the same office building as me. Now with high speed internet and teleconferencing, they can be anywhere in the world.
What else has changed in your job?
I have been with the same company 27 years, but the company has changed many times. When I started it was Bell Laboratories, then it became AT&T Bell Laboratories, then AT&T Network Systems, then Lucent Technologies, and now it is Alcatel-Lucent after our merger with the French company Alcatel.