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A Day in the Life of a Software Engineer: Exploring Remote vs Hybrid Work

Are you considering a career as a web developer but would like some deeper insight into what a day in the life of a software engineer is actually like?

You’ve landed in the right place then. In this post, we’ve interviewed two pro web developers to give you an inside look at their professional background and their day-to-day work lives. We also included some fun lightning round questions at the end for each of them.

Both Hardeep Asrani and Andrei Băicuș work for the same company – Vertigo Studio – and they have about two decades of experience between them. While they have other commonalities as well, their big divide is that one of them works completely remotely, while the other works a hybrid schedule with some days in the office.

Those two setups seem to be prevalent in the industry nowadays, which means that if you do choose to follow this career path, then you’ll likely be working in a similar fashion.

A day in the life of a software engineer who works 100% remotely

🧑‍💻 Hardeep Asrani, Developer

Do you have a morning routine to ease your way into work or is it somewhat random every day? If you do have a routine, what is it?

Hardeep Asrani.

It’s completely random. Barely any two days of the week are the same in my life. Sometimes I work at the end of the day and sleep afterwards. Other times I start and finish work as the first thing in the morning and then go about my day.

I personally feel the days when I start working early are more productive, but unfortunately my insomnia doesn’t allow that to be a regular occurrence.

Since you work from home, how do you ensure you’re not working too much or too little and how do you transition from home life to work mode?

Hardeep Asrani.

Over the years I have learned better to separate personal life from work.

The first strategy that I employed a while back is that I make sure to never work from my bed and always work at a dedicated place, which is my desk in my room. During the week, I don’t do any personal work at that desk. On the flip side, I don’t do any professional work anywhere but that desk. Also, I almost never use my laptop for anything except work. These habits have helped me compartmentalize my work life.

A lot of my friends prefer to work from cafes, but that’s never been my thing. I find it too distracting to be anywhere but at home when I work.

How do you collaborate with your team?

Hardeep Asrani.

Similar to many other companies in this space, we use Slack and GitHub for the bulk of our collaboration. Slack for all things communication and GitHub for all things coding and planning.

We have also been using the EOS structure for our weekly L10 meetings for the past few years.

What project management tools do you use?

Hardeep Asrani.

Slack, GitHub, Ninety and Figma would be the big four that I stumble across almost every single day. We also use Google Suite for emails, but I prefer to use the Mail app on Mac. I have been using Firefox as a browser for the better part of a decade, and VSCode since the time it came out for writing code.

What are the benefits and challenges of working remotely?

Hardeep Asrani.

When you work from home, it’s easy to get distracted. You might have to help a family member, take the dog for a walk, answer the doorbell, etc. And there’s no real boundary between working hours versus personal hours. I get distracted very easily so it’s always a challenge.

Obviously, the biggest benefit is that you can work from anywhere. You don’t have to worry about the traffic on the way to the office. You can finish work and get back to your regular life within minutes.

How do you stay updated with the latest technologies and industry trends?

Hardeep Asrani.

I attend a lot of meet-ups around tech so I’m always listening to what other people are using. However, I avoid just trying out everything, as people love new things and most of them end up being redundant within months.

I also steer clear of following the latest “hot” trends like Web3 or whatever new thing the cryptobros are using these days. So I stay aware of the new things, and I use my own discernment to decide on which to incorporate into my workflow to make my life easier or to improve some process.

What are you working on right now that you’re excited about and you’d like the world to check out when it’s done?

Hardeep Asrani.

We just released the new update to Raft and Otter Blocks, which introduced the new FSE Onboarding Wizard that I’m excited for people to try out. We’re also working on something new for the FSE-world, but it’s too early to show off, so you will have to wait a while before it’s ready enough to be touted about.

A lanyard showing Hardeep Asrani sponsoring a previous WordCamp event in Nagpur.

How long have you been working in web development and what coding languages do you have a working proficiency in? Do you also use all of those languages on a regular basis?

Hardeep Asrani.

I’ve been doing web development for about ten years at this point and I have a working proficiency in PHP and JavaScript. I can also write enough Bash to get around day-to-day tasks. My regular work mostly consists of using PHP, JavaScript, and React.

How did you get into this field? Did you study it in college or did you take some coding boot camp or something else?

Hardeep Asrani.

I finished school studying commerce as I was terrible at maths, and it still horrifies me to this day.

Later, while pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce degree, I dropped out of college and learned most of the coding I know while working on my personal projects that I used to do for fun. I learned most of the PHP just by trying to fix bugs on my own website. Later, it was by tackling small issues here and there on our products while I was working on product support.

I also learned quite a lot of React by watching WesBos’ React for Beginners course, which I totally recommend to anyone who wants to learn it.

Are you still as enthusiastic about web development as you were when you were first starting out?

Hardeep Asrani.

It’s been ten years and when I started I was mostly in school without a lot going in life. So, obviously I was more enthusiastic about coding then compared to now.

I still love to get things done, though. However, turning ideas into tangible end products excites me a lot more than the act of coding itself. I just think of coding as more of the tool than the goal these days. But I am still just as curious about learning new things, as they make it possible for me to imagine how they can be applied to solving new problems.

What’s been the biggest change in the industry or something that has had the largest impact on your work in the past five years?

Hardeep Asrani.

The introduction of React and Gutenberg to WordPress has had the biggest impact on my work. It’s because it happened around the same time as I learned React, and I was able to follow it and contribute to it from the very beginning. And as not a lot of people started adopting React and Gutenberg, I always had a head start there to learn more and figure out interesting ways in which these can be used. I still prefer PHP, because it’s more predictable, but JavaScript is very easy when you want to get something done quickly.

Hardeep Asrani on stage at a previous WordCamp event in Kochi.

Lightning round

Coffee or Tea?
I love brewing filter coffee and espresso, but my pick would be Chai (Indian tea with milk).

Sunrise or Sunset?
Sunset.

Windows or macOS?
MacOS.

Android or iOS?
iOS.

Dark Mode or Light Mode for coding?
I couldn’t care less. I use the default, whichever it is.

Headphones or Speakers?
I prefer speakers if I’m alone, but headphones for meetings or calls.

In-Person or Virtual for meetings?
In-person.

Laptop or Desktop?
Laptop with a monitor.

Vim or Emacs?
Vim.

Beach or Mountains?
Mountains. I’m a little biased given that I live in Northern India, where the Himalayan mountains are much closer than the Arabian Sea. 😊

A day in the life of a software engineer who works hybrid-style

🧑‍💻 Andrei Băicuș, Lead Developer

Do you have a morning routine to ease your way into work or is it somewhat random every day? If you do have a routine, what is it?

Andrei Băicuș.

During a typical day, I make a coffee, check my Slack messages and email, start playing music, and dive into whatever I have to work on. I always crave that flow state as it makes me feel at my peak productivity. Unfortunately, I don’t have a universal recipe for achieving it, but I’m trying to reproduce the conditions as frequently as possible. Of course, it depends on what I’m working on, how often I get interrupted, and if I must switch contexts during the day.

On the days you work from home, how do you ensure you’re not working too much or too little and how do you transition from home life to work mode?

Andrei Băicuș.

I don’t have any safeguards in place, and there are days during which I forget to get up from my desk if I manage to achieve a flow state during work. I find it hard to remove myself from the context when things click in place. It may not be the healthiest approach, but the time spent on work tends to spread evenly during a week. I use a time tracker to ensure things don’t get too out of hand. If I work ten hours on a particular day, I’ll try to take it easier the next day to avoid burnout. Some things engage me to the point where I sometimes have to open the laptop at 10 PM or during the weekend if I get an idea that improves something. My work feels creative, so it’s hard to quantify the time spent thinking about it.

Fortunately, I have a separate room with my work desk and laptop, so the transition is pretty physical.

On the days you go into the office, how long is your typical commute to work?

Andrei Băicuș.

When I go into the office, I commute between 40 and 50 minutes, depending on when the subway decides to arrive and how fast I walk.

How do you collaborate with your team? What project management tools do you use?

Andrei Băicuș.

Our collaboration is primarily asynchronous, using Slack, GitHub, and the EOS methodology. We have a weekly meeting within our R&D team to check in on our progress during the past week and discuss various issues that each of us has. We focus on different projects, so we don’t always work together on the same thing.

When we work together on a product, we focus on a particular product release, developing new features, fixing bugs, and splitting the work amongst the team members, so it’s still asynchronous, but we check in more often.

We mainly use GitHub Projects to manage these tasks and keep track of progress. For things related to EOS, we use Ninety.

On the days you go into the office, how, if at all, does the office environment contribute to your work? What are the benefits and challenges of working remotely?

Andrei Băicuș.

Going into the office and catching up with colleagues is always great. We can also hold in-person meetings, which is always a plus. You tend to reach out for help, help others, or ask questions more when sitting next to somebody than when you have to reach out via Slack. Communication is a lot better in person.

A primary benefit of remote work is the commute time no longer exists, which saves me almost two hours daily. There are other small things – you can do a load of laundry, for example. It’s just a button press, but if you’re in the office and the button is at home, there’s no way to press it.

A challenge is that the borders between work and life can get blurry occasionally, so you must get a grip on that work-life balance.

How do you stay updated with the latest technologies and industry trends?

Andrei Băicuș.

I mainly follow people on X (Twitter) and lurk on some programming and technology subreddits. Most important things and trends tend to surface through these channels. I also listen to the Hard Fork podcast, which I recommend – it’s not necessarily related to coding, but provides an excellent, fun overview of the tech industry.

What are you working on right now that you’re excited about and you’d like the world to check out when it’s done?

Andrei Băicuș.

Recently I deep-dived into our Optimole dashboard codebase. The interface is now snappier, and the code is much easier to understand. I’m proud of this improvement.

I am developing a Shopify theme and intend to have an MVP soon. Working with new technologies is fun, and I hope the project will be well-received.

How long have you been a software engineer and what coding languages do you have a working proficiency in? Do you also use all of those languages on a regular basis?

Andrei Băicuș.

Professionally, I’ve been working in the field for almost nine years. Before that, I started coding during high school as part of my informatics class using C++. We also had some classes on basic web technologies – HTML, CSS, JS. Later in university, I fiddled with JavaScript to generate motion graphics expressions. Before getting into web development, I dabbled in making games, so I was learning C# and Unity. I started getting familiar with programming concepts somewhere around 2007. It’s been about 17 years since I’ve written my first line of code.

The languages I am proficient in and that I use the most right now are PHP, JavaScript (React, VueJS), and anything related to the core of web concepts, such as HTML and CSS, and all their variations.

I use only some of the languages I know regularly. I find switching to another coding language easy if you are familiar with core programming concepts.

How did you get into this field? Did you study it in college or did you take some coding boot camp or something else?

Andrei Băicuș.

My only formal education in this field happened during high school. After university (where I studied video editing and sound design), there was a time when my girlfriend had a project for a class where she had to create a web page.

I thought I had the skills to help her, but I discovered I lacked some basic knowledge. Thus, I started my journey in web development. I enjoyed helping on that small project so much that I began to dive deep into front-end web development. I was a freelance video editor and motion graphics designer at the time, so I had plenty of time outside of work.

Around a year later, one of my high-school colleagues recommended me to Themeisle for a junior front-end and graphic design position. I would say that most of the things I’ve learned were mainly on the job in the past nine years.

Are you still as enthusiastic about software engineering as you were when you were first starting out?

Andrei Băicuș.

The field is constantly expanding, and new things are released frequently. I love to tinker with new things and be aware of the tools out there in case I can use them for any of our projects at work.

Sometimes, work feels less challenging as some parts become repetitive. You’re not always going to work with the latest technologies. Fortunately, in our workplace, we make a conscious effort to try new things out pretty often.

What’s been the biggest change in the industry or something that has had the largest impact on your work in the past five years?

Andrei Băicuș.

It might be a recurring theme during this period, but I’d say the evolution of AI, including GitHub Copilot and other AI-based coding assistants. It’s been a lot easier to get into new technologies and understand concepts of new frameworks/languages using AI.

Another thing that comes to mind is the popularity of JavaScript frameworks like React and Vue JS, which skyrocketed. We’ve switched from using vanilla JavaScript and HTML for interactive applications to a much easier way of doing things.

Andrei Baicus working at his desk.

Lightning round questions

Coffee or Tea?
Coffee.

Sunrise or Sunset?
Both.

Windows or macOS?
MacOS.

Android or iOS?
iOS.

Dark Mode or Light Mode for coding?
Dark.

Headphones or Speakers?
Speakers.

In-Person or Virtual for meetings?
In-Person.

Laptop or Desktop?
Laptop.

Vim or Emacs?
Neither.

Beach or Mountains?
Mountains.

Final thoughts on a day in the life of a software engineer 🏁

There you have it.

Two different developers with two different perspectives, offering you a window onto what a day in the life of a software engineer is like. While they inevitably had some differences, they also shared some fascinating similarities that went beyond just working for the same company.

For instance, it was interesting to discover that both of their initial professional journeys began outside the industry and they broke into the field via personal projects. In Hardeep’s case, his own, and in Andrei’s case, that of his girlfriend at the time. There were also similarities in their thoughts on the benefits and drawbacks of working remotely.

Overall, it was an insightful look at what you can expect if you choose to pursue a career in software engineering / web development. If you feel mega inspired by what you just read and want to continue riding that inspiration train, then check our library of beginner development courses to get started.

* Some responses were very gently edited for clarity and flow by Martin D.

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Martin Dubovic

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