Multimedia programmers are specialist software engineers who use their creative flair and technical ability to produce innovative digital products, such as Flash-based websites, mobile apps and interactive animated films.
They tend to use the latest technology and programming languages, such as HTML 5, Flash, PHP and Ruby on Rails. Without these guys Angry Birds would never exist. Terrifying, I know!
Multimedia programmers get involved throughout the entire project lifecycle. Firstly, they participate in the requirements gathering process, i.e. finding out the objectives of the proposed software solution.
Secondly, they ‘scope’ the project alongside animators, producers and 3D modellers, identifying what needs to be developed, how it needs to be developed and when it should be developed by.
They will also choose the most appropriate programming language and identify the right tools for the job. Moreover, they will identify any development frameworks which can be exploited to speed up the development process.
Multimedia programmers also need to think about cross-platform integration, i.e. how the solution can be used across various different platforms. For instance, if you create a mobile app, it’s important to make sure it can be used on an iPhone, a Blackberry and a variety of Android devices to maximise the revenue potential.
Once this has all been worked out, the multimedia programmer will get stuck into the actual coding of the product.
During the development phase, they will also conduct automated unit testing. This innovative approach, which is known as test-driven development (TDD), essentially involves programming and testing in parallel. This makes the whole process much more efficient.
Once the development process is complete, more testing will be undertaken. This will involve conducting functional testing to ensure everything works properly, and user acceptance testing (UAT) to make sure the product fulfils the requirements of the end user.
Finally, once a product has been developed and implemented, a multimedia programmer will also be responsible for detecting and fixing any bugs.
Salary & benefits
Entry-level multimedia programmers tend to earn between £18,000 and £25,000 per annum. Those who work at a more senior level, however, can earn up to £42,000 a year, and freelance contractors can earn considerably more.
Multimedia programmers typically work five days a week from nine-to-five, although extra evening and weekend work may be required from time to time to meet project deadlines.
To enter this line of work, you will need an undergraduate degree in any discipline. However, studying a subject such as computer science, software engineering, animation, maths, physics, electronic engineering or graphic design may boost your chances of securing an entry-level position.
If you don’t have an applicable undergraduate degree, it may be advisable to complete a postgraduate qualification in a relevant subject.
Another way to boost your employability is to get work experience with a digital agency or I.T. company. This will give you fantastic hands-on experience, and will enable you to build up a network of useful contacts, as well as the opportunity to develop your portfolio.
Training & progression
The majority of your training will be done ‘on-the-job’ under the supervision of senior multimedia programmers. You will also be given the opportunity to attend in-house training sessions.
Organisations such as the Chartered Institute for I.T. also offer training courses, professional qualifications and vendor certifications for programmers who are keen to keep their skills fresh.
Working in I.T. is a constant learning process and, in order to be successful, you will need to keep on top of industry developments and teach yourself new skills all the time.
Once you have gained a decent amount of experience, you may step up into a senior programmer position with team leading responsibilities. Freelance work is another viable option.