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I'm a Second Year Sound Engineering & Production student who, having enjoyed the Audio Software Development module in the first year, is looking to pursue programming as a potential career. Once the academic year was over, I looked further into programming, teaching myself the basics of C++ and looking further into the potential roles that I can pursue both inside and outside the Audio Industry.

I would like to know more information about pursuing the role of an Audio Software Developer:

What soft skills are useful within this role?

What technical skills are required to start at an entry position within a company as an Audio Software Developer?

Is the type of employment typically short term or long term contracts?

Are the skills interchangeable between an audio software developer and a regular software developer?

Thank you in advance!

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  • You'd be better off talking to career advisors or teachers where you're studying. They'd probably know more about the local conditions for the industry. – Kilisi Dec 11 '20 at 23:33
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What soft skills are useful within this role?

Specific to audio

  1. Being familiar with how certain typical bugs sound. Listen to an output and be able to quickly tell if it's wrong and what's wrong with it: clipping, buffer skips, buffer discontinuities, drop outs, distortion (harmonic, non-harmonic, intermodulation), different types of noises (AD/DA, acoustic background, HVAC rumble, RF interference etc.)
  2. Analytical listening skills: Being able to focus on one aspect of the listening experience at a time and being able to verbally describe what you are hearing accurately. Developing a standard vocabulary for describing what you hear
  3. Good familiarity with the principles of human auditory perception. Spectral, spatial, basic physiology, masking, etc.
  4. Be passionate about audio and Sound Quality

What technical skills are required to start at an entry position within a company as an Audio Software Developer?

  1. Nuts and bolts of SW development: GIT, C/C++, tool chains, builds, configuration management, version/release management, etc. Object orientation, design patterns, ability to structure code reasonably well, etc.
  2. Having written a few plugs-ins (VST, etc) and being able to get them to run is good to have on the resume.
  3. Experience with doing audio processing in Matlab or Python is a plus. That's where most of the algorithm development happens
  4. Experience with an embedded platform is a plus. That's where most of the product implementation happens.
  5. Experience with real time requirements and with managing CPU and memory footprint is a plus.

Is the type of employment typically short term or long term contracts?

Most of what I've seen are permanent positions although there are few freelancers out there. It's a fairly esoteric skill and often requires a fair bit of a learning curve and heavy infrastructure investment. Most people and companies are in it for the long run.

Are the skills interchangeable between an audio software developer and a regular software developer?

Many are. You can't be a good audio software developer without being a good software developer in the first place. "Audio" is a specialization that sits on top of "software development fundamentals" and the fundamentals are more or less the same across all of software development.

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  • All of this. I would add learn and demonstrate familiarity with at least one tool - e.g. Ableton Live, Pro Tools etc. (The specific development environment, not just the tool chain). +1 especially for writing plug ins. I would also focus on entry level perm, rather than trying to freelance, at least initially. You need to have built up some credits or worked as part of a team on some high profile things(film/tv/games).Knowing how your audio work fits in with other aspects of production. [Eldest child is in exactly your situation, so we have these discussions every couple of months]. – Justin Dec 12 '20 at 15:44
  • @hilmar, it may be you are using the term "soft skills" differently from perhaps the usual?? the first three points you make are technical skills. "soft skills" is stuff like "good with clients!" and "can handle pressure!" – Fattie Dec 12 '20 at 19:15
  • just regarding Group 2, points 1-5, inevitably these days would be mucking about w/ cuda – Fattie Dec 12 '20 at 19:17
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This will probably be closed / moved to another site, but for the sake of putting in an answer,

I would like to know more information about pursuing the role of an Audio Software Developer:

You will need masters-degree Mathematics skills.

(Indeed, specializing in mathy stuff relevant to that field.)

What soft skills are useful within this role?

Absolutely none.

In the history of the universe, nobody has ever cared about the soft-skills of a programmer. The soft-skills of a programmer are as important as say the soft-skills of a bridge or a hydroelectric plant. :O

What technical skills are required to start at an entry position within a company as an Audio Software Developer?

masters-degree-level Mathematics

(As you surely know, it's a really info-dense field. Just to get going y'all will have to memorize 30 or 40 blockbusters like this :O )

Is the type of employment typically short term or long term contracts?

Exactly as with any programming, you can have pretty much any job you want (short or long term) pretty much anywhere you want, and get paid unbelievable amounts of money, as well as shares, etc.

However note - the "first programming-job rules" apply to "speciality" programming (eg game physics, audio, whatever) just as they apply to everyday general programming: https://workplace.stackexchange.com/a/167673/22844

Indeed, it's even harder to get that first job as a "speciality" (say, audio) software'er.

Are the skills interchangeable between an audio software developer and a regular software developer?

In a sense, not really. To be a successful programmer, you have to be basically incredibly good. However, to be a (wildly) successful "math speciality programmer", you only have to be sort of an "ok" programmer, if that makes sense. Put it this way: if you get to a really high level, making insane™ money, as an "audio programmer", you would not be able to just move over - at that same money-making level - to being a "general" programmer. Note too that "general" programmers (for want of a better term) typically have insanely detailed - just bonkers, insanely detailed - knowledge of certain staggeringly boring / stupid / uninteresting arcane fields that are not, literally, about programming per se but are related (say, the minutia of bloody iOS table views, or whatever), which you will never know about (or want to know about!) any more than I will ever know the details of, you know, scales or tones or something that you know backwards!! Indeed, bonkers-money™ "general" programmers have to, just in passing, have elite expertise in a number of "side" (!) issues like sql, architecture, all that comp-sci nonsense, not to mention a gift for algorithms, and more: so yeah, it's not really interchangeable. If you follow US Gridiron, you will be like the Kicker - beloved, paid by the truckload, always in demand, Special, but not a "normal" football player, so "not really" is the answer to that one.

Thank you in advance!

Enjoy!

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    Almost everything in this answer is wrong. As someone who regularly interviews software developers, I definitely care if their soft skills are not up to scratch, and would not hire them if they couldn't communicate, work as a team, etc. And it's also not true that "to be a successful programmer, you have to be basically incredibly good", nor that you need "insanely detailed knowledge of arcane fields" (that's what Google is for). – Daniel Roseman Dec 12 '20 at 13:02

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