A Day at Work: Software Engineers

Follow a day in the lives of two software engineers.
By Alexis Benveniste
Image: Aliya Best sitting at a table, working on a laptop computer
Aliya Best is a software engineer at Etsy.

Life as a software engineer is busy. It’s filled with projects and code reviews. To get a closer look, Your Hot Job talked to two New York–based software engineers: Aliya Best, who works at Etsy, and Miles Hinson, who works at YouTube.

Morning Routines

For Best, the day starts at 6:30 in the morning, when she wakes up, brushes her teeth, reads a New York Times newsletter, and plays games on her phone. Then she wakes up her kids and gets them ready for summer camp. Once she drops them off, she calls her mom while walking to a workout class. Best then comes home, showers, eats breakfast, drinks tea, and starts her workday around 10:00 a.m. “I go into the office about once a week,” she says. But when she works from home, she just opens her laptop, says “good morning” to her team via a messaging app, and starts responding to messages and emails.

For Hinson, a normal day often starts with a 7:00 a.m. workout. “My brain feels so much better and I feel way more focused when I’ve had a chance to be active before I’m at the computer for the day,” he says. Three days a week, he commutes to YouTube’s office. The rest of the time, he works remotely. Once Hinson gets to the office, he grabs breakfast. “Google—and YouTube, which is a part of Google—has plenty of cafés in its offices, so I’m lucky enough to get some delicious breakfast at a Google café before I get my day started,” he says.

Miles Hinson is a software engineer at YouTube.

Kicking Off the Workday

Around 11:00 a.m., Best sends a request for her team to review and approve code that she wrote the day before. Then she attends a daily meeting. She and her team members update one another on their work progress and projects. After that, she often has a one-on-one meeting with a teammate. “It’s important to find ways to connect with people on the team, especially since we mostly work remotely,” she says. Once that meeting is done, it’s coding time!

Hinson kicks things off by looking at his to-do list of tasks that he did not complete the previous day. Then he works on code reviews that his teammates sent him. “A big part of my job is writing software, or writing code, that will make YouTube better,” he says, adding that before anyone submits code that affects YouTube, it has to be reviewed by at least one other person. “If someone made a mistake in their code or did something that is a little confusing, another person can ask them questions or point out those mistakes before the code is submitted,” he says.


When Hinson is done with the reviews, he works on writing his own code. Then he sends it out for his teammates to review. Once he’s finished, around noon, it’s lunchtime!

Best eats her meal a bit later, around 1:45 p.m. She makes an effort to take a proper lunch break every day by closing her laptop and stepping away from her desk. Sometimes she reads a book, watches a short TV show, or listens to a podcast while she eats. After lunch, she meets with her mentor to give updates and talk about career goals.

The Afternoon

Around 3:00 p.m., Best reviews and approves a teammate’s code changes, then gets back to working on her own code. (As you can see, there are two big parts of being a software engineer: working on your own code, and reviewing code from teammates.)

Between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., Hinson codes and goes to meetings. “I work closely with a lot of people in California, so my meetings with them tend to be in the afternoon, East Coast time,” he says. “This way, they don't have to wake up too early for meetings, and I don't have to stay at the office too late.”

Wrapping Up

Around 4:30 p.m., Best’s kids come home from summer camp. She hugs them and asks them about their day, then gets back to work until about 6:00 p.m.

Hinson wraps up around 5:00 p.m., after he finishes his coding projects. Before logging off, he updates his to-do list and takes note of things he didn’t get to finish. Then he calls it a day!