**This story was contributed by Ayne Santiago

As a software engineer in the Philippines, I always think back to the quote: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” 

The most challenging part of software development is creating apps that will standout from the competing apps out there. This maxim applies all the more to the Philippines, where Filipinos enjoy both local apps as well as foreign ones, given our fluency in English.

An app can easily be mistaken as a copy of another app since we often use the same frameworks or same tech stacks, and I believe that's where execution becomes a really crucial part of our job.

Think of the user first 
As the a client engineering lead at Voyager Innovations, the digital arm of PLDT and Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), I strive to make sure that we deliver unique and appealing experiences to users. We try to be more innovative in using the current available APIs or technology out there.

What I do now differs dramatically from what I originally thought software engineers did. When I was in college I thought software development is all about coding. But creating apps for Voyager made me think that software development is actually about users. It doesn't matter how elegantly I developed the app if it doesn't bring value to the user. At the end of the day apps are not created for developers but for users.

So as I go about my daily routine, I try to always keep the user in focus. I belong to a team which creates Android applications for Voyager, so we do code a lot. We also have this 15-minute daily standup for each project. It is where we talk to co-developers, QEs and product managers about what we've done, what we're currently doing and what we'll be doing. 

Currently I'm part of 4 or 5 projects so that's a lot of standing for me, too. We work hard at Voyager but we we don't forget to have fun. Whenever a bug stresses us out, we have ping pong tables, nerf guns, guitars, and even ripstiks in our office to help us relax and clear our minds. 

This variety extends to the work that we do. The different variety of apps we do in Voyager also makes me feel like I'm a different person every day. We have various apps in the field of communications, financial tech, e-commerce and digital media. Each provides us with unique challenges that make our job interesting.

I also get to go to international trainings from time to time. For example, this year I went to 
Google I/O. My biggest takeaway from it is not the keynote, nor the Nexus 9, but how it made me realised that Filipino engineers can compete with the engineers from renowned companies around the world. The Philippines is full of young and very talented engineers.  

Succeeding at software development 
I have always wanted to be a software engineer. My thesis in college is a mobile app that identify colors through a camera. It is an augmented reality app that was designed to help color-blind people. Coincidentally, my dad is a color-blind himself. It amazed me how my dad reacted to what color the app says versus what he thought the color of the object was. It helped him and us, his family in many ways. 

Since then, I realized the potential of software development in improving the lives of the people. And this is one of the reasons why I encourage Filipino women to join this field as well. Software development has been a men’s territory for decades, and it can really be advanced and enlivened if the industry can get more women engineers. 

This industry can be really fulfilling, no matter who you are. I particularly enjoy it when people use our apps and give feedback about it. Babble Messenger was my first project in Voyager, and one of its main features is public chatrooms. We have this user who became so fond of our chatrooms, he posted a comment in our Play Store account volunteering to be the admin of our chatrooms.

To create products that people enjoy, engineers have to realize that learning doesn’t stop in school. It doesn't stop at any point in your career, and you have to develop your skills on your own. 

I started doing mobile apps development when I was in college and at that time, J2ME was still popular and Android wasn't in its prime yet. There were also other emerging platforms for mobile, like Symbian QT and Samsung Bada. 

I've tried all of them and I never imagined that Android will be where it is now. What I'm saying is we don't know what will be the next big thing, and maybe Android or iOS won't be the superstars of the next generations anymore. So as developers, we need to eagerly and willingly learn what we did not know the day before and anticipate the future needs of users. 

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