An Electronic Project Developer works on a variety of technical and project management tasks relating to the development of digital products for publishers.
The role of Electronic Project Developer (EPD) is principally a role within digital publishing, although the skills and responsibilities are similar to a variety of different digital roles across different organisations.
An EPD in a publishing company is responsible for building, and coordinating the building of, digital products such as interactive CD-ROMs and websites. This will include technical day-to-day tasks such as photo research and manipulation, audio work, software testing, but also providing creative input and visualisations for new digital products for the use of external designers and developers. EPDs are also responsible for small project management tasks, such as managing schedules, coordinating data-entry, managing software development and chairing team meetings.
An EPD works closely with the Electronic Project Manager for every product, and is a key member of a digital product team, which includes people from various other departments. This includes editors, production controllers and marketing managers. Typically, editorial and marketing groups will define the key requirements and dates in the final digital product and then the Electronic Project Manager will manage the project from scratch all the way to manufacture. The EPD assists the Project Manager on a daily basis in tasks relating to the building of the product. This includes liaising with external software developers, designers and data-entry personnel, as well as making sure schedules are met.
Project Developers have an unusual role, because unlike web developers, they do not write code or fix software. Their technical skills are soft: they liaise with web developers on project needs, often from a technical standpoint, and will often do little technical tasks, but will not ultimately produce the product themselves. They will often have the technical skills to create ‘mock-ups’ of websites, logos and other graphical elements, but as they are not graphic designers, they will leave the realisation of these features to hired or in-house designers. The emphasis of the EPD’s remit is therefore liaising with key team members and ‘coordinating’ technical developments.
The other aspect of an EPD’s role is providing second-line technical support after a product has been manufactured. As the EPD has worked closely on the product and been responsible for software testing, they are the best placed members of the product team to handle customer queries on how to use a part of the software, or how to fix a problem. Often the EPD will have to consult the software developer if there is an unusual issue, and will work alongside the developer to provide a solution, such as a patch. The EPD will also maintain the technical support website, making sure it is clear for customers to report issues.
EPDs often work as a bridge between the highly technical (software developers) and the non-technical (editors and customers), being able to communicate effectively with both sides and working on tasks for both.
The role of Electronic Project Developer is sometimes described as an “entry-level” graduate position. For a new graduate who is just starting out in digital publishing, they can expect to earn around £22,000 when they start, depending on the company and location. Within three or four years this could rise up to around £26,000, but rarely above it.
Typical responsibilities include:
- Attending team meetings and providing technical and creative input
- Image research and manipulation
- Audio manipulation
- Data-entry and managing of external data-entry into Content Management Systems
- Liaising with software developers to create products according to specification
- Liaising with editors for feedback on product deliveries
- Providing rough visualisations to developers and designers
- Managing software testing at all stages of the software development cycle
- Filing bug reports
- Organisation of product assets
- Managing schedules
- Providing second-line customer support after sales
There are no specific qualifications that are a requirement for this role. Employers will typically look for graduates from any academic background as long as they show evidence of technical skills and an interest in the digital field. However, if you want to increase your chances, it is impressive to have an ISEB certificate in software testing. This is the industry-wide qualification that shows formal skills in software testing.
Employers will look for graduates with a strong interest and skills related to digital publishing. In particular, ideal candidates will:
- Know how to use a variety of different software such as Adobe Creative Suite
- Be highly organised and efficient
- Know how to manage schedules
- Enjoy communicating about technology with different people, both technical and non-technical
- Have a good sense of what makes great digital products
- Have meticulous attention to detail for software testing
- Make a valuable contribution to team meetings
- Creatively think of ideas to make products better
- Enjoy solving problems
As this role is often described as an “entry-level” position into digital publishing, it is possible to go into the job with just a good degree and no formal work experience. However, employers do value some experience of working with technology.
EPDs typically work standard hours in the office. Since most of their work will be based online, there is no customer-facing aspect, and so the EPD can dress in a smart casual way, in the same manner as a web developer.
The major employers of Electronic Project Developers are publishers such as Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, Pearson and Macmillan. However, since the responsibilities of an EPD are so broad, covering technical, project management and, to some extent, editorial work, there are potentially many different kinds of companies which would look for someone in such a role.
The most natural career progression for an Electronic Project Developer is to be promoted to the role of Electronic Project Manager, also known as Digital Project Manager. He or she will then be responsible for managing the digital project from conception to delivery, including providing detailed project specifications, scheduling, and hiring external software developers and freelancers. The Electronic Project Manager is also responsible for managing the Project Developer. After this, it is possible to be in charge of a greater suite of digital products, including managing the direction of the company in terms of what it will produce in the future.
Also known as…
- Digital Product Coordinator
- Online Project Developer
- Digital Asset Manager
- Web Developer
- Web Designer
- Graphic Designer
- Production Controller
- Technical Support Assistant
- Electronic Project Manager
- Digital Project Manager
What’s it really like?
Rushda Khan is a 25 year old Electronic Project Developer, currently working for the publisher Cambridge University Press. Here she explains her career so far:
I graduated in 2008 with a degree in Philosophy from Cambridge University. A publishing role at the Press attracted me as it was a name I had become familiar with while I was a student. I was quite open about the kind of career path I wanted to join, but I knew I wanted a career which would allow me to be creative and put my technical and organisational skills to good use. I have now been here over three years and I’m not disappointed by my role.
At the interview, I was asked about my interests in technology and what I had done in the past. I was also asked to test a piece of software and tell the interviewer what I thought of it. Thankfully, I found the process easy because I have always been logical, thorough and opinionated about what works and what doesn’t. What also set me apart was that using software was second-nature to me as a “digital native”, and this was unusual in a traditional university publishing company.
My typical day in the office involves lots of varied tasks for different digital products. One minute I will be testing the latest release of our best-selling vocabulary CD-ROM, while another minute I’ll be watching children’s animations, thinking of ways to make them more fun. I also handle technical support emails and do technical tasks such as Photoshop work and image research. I attend a lot of meetings where we discuss schedules, and assess priorities. It’s not unusual to have days when I’m playing computer games all day, and that’s as part of my job! I am always very busy as I always have something to test, or someone to speak to. In the rare moments when there is no urgent work to be done, I expand my skills in our software packages, for example by doing online tutorials.
Even though I am part of a digital team of Project Managers and Project Developers, the structure is such that I work on many different product teams, which include people from many different departments at the Press, not just ones focused on digital. What I love about my role is that on a daily basis, I end up talking to a very diverse range of people, from editors to production personnel. And that doesn’t even include staff and companies based out of house, and often out of the country. Even though my work is based on the computer, there is a lot of collaboration and I never feel isolated in what I am doing.
Also, even though the job is based in an office and in front of a computer, there are significant opportunities for travel. For example, I often attend tradeshows such as BETT (an annual show of educational technology), and training courses such as ISEB (certificate in software testing).
My advice to anyone seeking a career in software project development is to be aware of the kinds of digital products that are out there and how you would improve them. Brush up on your software skills and know about underlying technologies such as Flash and HTML.