I work in likely the most unglamorous sector of the audio industry there is, but I’ll tell you, since you asked haha.
I’ve been in the audio-visual industry for 20 years. I got into it straight out of high school cause I had an aptitude for electronics. I built and installed peoples home theatres during the time it started to become popular (2004-2006 era) It didn’t require any education, just your head screwed on. (Believe me I have come across a shitload of people in this business with their head laying down beside them, and it’s becoming more and more common these days.) I moved on to commercial AV after that (in Sydney) for a few years before moving to Vancouver for a holiday, but quickly went back to work in AV. My knowledge set in Canada grew a lot faster as I was thrust into the deep end a bit more frequently building some quite complicated systems for that time. I always had a vested interest in the Audio side of AV as I grew up as a touring musician (trumpet). So, I kept on my employers’ toes for more and more training in that subject area, but most of it was on the job training and experience.
When I came back to Sydney (to my old company), I worked as a service technician. I would go around to our previously installed projects and found constant issues with the audio deployment. Poor gain structure, no EQ on microphones, noise not handled appropriately, distortion in signal paths, phase on speakers incorrectly wired, etc-etc. So, once again I went to my employers and said look, you guys need someone here (me) that specializes in audio engineering, that can deploy these systems correctly the first time, but I also want a proper education in audio and acoustics and a bigger a salary. So, for the last 5 years I have focused solely on that, been to university to expand my knowledge. I have always loved my job, until more recently I find some of the technology to be half-baked and a pain in the ass to commission, but I still enjoy it.
I have never considered myself a systems programmer, but that is in my job description. I know vaguely how to read code (that’s relevant to my field) and I can program logically and make AV systems work. The thing about pro audio DSP’s is that they can do anything now, not just process audio. So, as the DSP guy, I have been thrust into also being the programmer guy.
Your last question is an interesting one, as for me my hobby (stereos and hi-fi) became my profession. Another hobby, music and electronic music production was a calling card for me. It gave me a head start in knowing how to tune audio systems and use my ear, and in all this, my ears have been the most valuable asset.
There are definately lots of avenues you could take. As a software develper that’s also into making music, you could get into making VST’s or writing a program for a piece of hardware. My brother is helping develop two pieces of hardware currently and he has zero coding knowledge. He’s kind of like a beta tester on steroids that has a hand in the honey pot. He basically tells the developer what he wants them to do and they do it.
Flux Eurorack module: (280) FLUX: Eurorack Temporal Modulation Rhythm Sequencer - YouTube
Speak and Glitch GND-1: Speak & Glitch GND-1 | Circuit Bent Speak Chip Synthesizer (youtube.com)
Hope you find some of this valuable info!