I do mainly data integration and standard reporting stuff. For example, reports for "where is my sample in the pipeline, has the fastq been generated, where are the variant call results?" But being interested in the bio/genetics stuff is a huge plus. Hackers in the space seem welcome and needed. You gotta fight the credential hierarchy some - you clearly don't matter as much as the MD/PhD, but sometimes they should listen to you, like when, say, it comes to the programming language choice you make for the app they will use. That said, I sneak in what I think is best for the task and if that means Ruby or Clojure instead of Java, results are what matters in the end.
I don't have a bio background so I work on software tools and automation to support the rest of the company. Counsyl has huge respect for all levels of science and engineering, so you don't face a credential hierarchy everywhere (but Counsyl is probably unique in this area). We have a strong solve-problems-with-software culture that any dev would be comfortable with.
If the gp is interested, check out https://www.counsyl.com/jobs/
If you are willing to learn basic molecular biology (structure of DNA, central dogma, etc.), you can get a job as a bioinformatician, bioinformatics analyst, bioinformatics engg, etc. where you could be analyzing biomedical datasets.
We do work that winds up in people's actual medical records - meaning that genomics analysis we do influences/directs actual medical treatment for patients.
That said, I wish I knew more biology and statistics, which is just interesting to me. I'd feel a little "key" to the work rather than a "nice" addition to the team.
I have absolutely no doubt that the work you are doing is useful, relevant and a genuine contribution to society and the enterprise of science. But how many people who are “just” programmers or “just” bioinformaticians, no Ph.D. end up as first, second or third authors on papers?
That is the coin of the realm, right? It certainly is in Chemistry, Biology and Big Lab/Group Physics, yeah?
Publications would be hard as a non-PhD. If you wanted to focus on that, I have found that PIs welcome outsiders into their research groups. I'm certain you could put yourself in a position to publish with the same amount of credit as a grad student on a team (not much?). Especially with good data hacking skills, someone will be willing to help you scratch that publication itch. I think it would be like having a major side-project in addition to a fulltime job though.
Oddly enough, even though the work I do here is less technical than what I have done in the private sector, I seem to perceive a slight up-tick in respect from enterprise software groups.
Bioinformatics itself is huge, there are many many areas - protein folding, protein interaction, DNA/RNA interaction, all kinds of taxonomies, evolution, gene mapping, systems biology, etc etc etc.
I strongly suggest you pick something particular, because, otherwise, it's easy to waste years on learning many topics and not have any deep progress on anything in particular.
Update: Aaaaaand then they get to be fun big potato chips.