Discover Coding and Prepare for a 21st Century Career
The world has changed a huge amount in the last 15 years as digital advancements have revolutionized our lifestyles! Paper maps have largely been replaced by smartphone apps with deep levels of detail, user-submitted content, and navigation algorithms. Advertising on social media platforms has been adopted as a highly-optimized way to find likely potential customers. Taxis in many places are hailed using an app such as Uber, which decreases wait times for drivers, lowers prices for passengers, and improves safety by location tracking.
The reason that these digital advancements have been so powerful is that in the modern age, it is faster and more accurate for a machine to do this work than to rely on a human worker – and as software continues to be improved and refined, more and more jobs will be replaced by technology.
While this has huge potential for human society, it does pose some challenges, including that the job market must change drastically to complement the advances in computing power! There will always be considerable demand for interpersonal roles such as medicine and event organizing, but even these jobs will be affected by the new efficiencies of the coming decades.
The main shift, however, will be towards machine-facing professions: understanding and using the latest technology, designing and creating new technology, and anticipating and innovating future technology.
Although of course, we won’t all have to be software engineers in order to be successful in employment and society in the years that are approaching, one of the most efficient ways to develop your 21st-century skillset is to gain some exposure with the actual creation of software. Besides the obvious concrete ability to be able to code, here are some of the transferable skills that are becoming increasingly important.
With more information available than ever before to anyone with an internet connection, it is less relevant now to have a huge personal wealth of knowledge. Instead, the most successful technical workers of the next decade will be able to quickly and independently research new complex topics. Real software developers already perform their work with only partial knowledge of the languages they use, but instead, they quickly research, apply and test potential ideas.
Effective Written Communication
In an ever-changing online environment with the ability to reach diverse international audiences, precise communication is key for preventing potential problems and reaching solutions more effortlessly. This is especially apparent during the software creation process. An idea is communicated to a team of developers, who may need to discuss nuances between potential implementations. The code should be clear for future developers to understand, and the solution explained simply to potential users.
Both for artistic and for inventive endeavours, creativity has always been a valuable quality. While computers are inherently predictable and perhaps the antithesis of creativity, software development can foster and sometimes force considerable creativity. Given a concrete but complex problem, there is generally a huge assortment of possible solutions, but they might not be all so obvious! A creative software developer will often find more inventive possibilities and simplify the work for themselves and their team.
So as we look back on the rapid impact of technology on society over the last 15 years, we should wonder how this story will continue for the following 15 years – and how you will shape your career within it.
Daniel Timms, University of Cambridge Alumni