Movies and television shows featuring software developers and ethical hackers would have you believe they are all anti-social shut-ins who care little about business, their careers or the impact their code has on the world. Instead they are focused almost solely on producing code for code’s sake. When they are shown as part of a business, these fictional developers are generally marginalized by their co-workers or others around them – given little if any respect and treated as someone to be avoided or feared. And in comedies, they are often caricatured for an easy laugh.
But the reality of the modern programmer is a far cry from what we see in media. Programming has gone mainstream as the growing dependence on applications has created increased demand for skilled developers. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, “employment of software developers is projected to grow 17 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.” Schools across the country are hosting “hour of code” programs, which have all students learning how to do basic coding. And we’ve had national conversations around the need for STEM education and training the next generation of developers.
We are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, and like those before it, this one will be led by a small group of professionals, only this time it won’t be the oil tycoons or steal magnets that profit and shape our economy. Instead, it will be those with the skills needed to fuel an application-based economy. It will be the men and women sitting in front of computer screens writing the code that powers the applications shaping our lives – changing the way we interact with each other, the way we work and the way we live.
But like past industrial revolutions, there are ways this progress can be held back, and one way is for developers to not take an active role in ensuring this technology is developed and deployed securely. Luckily, movements like DevOps are holding developers accountable for adding security into the development lifecycle.
Developers can no longer pass their code off to QA or security teams with the attitude that “it’s their problem now.” Developers need to add security, and an understanding of software operations, to their skill set. As speaker-writer-developer Jeff Knupp points out: “The increasing scope of responsibility of the ‘developer’ (whether or not that term is even appropriate anymore is debatable) has given rise to a chimera-like job candidate: the ‘full-stack’ developer. Such a developer is capable of doing the job of developer, QA team member, operations analyst, sysadmin, and DBA.” As these skillsets become ubiquitous among developers, their influence on our businesses and economy will continue to grow – creating a spiral effect that will continue to perpetuate.
We are living in the era of the developer, but unlike past epochs, this one is not likely to end. It will continue to evolve, and the influence and power developers have to shape our lives and our economy will only grow.