Programming knowledge may not be enough to future-proof your career in the age of automation. Here’s why.
By Alison DeNisco Rayome, May 14, 2018
The rise of coding bootcamps signals that many are seeking developer jobs to make more money and protect their careers from automation. But learning to code won’t protect your job when computers become smart enough to build code for you—which is already in the works.
Automation has been replacing jobs for years, said Shon Burton, CEO of HiringSolved. “What we’re seeing now is a new class of things that computers are getting better at,” he added. “They’ve always been good at crunching numbers, but now they’re starting to get good at other things, like image recognition.” For example, AI will likely replace X-ray technicians, with the ability to view images and determine a diagnosis.
“The reason why learning to code won’t protect your job is because a lot of code that gets written today is code that isn’t all that creative,” Burton said. “It’s not particularly difficult to do—it’s like building LEGO bricks.”
That’s not to say that we won’t have a need for high-level coders, Burton said. Many engineers are solving difficult problems that require creativity, while others are performing important research. However, a lot of software being written today is “essentially glue code,” Burton said. “It’s putting together pieces that already exist. That’s the sort of thing that starts to get automated.”
Where should people turn instead to future-proof their careers? The humanities, according to Burton. “The humanities start to become very important when you start to realize that technology is going to become very, very easy to use,” Burton said. “The toolsets change, but what becomes important is the creativity, and particularly the understanding of the human mind. Because as long as humans are still the consumer, they’re going to matter, and they’re going to be demanding humans in some areas of the process.”
One new area that requires human intelligence is determining where humans tolerate technology, Burton said. Professionals who can tap into this psychology will determine how we automate things, and how to wrap technology in a way that is palatable to the consumer.
The business imperative for many companies is now end-to-end automation, said Rob Koplowitz, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester. “The guidepost is increasingly a customer journey, as opposed to an old-style process map,” Koplowitz said. “How do I create the most elegant, automated, seamless experience for customers? If I don’t, my competitor will.”
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However, offshoring and technology have traditionally removed jobs from the US, and created new, often higher-level jobs, Koplowitz said. It’s likely that even with more automation, development skills will continue to be in high demand. “Being able to understand coding will remain very relevant,” he added.
We need a lot of software to achieve high levels of automation, Koplowitz said. “While the application development world grows, and the programming world grows, these other forms of automating processes grow at a much faster rate,” he added.
Roles that are likely to be future-proof are those that involve coordinating people and projects, Koplowitz said. These include project managers, SCRUM masters, experience designers, and product managers. In the development world, UI developers, database administrators, application architects, data scientists and DevOps pros are growing dramatically, Koplowitz said.
Business leaders should embrace automation, Burton said. “Use the software and the artificial intelligence machine learning capabilities that are coming out to magnify human capabilities,” he said. “If we take away some of these more mundane tasks, what does that free up for humans to be doing?”