The 2020s are shaping up to be the most digitally intensive period of the 21st century, especially now the pandemic has ushered in a global-wide digital transformation almost overnight. However, there aren’t enough skilled developers and engineers to meet this demand. According to ZDNet’s article on developers’ skills, many companies are turning to low-code or no-code platforms to build their products and services — simply because there aren’t enough professional developers to handle the workloads.
It’s a good time for existing programmers to leverage their capabilities. As we discussed in our feature article called ‘Learn to Code or Learn to Program’, research shows it takes roughly a decade to convert a newbie into an expert coder, and many companies can’t afford to wait for new graduates. This means that existing programmers must upskill and reskill so they can play a broad range of roles. Here are four steps to help you upskill new programmers:
Identify skills needed now and later
The first thing to do is to identify the skills essential to your organization’s current and future success. Look at aging systems on their way out, anticipate likely future needs, and weigh everything against your existing know-how. We’re already seeing plenty of next generation technologies emerge, so be sure to focus on those. Artificial intelligence (AI) skills, for instance, are growing in demand across all industry sectors.
A VoxEU article on AI skills in the labor market, discusses how jobs requiring AI skills command an 11% wage premium versus similar jobs that don’t. Aside from technical skills, it’s good to consider practical, transferable knowledge as well. From competencies like business acumen and design-thinking, to soft skills like communication and collaboration, you should develop everything through personal experience to become a well-rounded programmer.
Ask for your organization’s support
Linear career paths are no longer relevant in industries that require you to be multifaceted and flexible. Companies that were traditionally not dependent on web development have increasingly tapped into the technology landscape, and many programmers recognize this challenge. According to an LHH poll on employee upskilling, a staggering 89% of respondents said they were planning to upskill this year to be better prepared for their future roles. It’s important, then, to ask for support from your company or boss — because an employee who can upskill will be a valuable asset to the business. Find out what your company’s policies are towards employee education, and try to prepare a case on how upskilling and career advancement will help support your company’s business objectives. This growth mindset will ensure you and your organization are equipped to handle any industry disruptions.
Join bootcamps and online coding courses
Once you get the go-signal from your employers, encourage upskilling existing developers in tandem with new hires, so they can join in learning opportunities as well. Online courses across educational sites cover necessary skills and programming languages, while coding bootcamps usually offer more in-depth training. These may, however, range in quality, so set realistic expectations. TechRepublic’s insights on coding bootcamps reveal that almost 34,000 students attended one of 105 bootcamps in 2019, but many weren’t taught what they needed to keep up with the nuanced and varied field of software development. It’s necessary for all employees to further education with hands-on experience and practice. Exploring self-learning through countless resources like YouTube videos, online tutorials, and books can be extremely valuable, too.
Find on-the-job learning opportunities
After learning something new, it’s ideal to have low-cost learning opportunities for developers — which usually happens on-the-job. These dynamic opportunities allow programmers to master additional skills quickly through peer connections and 360-degree feedback. Group activities like hackathons or innovation labs can also mix new hires and old employees with various experiences, so they can exchange knowledge and ideas. Dedicating some time during the work week for cross-functional activities such as master classes, coaching and mentoring programs, or proof-of-concept projects for new technologies, will also help teams find gaps in their knowledge and work towards improvement.