What Does the Tech Industry Really Think About National Coding Week 2021?

Eight experts give their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities around National Coding Week.

According to latest research from World Skills UK, 76% of businesses think that a lack of digital skills will damage their bottom lines, while 88% of young people understand that they will be essential for their careers. 

This was reflected in this years’ A-Level results, which certainly saw a record number of students taking up Computer Science – but the fact that the subject is still far more popular with boys than girls, also suggests that the technology industry has more to do to open up routes for all.  

This year’s National Coding Week (13-19 September) offers us a great opportunity to reflect on the importance of digital skills in the tech industry, how organisations can encourage existing developers to upskill, as well as how the industry can encourage a more diverse talent pipeline into coding. 

We talked to some industry experts for their thoughts:  

The Field of Coding is Changing

Coding is still a highly sought-after skill in today’s markets. According to Kara Sprague, EVP and GM of BIG-IP at F5: “The influence of coding continues to disrupt and transform all industries.”  

And while new innovations will also impact how developers work in future, this will not diminish the importance of digital skills and ability to code. As Sean Farrington, EVP EMEA, Pluralsight, comments: “Despite the rise of low and no-code application development in recent years, coding skills remain critical for businesses…. Even legacy languages which may be deemed out of date by many are still useful to learn.” 

Additionally, James McLeod, VP EMEA at Faethm, notes: “AI won’t ever become a direct replacement for coders – after all, we’ll still need programmers to write the very programs that will then write code! That said, businesses should recognise where it can streamline their operations, and look to proactively transition coders and programmers into roles where human elements will be needed in the future, whether that’s to manage these models, or moderate the code they produce.”  

Interestingly, the importance of digital skills goes beyond the most technical roles too. Andrea Nagel, Manager, Application Services at VMware Tanzu, highlights: “There are many varied roles in tech these days that don’t require coding skills. However, gaining an exposure to coding, even at a basic or foundational level, is really useful for anyone working in software or product, even if you’re not directly coding yourself. For me, it has given me a greater understanding and empathy with the technical team members I work with.”    

Adopting a Mindset of Continuous Learning  

For those who are just starting out, Matthew Strawbridge, Head of Automotive Engineering at Secondmind, advises: “My tip would be to pick a simple problem that you’d like to solve using a computer, perhaps relating to one of your hobbies, and then learn as you go, trying to create a program to help you. Start with the simplest idea for a program that will be useful to you and take it from there”. 

There’s also a wealth of learning opportunities for more experienced coders. David Huntley, Technical Lead at Distributed, points out: “National Coding Week is a great opportunity to encourage people to learn developer skills for the first time. But given the pace of digital change and the number of coders still learning the discipline, it is also crucial to promote the benefits of upskilling professional developers of all experience levels.” 

Pluralsight’s Sean Farrington suggests: “Having a platform in place that allows users to dip in when they need to learn a particular skill can help to complete tasks efficiently, without the overwhelming challenge of having to learn a whole new language from scratch.” 

Building a Diverse Talent Stream  

The continued demand for digital skills reflects an ongoing talent shortage in the sector too. Ursula Morgenstern, President, Global Growth Markets at Cognizant, is an advocate for tackling this, commenting: “You need only Google ‘software engineer’ or ‘developer’ to see thousands of roles available and unfilled in the UK. This talent shortage will continue to create challenges for organisations, but also opportunities to think differently about how they manage, recruit and retain staff. Coding is the crucial baseline for many of these jobs, which should in theory broaden talent pools given its accessibility.” 

Distributed’s David Huntley suggests freelance developers could pave the way: “Many developers are turning to freelance work to learn new skills, given the range of projects this working model gives them access to and the opportunity to work with other professionals in the space to cross-pollinate expertise.” 

The skills shortage could also open doors for young people to get into the industry too. Geoff Smith, CEO at Grayce, concludes: “This year’s National Coding Week has arguably never been more timely or important, as it highlights a growing need for coding talent, with the demand for digital services and apps at an all-time high. If we’re to close the digital skills gap across the UK, it’s absolutely critical that we can inspire more young people to consider coding as a viable career path and equip the next generation of talent with the necessary toolkit for the modern world of work.”

Insight from eight experts working across technology companies in software development, AI, public sector IT, data analytics and cybersecurity.

With considerable combined experience, the contributors include, Kara Sprague, EVP and GM of BIG-IP at F5; Sean Farrington, EVP EMEA, Pluralsight; James McLeod, VP EMEA at Faethm; Andrea Nagel, Manager, Application Services at VMware Tanzu; Matthew Strawbridge, Head of Automotive Engineering at Secondmind; David Huntley, Technical Lead at Distributed; Ursula Morgenstern, President, Global Growth Markets at Cognizant; Geoff Smith, CEO at Grayce.

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