Beneath the Surface – the New Breed of Software Developer


Beneath the Surface – the New Breed of Software Developer

A recent piece of research from software intelligence company CAST spoke about a desperate shortage of skilled software developers in the modern candidate talent pool.

The consequences of such a shortage can, the research explains, be disastrous. Not having a sufficiently experienced development team can result in gaps in software security which if not found and plugged quickly can lead to cases like the recent Equifax scandal. Equifax were fined £500,000 by the ICO for failing to adequately secure the data of their 15 million customers. CAST’s research blamed the flaws in Equifax’s architecture on a lack of adequate developers, which CAST claims to be a problem across a wide variety of industries.

It’s not exactly difficult to see why – with the world becoming more and more tech-centric every single day, it only stands to reason that more and more of the jobs on offer are going to require a solid understanding of coding and programming.

To say that there is a shortage of technical talent is, I believe, slightly misleading. It would be more accurate to say that there is a surplus of requirement. Research conducted by CompTIA showed that in Q4 of 2017, there were 290,000 postings for IT jobs. This made up 13% of all jobs posted that quarter and represented a 14% increase from Q4 of 2016. The number of total IT workers in the UK increased in 2017 to an estimated total of 1.23 million.

From a recruitment perspective, this seems great for business, but it can be easy to become discouraged when actually trying to find the perfect candidates to fill all of these roles. While I don’t pretend to have all the answers, I believe at least some of the fault lies within the education system. Learning Java, C++ and Python was never presented as an option while I was at school. Those with some sort of strange innate desire to learn coding languages (like myself) either had to pursue this interest outside of school (with very few adequate resources existing to enable this) or simply had to wait until university. Given how important these skills would turn out to be for my fellow ‘millennials’, it seems in retrospect to be a bit of an oversight on someone’s part that Computer Science was not – and still is not – given the same precedence in education as some other subjects. The future, it would seem, is very much upon us, and, as CAST would have us believe, we may not entirely be ready for it.

The good news, however, is that just like traditional languages, it is entirely possible nowadays to learn to speak Java, C++ and Python (and all the various others) in one’s spare time, without spending huge amounts of money. Contrary to the lack of good, accessible and affordable resources available when I was growing up, the number of low-cost or free online courses in coding and programming has risen dramatically in the last 12 months alone – and so has the number of people using them. Sites like GitHub, edX and CodeAcademy were all created specifically to address this supposed generational knowledge gap by providing candidates without computer science backgrounds with the opportunity to develop new and essential skills for the modern working world. There has also been a massive rise in the popularity of so-called ‘coding bootcamps’ – intensive programs – many of which are exclusively online – aimed at those without prior experience.

These initiatives appear to have been extremely well-received – according to a 2017 survey by CodeAcademy, 35% of coders said that online courses were their primary method for learning, with 50% never having taken a university course in coding. What’s more, it appears that companies are starting to recognise the legitimacy of these resources when deciding on new hires. A recent survey by Indeed found that a substantial 72% of employers consider ‘bootcamp’ graduates to be ‘just as prepared’ to be high performers as degree holders, with 99.8% of hiring managers who hired a coding bootcamp graduate said they would be happy to do so again.

For recruiters, this expands the potential candidate pool like never before. The ideal candidate for a software developer role may no longer be the stereotypical Computer Science graduate – the availability (and the quality) of modern coding courses has opened the doors to a plethora of new candidates. Engineers, mathematicians, physicists – even people without STEM degrees or with no degree at all have the option to take it upon themselves to learn coding languages, and through intelligence and hard work develop their skills to a level where they may rival even the best and brightest Computer Science graduates. Better still, any candidate who has taken on the difficult task of learning to code in their spare time comes with a sure-fire guarantee that they are hard-working, driven, and willing and able to learn new skills through their own initiative. Furthermore, this new and enlarged talent pool brings with it a greater variety of people, all with their own different personality types, working methods, ideas and skills. For a recruiter brave enough to enter these new but still somewhat murky waters, the potential to put together exciting teams full of bright, self-motivated people – who not so long ago may not have even been available for consideration – is colossal.

Some of us – understandably so – may become nervous at the idea of putting their faith in a software development candidate without a formal Computer Science degree background or equivalent. Of course, no recruiter wants to put forward a candidate for a position for which they are not suited. But the fact is that a candidate’s degree doesn’t tell their whole story – in many cases, it may fail to even tell a small part of it. As Saragossa’s own Rory Gaston recently explained, it is a recruiter’s responsibility to ask questions, to fully know their candidate, and to ascertain without a shadow of a doubt what their skills and competencies are – university-acquired or not.

The need for skilled developers is, indeed, increasing rapidly, with no sign of this increase slowing down any time soon. However, rather than viewing this as a cause for alarm and fixating on what at first glance appears to be a shortage of candidates, recruiters need to respond by becoming more proactive and open minded, broadening their search criteria in order to take into account the realities of the modern world. The talent pool is not shrinking, it is growing, and recruiters able to look a little deeper will find that the rewards for doing so are substantial.

Saragossa are a talent provider specialising in the Financial Technology, Financial Operations and Data Science sectors. Our role is to match clients with high calibre candidates. Our work encompasses filling temporary contracts along with building permanent teams and resourcing projects. To find out more, please contact or call 020 7871 3666.

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