The Software Developer Conundrum

June 4, 2014

Volano has written about the disproportionate male to female ratio in software developers. We have also been in the trenches with our Omaha brethren when looking for technical talent when demand far exceeds supply. This is why we are encouraged by the advent of code schools and the increased awareness that ignoring this problem is tantamount to sending businesses elsewhere. Today we wanted to take a deeper look at who we’re talking about. Who are these elusive web application alchemists that are in such demand. How do we increase the talent pool in Omaha?

The Prototypical Software Developer

Software developers are a unique breed. For the sake of simplicity, it’s best to lump them into generic categories and convenient stereotypes. Javaworld and Web Designer Depot have done this well. I particularly like the “code poet,” “insecure evangelist” and “developer diva.” In all seriousness, true coders and scientists and artists. They tend to be literally minded, detail-oriented, intelligent, logical and in most of the developers I know, passionate about their craft. Statistically they tend to be in their mid to upper 30’s (the number has been dropping however), male with mortgages and kids and are, against conventional wisdom, much more extroverted than the caricature would suggest. I’ve worked with computer programmers in Omaha and in Silicon Valley and I can say with some certainly that I envy the way that the good ones seemed to have married their passion with their profession. They are cognizant of the labels that follow them in their profession which is a wonderful paradox, given the assumption that software people lack self-awareness.

I know many of these people who should have gotten into software development and did not. Factors such as the prohibitive cost of a 3-4 year computer science degree or the simply lack of exposure have undermined the talent pool. It appears this is changing slowly as coding is being recognized in some schools as an elective or core curriculum and it should be. Coding, like mathematics, helps develop logical thinking and problem solving skills. A friend of mine who consults with the faculty at a Midwestern college recently told me that he believes the higher education model is due for for a correction soon. Technology has fundamentally changed way we receive information and learn. Businesses are also realizing the need for people who have technical skill and business savvy. Working in groups, doing actual client software development work and total immersion have made it hard to justify paying tens of thousands to a traditional University for a 3 year degree. Hopefully these changes will continue.

 How to Get More Females into Software Development

Increasing the talent pool of software developers in Omaha has to start with tapping into the other 50% of the community workforce; females. This week the New York Times blogger Nitasha Tiku brought a female perspective to this issue in her technology blog “How to Get Girls Into Coding.” She notes that less than 1% of girls entering college intend to major in computer science and that in 2013, women made up a paltry 14% of all computer science grads. Tiku offers a unique solution through gaming. Omaha Code School managed to solicit scholarship dollars from local companies such as GitHub for aspiring female developers as well. These efforts both increase the talent pool locally but also address the numbers. Though many professions are not gender proportionate, writing code for a living is a job that can be easy on the schedules of parents and are typically well-paying careers, especially as you gain experience.