Lightbulb growing from a plant being water

Growing the Software Community

There is a saying that is growing in popularity in business: "every company is a software company".  If salaries and job opportunities are a good gauge for the truth of this statement, then it is indeed true.  Infact the 10 jobs with the greatest expected salary gains are all related to software development and computer science. As a result enrollment is also up significantly for Computer Science degrees, but this will not be enough to sate the industries demand.  This means that growing the software field provides a huge opportunity to grow the middle class in our nation which is facing wage stagnation across most other industries.  

To truly grow the software community and to unlock this amazing employment opportunities the industry must accomplish three main things:

  1. Demystify Software
  2. Improve Diversity
  3. Create More Entry-Level Positions

1. Demystify Software

Software is not magic.  It is no different from accounting or being an auto-mechanic.  There are certainly people who are predisposed to all of these jobs, but anyone can learn to program in the same way that anyone can learn accounting or how to work on cars.  This mindshift is fundamental and there is huge resistance to the concept both inside and outside of the industry, so I will repeat myself: anyone can learn to program.

2. Improve Diversity

While there are certainly some very compelling moral reasons for improving diversity and there is evidence that diverse groups make better decisions than homogenous ones, my argument here is purely about the numbers.  Our industry is most broadly made up of, and the most welcoming to white or asian males with college degrees between the ages of 29 to 39.  Looking at the demography of the United States and the total population of around 300 million people, that's about 2.75% of the total population and roughly 23% of the employable work force:

23% male + white or asian + 29-39 + college degree

Starting number: 8.5 million people
+50% correct gender gap
+60% allow non-college grads
+31% racial/ethnic inclusion
+29% age-based inclusion
---------------------------
36.5 million people

All in, that's a potential increase of more than 300% to the potential employment pool.

3. Create More Entry-Level Positions

Perhaps the most practical change to make, is the creation of more entry-level positions.  The friendliest workplace to under represented people will not matter if there are no entry-level jobs.  Based on our experience and my observations, it takes about between 3 to 5 years for someone to ramp up from zero (computer literacy) to staff-level programmer.  That means we need to create an environment where people can ramp in, while still allowing employers to see a profit.  I believe that any software company can provide 3 entry-level positions per year for every 5 developers they employ.  For us as a 50 person company, we're providing 30 entries to the industry per year.  I believe the key is to provide a foot in the door, and allow the industry at large to fill in the gaps.

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Comments

> anyone can learn to program

Well, that's kinda like saying anyone can be a writer. Sure that's true, but not everyone who can write can do so as a career.

Though I agree that there are opportunities in and around software and computers for people of all skillsets/talents/abilities.

I'm also in total agreement about the large biases in the industry and that we need to make conscious changes to the structure of how we train and hire in order to make meaningful changes.

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About the Author

Joaquin Lippincott, CEO

Joaquin is a 20+ year technology veteran helping to lead businesses in the move to the Cloud. He frequently speaks on panels about the future of tech ranging from IoT and Machine Learning to the latest innovation in the entertainment industry.  He has helped to modernize software for industry leaders like Sony, Daimler, Intel, the Golden Globes, Siemens Wind Power, ABC, NBC, DC Comics, Warner Brothers & the Linux Foundation.

As the CEO and Founder of Metal Toad, an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner, his primary job is to "get the right people in the room".  This one responsibility is cross-functional and includes both external business development functions as well as internal delegation and leadership development.

A UCLA alumni, he also serves in the community as a Board Member for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, and Stand for Children Oregon - a public education political advocacy group. As an outspoken advocate for entry-level job creation in tech he helped found the non-profit, P4TH, an organization dedicated to increasing the number of entry-level jobs in the tech industry, and is in the process of organizing an Advisory Board for the Bixel Exchange, a Los Angeles non-profit that provides almost 200 tech internships every year.

 

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