Charred stumps remaining from a slash and burn operation

Software is a slash and burn industry

Any industry that wants to be sustainable must think long term. In the timber industry they need to worry about the future availability of trees, for fisheries they need to think about fish - you get the point. If any industry does not pay attention to replenishing the font of its raw materials, this is an industry that is setting itself up for major problems. Don't replant trees or don't allow fisheries time to replenish themselves and things are going to end badly. 

Seen through this lens, the software industry is a slash-and-burn operation. 

The only real raw material in software is developer experience, and the fast pace of the modern day software industry means that most companies are relentlessly focused on producing as quickly as possible to the exclusion of everything else. This includes ignoring the need to nurture new talent. No workers available at a reasonable salary? No problem, we'll pay more to steal them from the company next door. The trouble with this approach is that every other company is doing the same, creating the conditions that have created the out of control wage growth seen in the tech industry. On the surface these gains look like a positive outcome for workers but there are three larger systematic problems for the communities they live in.

First, because the wage increases are isolated in a particular industry, other professions who aren't providing services to tech workers are priced out, primarily via increased real estate prices. The Bay Area provides the perfect examples of this being played out over time, with Seattle and Portland racing toward the same outcome.

The second issue with rampant and isolated wage growth is that innovation itself suffers. Simply put, it gets priced out. Some business models might thrive given an assumption of a $60K programmer salary, but become untenable with salaries approaching $200K. In fact there are very few business models that are viable at the highest end of the salary spectrum. And because companies are increasingly competing for a small group of already experienced programmers, this causes a further constriction on the number of jobs available in the broader community and even within software itself.

The third and perhaps the most insidious problem with the software industry is our propensity for killing jobs. We call it progress, automation or disruption, but there are more and more industries that we are poised to punch in the gut - all in the name of a better tomorrow.

All of this together means that the software industry has both a moral obligation and a business imperative to train new programmers. If we don't create more new jobs, not only we will be causing the unemployment of millions (yes, millions) of people but we will eventually be the authors of our own industries demise, where we struggle to fill jobs that require experience that doesn't exist in the workforce of tomorrow.

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Comments

Provoking expansion of resource sustainability concept! Like where you're going with this. Perhaps the issue is tied to the turnover/lifespan of the average software company - too short to consider long term sustainability planning. Unlike an industrial forest management company who forecasts and plans for 30/60/120 year cycles... or a forward-thinking climate policy that's looking at changes over many decades. How do you get a quick growing ever turning over industry like tech to consider longer range forecasting? Is it perhaps influence from an entity separate from the companies themselves?

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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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