A new wave of technical work makes too many people feel confused and excluded

A new wave of technical work makes too many people feel confused and excluded

If you do not know your XaaS from your UX and UI, you are not alone – and that is a problem.

When I was a kid, I never told my parents, “When I grow up, I want to be a full-fledged Ruby on Rails developer.”

I also did not dream of being a Python engineer, UX designer, back-end architect or front-end lead.

There is a reason for this. These software jobs did not exist. There was no such thing as the internet, as we know it, nor the spectacular range of jobs like these that it has given rise to.

This is a matter of regret, given the benefits of this type of work.

On US job sites last week, salaries of up to $ 175,000 were offered to those who know that Python and Ruby are programming languages ​​for computers, and UX means user experience, as in the experience of using a website.

Equally abundant salaries were available to those who have become experts at the front-end of a website – what you see when you do online shopping – and back-end, the bit in the background that makes the website work.

There are other benefits. A person can build a self-sufficient business when they master these software skills. They can run it from their laptop on the beach in a comfortable place for remote work, along with other digital nomads.

As gratifying as all this is, there is something disturbing about the speed with which the online revolution has raised a new generation of workers who do jobs that form the basis of so much of modern life – but still confuse outsiders.

To begin with, what does a parent do when a teenager comes home and asks if it’s worth starting with Python technology? It would be a thing if parents had done such jobs themselves, but the young age of many technology workers makes this unlikely.

Career advice

A global survey of more than 30,000 software developers last year showed that 59 percent had not yet turned 30. No wonder research in England this year showed that parents of 11- to 18-year-olds feel overwhelmed by giving career advice. Nearly two-thirds of them had a child who had shown an interest in a career they knew nothing about, according to the career campaign Talking Futures, which commissioned the study.

The technology industry’s abysmal use of jargon does not help. It stops job hunters from seeking roles that employers are struggling to explain, separate British research from the technology company Babble showed last week.

Then there is a broader problem with the digitally excluded, people who plummet when they suddenly have to use an app to park their car, or a website to check their bank balance.

When my colleague Andrew Hill wrote in February about trying to help older relatives deal with online password requirements and downloaded documents from banks, insurance companies and pension brokers, he was overwhelmed by sympathetic messages of pity. The same thing happened last month when another journalist, Pete Paphides, wrote that his deceased father was fined for not being able to pay electronically.

That story got campaign manager Esther Rantzen to tell the BBC that “very often decisions are made by people in their forties who literally have no understanding that any older person should feel differently about the decision they make”.

Even younger, technically savvy people can get confused. “I’ve been frustrated with some mobile apps,” a 35-year-old American named Biron Clark told me last week.

He used to be a technical recruiter in New York but now runs his own website for job search advice, Career Sidekick – from Panama City. He does not believe that young software developers are necessarily obligated to make apps that annoy older users. As he says, their managers should make sure that online life is easy to navigate for everyone.

And after learning everything he needed to set up his website, Clark has words of encouragement for those who fear the digital revolution will leave too many people behind. “I feel nothing but positive about it,” he says. “There are just more opportunities each year for those who pay attention.”

I’m sure he’s right, but if everyone who took these opportunities paid more attention to the needs of all users and used languages ​​that everyone can understand, the inexorably online world would also be much better than it is today. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022

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