On software developers and building the virtual world: Q&A with Derivco software developer, Rodney Pillay

From financial investments, to the phones we use, and even our social interactions – much of our world is managed by computer systems, and this all starts with software development. TechInc’s Rodney Pillay, from Derivco, shares his views on the software developer industry.

Q: Why is the term “if you can dream it, we can code it” so apt for software developers?

A: Software Development is possibly the only industry where you can take a dream and easily make it a reality by yourself with just a computer and an internet connection. If anyone has coding skills, that person can affect the lives of millions with an idea that they themselves can implement. This relatively low barrier to making a dream a reality is the reason that software developers identify with the phrase that if you can dream it, you can code it.

From the way we live our lives, to our financial investments, and most importantly our social interactions, much of our world is managed by computer systems, and this all starts with coding. Therefore, if you can dream or think of a way to do something simpler, or more efficiently, then there’s someone out there sitting behind a computer screen that can make it a reality. This is why having access to a computer and data is so important, and in SA the challenge is to keep the costs of these down in order for people to turn these dreams into a reality. Access to free internet is very close to being a basic necessity and will enable more people to implement their dreams and change lives around the world.

Q: The industry has grown in leaps and bounds over the decades. Where is the industry headed, and what types of technologies are expected to change the way we live?

A: With technology changing every day, it’s hard to predict or forecast where we are headed. Blockchain technologies will grow as a means to ensure validity of things, and will help with legal, compliance and regulatory requirements. An example will be Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA) requirements, where we currently must provide proof of identity documentation to a host of service providers.

There are a host of other things that will change the way we live such as mixed reality where the real and virtual worlds merge, self-driving cars, actual robots, embedded chips implanted in human skin, and nanobots for medical reasons.

Q: A common term we hear is the fourth industrial revolution. Is software development the basis for this revolution and how?

A: Software development is a key enabler of the fourth industrial revolution. When we think about the fast pace of improvements in the Internet of Things, 3D printing, robotics (drones), autonomous vehicles, quantum computing, nanotechnology, and embedded chips in humans, software is integral to all these solutions. This revolution is going to have a huge impact on the type of work available, how this work is done and remuneration for work done.

This improvement in technology could remove the need for human interactions while getting most types of work done. We’ve seen this through the other three industrial revolutions, where automation causes the loss of jobs, but creates new types of jobs that right now most of us can’t imagine. We can predict certain things with regards to job creation, because the more robotic processes we introduce, the more there is a need for maintaining those robotic processes. I believe we can safely say that people who transition into software developer roles will have a more secure career trajectory. At the same time, we should acknowledge that we may develop robotic processes for fixing robotic processes which means that we may need fewer developers to maintain some master set of code. It truly is a mind-twist to try and comprehend about how and what the work force will look like in a few years’ time.

Q: Learning to code through part time courses is growing, and studies show that one out of four programmers are self-taught. Should coding become a mandatory subject at primary school, and can it be done without access to a computer or a phone?

A: Coding is becoming more relevant in all industries. Everyone has a need to at least manage some data and extract and analyse information. Whether its people doing macros in Excel or building major enterprise systems, there is a need for coding skills. With our world being filled with hardware and software, I think that we should not stop at coding being mandatory in primary schools. I think we should introduce electronics early in the primary school curriculum. It’s not just software that has become easily accessible, hardware is becoming cheaper with more capabilities.

You can now spend a few dollars and get a chip with integrated wireless features that you could connect to a cloud service and get a feature implemented in a very short time span. I don’t think that teaching and learning can be done without computers and the internet, these need to be part of the basic features of a modern classroom. Education in general must transition from what we have, to accepting that knowledge is available within seconds on the internet. We can argue that books have served the same purpose as the internet, but new information is added so much quicker now, thanks to the internet.

Q: As technology grows to become an integral part of many businesses, even in those with no direct IT specialisation, how will learning to code and choosing a career in the tech world become one of the avenues in creating more job opportunities?

A: It’s a tough prediction to make when it comes to creating job opportunities when we consider adding technology to any industry. We could face job losses and we could need more software developers, or hardware technicians to manage machines. I can say that choosing a career in tech right now, keeps you relevant for a longer time. Most companies are hiring on attitude, potential and pace of learning new skills. I believe that the future work force will be made up of those who can transform their skill-set over the shortest possible period.