Product Manager, Developer Experience at InterSystems
Wow. What a year! With everything from a pandemic to an election, it’s hard to believe that 2020 is (finally) coming to an end and that we are looking ahead to what the next 12 months will bring. It’s no secret that in 2021 we will continue to see drastic changes to personal and work life as we know it, and it’s safe to say that the technology market will continue to change and evolve, as well as our definition of “normal” for work.
2020 brought not only COVID-19, but also in the US, the Black Lives Matter movement captured the attention of tech companies, many of whom pledged to make significant progress in improving diversity in the developer ranks. I’m looking forward to seeing how policies put in place in 2020 can bear fruit in the New Year.
From a developer perspective, we’re facing more challenges than ever before. Demand for innovation continues to increase, but agility and efficiency within development teams is being tested by our remote environments. Who knows what 2021 has in store, but after reflecting on the unexpected hurdles of 2020, here are my two cents on trends I believe will come to the forefront in the year ahead.
With the pandemic, IT teams have adopted new collaboration tools to enable efficient, flexible and fast workflows for agile innovation within distributed teams.
Coding is often a solitary practice, but there are also some vital collaborative aspects to it, which have become increasingly challenging due to remote work environments. In 2021, coding tools and practices will need to evolve to better support the remote developer workforce. Instead of being reactive to challenges that arise, technology providers will soon adopt a more proactive mindset as our new normal continues to shift. Microsoft is leading the way with Live Share in Visual Studio Code, which allows you to have conversations around your code, and GitLive is a tool I’m looking forward to trying out on a future project. I’m also curious to see how popular tools like CodePen and JSFiddle are used in enterprise settings.
The year of soft skill development
Most developers are not used to being on screen or video. For anyone, joining constant meetings and presentations on video can be a stressful way to present yourself and effectively communicate, and a skill that many developers didn't need to master pre-pandemic.
Now, everything from hiring and onboarding new developers, to collaborating and meeting with team members is done virtually. Moving into the New Year, developers will need to hone their soft skills, and fine-tune social, presentation, and communication skills.
If you’re looking to take your career to the next level, it would be wise to polish your online presentation skills. One popular recommendation in developer relations circles is to join your local Toastmasters chapter - it’s a great place to learn and practice away from the pressure (and judgement) of your day job. Speaking at a Meetup is another great way to work on your soft skills game.
Once you feel like you have the basics down, think about working on your storytelling skills. Whether you are trying to make a point in a meeting, selling an idea for a new feature to management, convincing your team to adopt a disruptive new approach, or launching a product in front of thousands of customers, you’re telling a story. And more often than not, the best story, not the best technical argument, wins. Since early human
history, we have been programmed to tell, and listen to stories. In fact, there’s an entire profession of consultants who will help you become a better storyteller.
Since COVID-19, there’s been general disappointment surrounding the utilization of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) and the impact they’ve had during such a critical time. This societal expectation of harnessing more of the power behind AI’s capabilities, coupled with a projected explosion of technology investment in the New Year, will place greater pressure on developers to truly master and leverage AI and ML.
In 2021, the next generation of developers will begin to arrive and bridge this gap. Based on the events and hackathons I’ve attended over the past year, I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the AL and ML talents of young developers and students. As they enter the workforce, I believe they will approach innovation and integration in an entirely new light. They already have the right fundamental knowledge in their back pocket to integrate into their tools and leverage for future projects.
While there’s no way to know for certain what the next 12 months will bring, it’s clear to me that we’re entering a new era of development and innovation. And as developers who will be driving this, we must continue to learn, evolve and collaborate together to meet whatever comes our way.
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