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Don’t rush to coding jobs to face obsolescence

I was a teenage coder in the 1970s, and learned BASIC, COBOL and Fortran, and of course, embraced a whole slew of other languages along the way until today. But I did not ever envisage a career in coding. When I faced the worst recession in 1980s, I was hoping for a job in chemistry. But a laboratory job with a quasi-government lab ended my interest, and I went on to pursue a career in marketing, business development and consulting. That direction paid off, even today, and will easily carry me forward to retirement. I always had the knack of foresight, thankfully.

In the last decade, there were many young people who flocked to hospitality and marketing programs at colleges, only to face a glut in the market with few jobs. I knew an elegant lady who studied her Masters here, and worked in hospitality here, and lost her job. She eventually got certified as a personal trainer and moved to North Asia. She is happy today.

Likewise, we are seeing many young people flocking to learn coding and cybersecurity believing in a future of assured jobs and big money. Alas, that is not going to look pretty down the road.

As with any job that becomes obsolete over time, they share some fundamental characteristics:

  • repetitive
  • common
  • can be automated
  • price sensitive
  • inefficient

So, right now, jobs that fill the above criteria are quickly replaced by automation or cheaper workers elsewhere, including administrators, data entry, accounting and auditing, assembly and manufacturing, customer service (including “relationship management”), middle management, inventory control, financial analysis, insurance, etc.

As of now, jobs that still attract new entrants include AI/ML, coding, cybersecurity, data analytics, fintech, and digital transformation.

BUT, time is fleeting fast, often seemingly faster than we think. Some of the current “hot” jobs will lose their shine fast, even if you may not believe it.

So, the likes of coding, cybersecurity, analytics, fintech, digital transformation, and even AI/ML, will start to fade soon within the next decade, or sooner.

Do you seriously want to be a “code farmer”?

In China and Taiwan, we call coders “碼農”, loosely translated to “code farmers”. If you have observed the farming industry in America, you would know that traditional small farming businesses were supplanted by giants, and most fell away to join other trades. Farming is hard work, repetitive, common, price sensitive, inefficient, and yes, can be automated, just like those jobs that can become obsolete, and they did.

Likewise, the Chinese recognize the nature of coding way back, and equate it to farming and hard labor. The Chinese don’t see any “glamor” in it. If you see their wisdom, you would recognize coding and other currently “hot” jobs to face some of the same challenges for obsolete jobs quite soon, and therefore, can become obsolete over time.

No Code or Low Code movements are gaining ground, providing modularized capabilities on demand, given that computational power on smart mobile devices, portables, desktops, and servers, have become incredibly powerful enough to ignore code inefficiencies. There are also many Open Source Software (OSS) code libraries and modules that are readily and often adopted by big and small organizations alike, again reducing the need for in-house coding. Coders are now found anywhere in the world where there is broadband bandwidth and computing capabilities, and so they are common, and are price sensitive.

In the next decade onwards

I predict within the next decade or so, you will see a large chunk of common coders replaced by automation and good low/no code platforms, orchestrated by good architects. There will still be needs for sporadic but much smaller portions of code, but these will be scavenged by the lowest bidders by then, and not something “ivory tower stock options” coders of today will be able to compete with. So, just as middle managers of today are slowly displaced, coders of today will be displaced tomorrow. Likewise, many of the “hot” IT-related jobs, including the likes of cybersecurity, will be supplanted by automation and more streamlined hardware and software, reducing the need for low to mid-level jobbers.

Then, what kinds of jobs will remain? First, look at the criteria for an obsolete job.

Next, think, what is the premise of a business? Yes, to make money. If YOU can help a business MAKE money, then your job is secure. I leave the rest of the meditation and enrichment to you to fulfill. You have about 10 years, or less, to secure the next 50 or more years of your career.