Nextech | Evolution of developer generations / Gabriel Lachmann, EEA

Generation Z is attracted to IT, even non-IT people. Millennials are open to new technologies, and boomers stay true to their programmer nature

I have been working in the information technology environment for half of my life, so I have met many generations of developers at work. They are boomers, approaching retirement age, who raised me. My generation X, which in the Czech Republic and Slovakia is also called Husák’s children. Millennials, that is, people in their thirties from Generation Y. And the newly emerging Generation Z, who practically grew up on the Internet. IN
how do the worlds in IT intersect between generations and how do they differ?

My first memory of early days as a programmer shortly after the revolution is a bit different from young programmers today, especially in terms of job opportunities and market competition. The IT market was significantly undersized in my era. At the time when my generation of programmers was coming up, technology companies were just starting to build a stable name in Slovakia. Therefore, they were willing to invest time in young people and educate them. It cannot be said that the previous generation was not used to onboarding. However, they were not sophisticated programs as we know them today. Regularly, one of the seniors sat us down and we went over some topic in detail. They showed us the basic functioning of databases, the use of Java technologies, and we had room to learn as we went.

The entry into the projects was relatively dynamic, similar to the present. Integrating into individual teams and working on real projects came quickly. As the next generation of programmers, we started after school. Almost everyone in my neighborhood joined one of the start-up companies from the second or third grade. As he settled in, he was drawn into individual teams. We were thrown into the water and had to learn to work with new technologies. On many projects, despite our young age, we came as innovators compared to the older methods that were used. We brought a new wave of ideas on the delivery of real products.

Boomers vs Millennials

When it comes to technological equipment between generations, I really see a difference in the possibilities brought by the information revolution. My generation was educated from the ground up. We learned to work with the source code of the processor, basic programming languages ​​and use of hardware. Therefore, a large number of my peers today work as full stack developers – that is, they have an overview of a wide range of technologies and are able to intervene on any layer of systems.

There has been a big change in this area over the past twenty years. This is also confirmed by one of my millennial programmer colleagues, with whom I recently discussed this topic. He highlighted our rather spartan upbringing, when we really had to push ourselves against them in the IT field. Even though the spectrum of possibilities and technologies was smaller, development was considerably more demanding, he said. He admitted that he was a little envious of our way of solving problems because we were raised to study technology comprehensively. He perceives the difference mainly in easier access to the necessary information nowadays. While today, with a few clicks, programmers visit programming platforms on the fly when they don’t know what to do, we discovered breakthrough technologies based on personal preferences or moved codes between us, which is unimaginable for them today. Although they have a much wider range of possibilities, there is no need to delve deeper into the technologies, as a search engine or development platform often does the hard work for them.

In addition, due to the automation of programming tools, today’s career in IT also leads to greater specialization of individual roles. The standardization of processes has changed, which in the meantime brought room for a change in the entire project management. This opened the door to the world of IT for non-IT people, who began to appear in projects as project managers, quality managers, testers and data analysts. Thus, with the entry of millennials and GenZ into these professions, the IT world has expanded to include a portfolio of people who are not primarily programmers, but who focus on management and quality processes. Many of our new colleagues at EEA retrained for these new positions from various other fields – from opera singing to the banking sector to film directing.

GenZ is attracted by data analysis

Among the attractive fields of the youngest generation today is also data analysis. Data is modern oil, and the trend is a business mantra based on the so-called data driven decision making. Data science is progressing due to digitization and companies are investing more and more of their resources in it. In the past, data was used exclusively within companies, but today a large number of organizations use the entire third-party data ecosystem. A key innovation is also the managerial perspective on working with data and forecasts. The manager of the future will not passively consume the results of finished reports, but will actively work with modern tools and model and make decisions based on his own analyses. Young people leaving school want to develop in data analysis, because it is a future career trend. Excel and databases were enough for my generation, the next generation will take for granted Business Intelligence tools with the support of applied statistics and machine learning.

Developers, like us, enter the professional IT world already at student age. In this regard, the trend has not changed and, as in the case of my generation, students who are deciding on their future career come to our company. Juniors often reach a very high level in a short time. It also happens that the role does not suit them and we look for another implementation for them. It’s all about the right setup and managing expectations.

During conversations with newcomers and juniors, I often meet with enthusiasm and perceive the huge advantage of the young generation, that they easily learn new things and adapt to new technologies, of which there are a huge number today. Young people are actively interested in them and discover new trends, languages ​​and build community in various forums and conferences. One of my youngest colleagues in the PHP developer position admits that his “technophobia” and urge to try every new buzzword can be a disadvantage at times. On the other hand, even our established ways of programming sometimes seem conservative to him. This intergenerational tension can be a source for a two-way shift, but it is necessary to perceive otherness as an opportunity.

The future of IT careers is hybridization

That is why I see a natural shift of the incoming generation, especially in combined fields. This trend is starting to show at foreign universities, where hybrid educational programs combining computer science with economics or chemistry are opening. This does not mean that economists are learning programming languages, but the change is in the way of working with information tools. A field of study that uses mathematical, statistical principles or machine learning can prepare a top specialist for the current market. With the advent of cloud platforms, less attention will be paid to software development, and more and more professions will be involved in tasks that do not require primarily developer experience. Programmers will probably not decrease in the future, but the IT sector will involve a lot of people of different profiles and the ratios between roles will change significantly. Every career idea created in your twenties can simply change over time, not only time and technology change, but also the individual priorities and lifestyle of me and my colleagues, so you have to be open to this dynamic of change.

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