The roles and skills of the developer PyCon 2023


The past four decades have seen a dramatic shift in the role of software developers, allowing them to rise from the niche of mere computer enthusiasts in the 70s to defining positions in a significant part of SMEs around the world today. Having entered this field three decades ago, our CTO Robert Hoffmann witnessed this shift first-hand. Last month, he leaned into his experience and shared some insights on this progression during his presentation at PyCon LT 2023, highlighting the skills and technical tools that will shape the roles of IT professionals in the near future.

According to Robert, both the role of IT professionals and the nature of projects that IT departments deal with is radically different if you compare modern industry giants (such as Facebook or Google) and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises). His presentation focused on the latter, covering the progression in terms of legal implications, work principles, responsibilities, and technical tools/knowledge involved in the work process.

Thinking along the lines of creativity and development in the strict sense of the word, Robert noted an upwards shift of where value is delivered, pointing out that during the 70s and 80s programmers were forced to “reinvent the wheel” - purely because there were no firmly established tools, libraries and programs to the same extent that we have today. In other words, there was no one right way to do things. Back then, the industry wasn’t taking them seriously, either: even as far along as in the early 90s, IT specialists were seen as “handling elaborate typewriters”. But everything changed when the internet became widely accessible – all of a sudden people from all around the world could easily exchange and access information. The role of IT underwent a major shift as well: it became recognized as part of the business process infrastructure. It was around this time that third-party tools became widely accessible for implementation, too.

This sudden shift was very much two-sided. On the one hand, it opened up endless opportunities in terms of obtaining and integrating ready-made tools, but on the other hand, it also raised serious concerns about data privacy, copyright, and the accountability of those who were producing these tools. That’s where regulatory authorities stepped in, turning the entire industry upside down yet again.

Today, legal requirements and risk management are some of the leading principles in software development. To SMEs, it translates to an overarching need to rely on tried and tested tools that readily match those requirements, or at least support their implementation. In turn, IT specialists are no longer expected to “invent” – their main responsibility is to orchestrate and integrate tools that, in sum, serve a pre-defined purpose. In terms of the skills and knowledge that IT specialists are expected to have, then, the ability to read, understand, and comply with legal requirements for IT is quickly becoming a top priority.

Alongside that, Robert also stressed the weight of formal education in this field. “As the field becomes more saturated and competitive, having an in-depth understanding of the theory behind development and design will become a key requirement for building a successful career,” Robert notes.

For a full review of the progression of IT roles over the past four decades and a more comprehensive list of skills and knowledge necessary for building a future-proof skill set for a career in IT, watch the full recording of Robert’s presentation here: