ike many who started their coding journey with C, “Hello World” was my first C program. It was fun learning the nuances of the language and navigating through “structure & pointers” to create programs of value. Looking back, what has evolved since then in the world of computers is breathtaking by any measure. My journey through Shell programming, YACC (yet another compiler-compiler!) and Lex on UNIX, the callback functions of Microsoft Windows or the Datawindows of Power Builder were all exhilarating. However, the pace of change in today’s digital world has no comparison. What is common though is the need to upskill continuously to stay professionally relevant.
While COVID-19 has undoubtedly disrupted the economy, it has also accelerated the digital transformation journey for businesses across segments. Be it for on-line delivery of services, deepening the connection with employees and customers, or to provide on-line education or telemedicine – digital is the mechanism. This acceleration towards a digital world is perhaps most visible in India. Aadhar – the world’s largest digital ID programme providing a digital identity for more than 1.2 Billion Indians planted the seeds for India’s digital transformation. Using Aadhar for identification has helped spur consumer adoption of digital services in India.
Today’s foundation for a professional in software must not only focus on a deep understanding of the building blocks of computing but also the new ABCs:
- AI & Automation
- Big Data & Block Chain
- Cloud & Cybersecurity.
One or more of these technologies will be at the heart of any contemporary computing solution. Proficiency in these areas will therefore be required for any IT job. Early and mid-career professionals must invest time to continuously learn and master these technologies. The ability to learn at the pace of business comes from a paranoia to stay professionally relevant. In its future skills report published in October 2020, NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Services Companies) estimates that the demand for digital talent pool in India will grow from the estimated 370,000 to 410,000 in FY2020 to a projected 1.2 Million to 1.4 Million in 2024. The opportunity for those that reskill themselves is evident. With the plethora of resources at one’s disposal today, there can be no excuse to make the investment of time to learn. As Nandan Nilekani, the Chairman of Infosys says, “The only friction between an employee and their learning should be their motivation.”
Professionals in areas other than in IT also need to learn about these technologies to be effective in their roles. For example, an HR professional will have to know how to use AI to understand the talent that they are dealing with much the same way a marketing manager has to learn how to draw insights from the vast ocean of customer data. Of course, the software professional has to go beyond understanding the application of the technology to building cost-effective and fair solutions leveraging the latest and greatest developments in these areas. Being conscious about the biases that can creep in is equally important while designing and coding solutions.
Software is now at the center of every business. It is an exciting time to be an IT professional especially as IT is the business for most enterprises. With a will to learn and a commitment to excel, software professionals can make a world a better place to live in. One has to earn the right to be part of this excitement and that requires a deliberate focus on life-long learning. Using the resources available from ACM is a great place to start to learn the ABCs for the digital world.