During 2018, numerous reputable sources reported that software development was the most in-demand job in South Africa and in various countries across the globe. Not much has changed in 2019.
According to jobs portal CareerJunction, software development remains the most sought-after skill set in the South African job market this year. This is according to comprehensive data gathered and analysed by the CareerJunction Index (CJI), which represents online labour dynamics in South Africa by providing a detailed analysis of the relative ratio of supply and demand in the online job market.
“Despite the drop in IT jobs, software developers remain in high demand,” the group said in its January 2019 Index. Last year, CareerJunction noted major growth in recruitment activity for software developers, increasing by 12% month-to-month.
None of this surprises me – programming is fast becoming a primary skill, targeting kids at younger and younger ages as a sign of the times. I believe that learning coding will soon come right after reading, writing and arithmetic. With technology touching so many parts of our lives, software is becoming central and ubiquitous, improving productivity in nearly every industry across the board. This is a global trend and it is good to see it’s being felt in South Africa.
The biggest attraction for youth to the software space is the unique combination of having a much sought-after skill, being able to work across a variety of roles in software and the salary curve that many come with.
The biggest challenge in my opinion to growing as a software developer is a lack of mentorship. With the shortage of software development professionals, many junior and mid-level developers don’t get the quality time alongside more senior developers, which is vital to their career growth. There are many institutions, courses, diplomas and degrees each providing a different angle and starting point into software development, but in such a fast-paced industry, with tools and technologies changing all the time, there is no alternative to the experience, exposure and mentoring gained alongside more talented, more senior professionals.
Mentorship is a core focus at Haefele, and the growth we have seen in our developers as a result of our mentors has been phenomenal.
The greatest reward to growing as a software developer is the entrepreneurial opportunity and access to international markets, the more senior you become. Software development is also near the top, if not the top, of many countries’ skills shortage lists, offering opportunity for international travel, and even immigration. Never one to encourage brain-drain from South Africa, a career in software development has given me the opportunity to travel to the UK, setup a business, and to return to South Africa to grow a local business, turning international experience into employment.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that software developer jobs will increase by 30 percent between 2016 and 2026. I believe South Africa could easily see this same trend as well – we are going to struggle to actually fill those positions (much like we do now) if the universities do not keep up, and if schools across the country do not introduce coding earlier, to ensure school-leavers are as equally marketable as those in other countries.
Written by Alan Haefele, Managing Director at Haefele Software