Will Low-Code Kill Developer Jobs? Not Quite

By alexmoreno, 10 September, 2020

Low code will kill developer job buoyancy… only that not as people may think.

Truth is, the low code phenomenon is here to stay. But that’s just half a truth. The other truth is, low code is nothing new, neither has not the potential to change the software industry. It has ALREADY shaped the software industry from its very beginnings. 

I agree with some people's arguments that the nocode movement will kill developers jobs… only with a big caveat. No code will kill the software industry as we know it today.

However this is precisely what has been happening already in the short history of our young industry. Constantly, since its inception. If you think about how it was to work with a computer just a few decades ago, people only could do it in specific centers which had enough money to buy a massive computer the size of a (decent) dining room (a heck of a big dining room in some cases). Data would be inputted by punch cards and results would take sometimes hours or days to return.

Then in 1949 assembly language happened, and people were able to write instructions in a 1 to 1 correlation to the machine. If you have never written assembly, it is a very interesting experience, but it is painful, slow and difficult.

Low level and high level programming

High level languages

That difficulty led to the creation of high-level languages, which transformed the way we communicate with computers. From having to closely understand how they work, to use abstractions that would take those requirements for us, and simply translate our instructions to machine language.

The 1950s was a time of the programming languages dawn, with the birth of FORTRAN, COBOL or LISP. Those early iterations can already be considered low code programming languages or tools, as it made possible for a lot more people to join the computer revolution. Programmers would not need anymore to spend days or months understanding how a specific computer worked, but instead could focus on the problem to solve while the computer would take that problem and execute those instruction on its native language.

For someone interested in computers and its history it’s really fascinating to dive into articles like this one: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_programming_languages

The important thing we need to understand is that lowcode is not at all a new trend. We have since the beginning of computers, made considerable efforts to make it easier and simpler for everyone to understand computers and make it possible for our human brains to communicate with them as an equal. Then the internet era only accelerated that trend. The low code trend in which we are living right now is just another phase which must be understood in the frame of the whole picture of the computation era.

More opportunities and jobs

No, no code will not kill programming jobs. It will open more opportunities for more and more people to join the revolution, to apply their specific skills on other areas and industries in ways that we never imagined possible. The same way it has been already happening since assembly appeared in 1949.

I started my career writing C code. I have worked on java and python. PHP, the language in which I work nowadays, was just being created. The most popular IDE was VIM... 

As you can see, trying to kill the developers profession is nothing new. However no one is really trying to kill it (perhaps just for some people trying to make a good title and sell some magazines). What has been happening since the dawn of computers is that we have tried to make computers simpler and friendlier to use by anyone.

In the recent past, famous developers and renowned software Architects predicted that software would not be written by software developers by the time we are speaking, and instead software Architects would just use sophisticated drawing applications to define the systems, and then simply get the code as a result of those diagrams on the other side.

This is not far from the concept that some people have in their minds about no code, but that, as you can see, is far from a new concept. And, for what I can say, as a Software Architect I use a lot of those drawing tools to define and explain software integrations and systems. But we are far to that world imagined where the tools would create the integration after my drawing. We need developers to make the hard work.

This whole thing reminds me this joke that an old colleague showed me some time ago:

 

The "small" details

The small details

It is actually those “small details” that make the HUGE difference. The same reason software is not created nowadays simply drawing diagrams by software architects, software will not be totally and completely generated by some superior artificial intelligence or via nocode tools that would allow people to create amazing applications just drawing elements and make them interact around a screen.

You will still need software engineers to draw the small details. Of course, we’ll get more and more sophisticated applications that will allow us to create more and more detailed applications without touching code. But there will be always limitations as requirements will grow in ways we cannot even imagine nowadays.

As you can read in my words, that’s not to say that lowcode, nocode or whatevercode is not going to have a say on how we are creating software. In fact I think it will have a HUGE impact on the software industry. We can already see that impact.

For a start it is going to make it possible for thousands of people that in the past were not able to write code or automate tasks, do a growing list of fancy, impressive things that before was not even possible for them. More and more people are capable of extract the power of computers. And more and more will, the moment is unstoppable.

Excel did not kill the accounting profession. It specialised and enriched it, and opened a new market for  software applications that created jobs in both industries (accounting and software).

On the beginning of the Internet, Dreamweaver suddenly empowered lots of people that never learned html to create beautiful websites. That didn't kill the webmaster figure. It transformed it. Then all exploded, and a growing list of tools, languages and technologies have surged since, as well as new roles. Web developer, front end specialist, site builder, web designer, devops...

No, nocode, low code or whatevercode will not kill the developers industry and jobs. However the coming revolution will, and it is already, changing our jobs in ways that we can’t even imagine a few years down the line. 

And I’m so excited to be alive in this era, watch it happening, and most importantly, maybe, just maybe, even play a small part in it. What will be your part?