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Three ways the role of a software engineer has changed over the last decade

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/TechnoVectors)

To say that the role of a software engineer has changed over the last decade would be an understatement. The pace that technology has advanced year upon year has meant demands of employees have increased. It’s no secret that 2020 has been a turbulent year, accelerating technological change further. The global pandemic has fast-tracked the adoption of many tech-focused solutions within businesses, with many turning to digital tools to support our new way of remote working. As a result, the demand for software development has sky-rocketed.

What’s more, software development involves creating and changing software depending on user requests and requirements, and with both of these becoming more challenging and fast paced, software engineers have had to adapt quickly. There are three key advancements that have affected this role over the last decade, namely Corporate Social Responsibility, free open source software and the rise of automation.

Corporate social responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a self-regulating business model which allows a company to be socially accountable to itself, its stakeholders and also to the public. In essence, this is the way a company should operate to enhance society and the environment, as opposed to negatively contributing to them. This means it is equally important for the community as it is for a business, helping forge a stronger bond between employees and corporations, boost morale and help companies and their employees feel more connected to the world around them. At a time when many people are uncertain or anxious about the months ahead, it is important to apply CSR to most industries, particularly software development.

CSR is a broad business concept that many companies have begun to apply, and even more so with the recent effect of Covid-19. For software engineers, it relates to the responsibilities for making coding decisions and considering how it will be used or impact customer data. With the introduction of GDPR, there are much tighter regulations and guidelines to follow in terms of data protection. The development and use of sustainable software should be a part of companies’ business objectives, by attending to the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Although this may initially add complication to the role of a software engineer, the last decade has shown that it’s essential to apply sustainable ways of working for the future of the technology industry.

Rise of automation

Automation is becoming increasingly integrated into our way of living and doing business. The likes of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other automated services have transformed the nature of work over the last decade and will continue to do so as technology develops at an even faster rate. Some machines are able to carry out more of the tasks completed by humans and even perform some tasks that can go beyond the ability of what humans can achieve. As we move forward, society will need to grapple with significant workforce transitions and think of ways that workers can acquire new skills to ensure their role doesn’t become redundant. With the role of a software engineer based around the development of technology, this could be a sector that’s heavily affected.

However, over the past decade, automation has introduced many solutions for the jobs of a software engineer, enabling individuals to focus on tasks that cannot be completed by computer-born intelligence. The accelerating progress in AI and automation has created opportunities for the economy in ways that would have never been considered 10 years ago. One study shows that enterprise use of AI has grown 270 percent over the past 4 years, showing the incredible increase in popularity of the technology for businesses and how it will only be further integrated into our society. As AI technology continues to develop, the impact on software automation will be immense. This means that software engineers must embrace the changes possible with AI and automation, so that clients can remain agile when battling their competitors during these critical times.

Free open source software

Essentially, open source software is a type of software that can be modified and enhanced by anyone, free of charge. This model promotes collaboration and knowledge sharing more readily than closed source software. The rise of open source software has encouraged transparency and participation within the software development industry, and therefore could be considered as a method of CSR itself. What’s more, with such high numbers of people working from home, accessible and affordable alternatives to expensive and professional software is high in demand.

Open source software celebrates the free availability of distribution and source code, which allows software engineers to work alongside others to improve their own software and to perform in the best way. This has proven fit for individuals over the last decade, with the effects of collaboration leading to great advancements in software engineering. Open source software is also more secure than older forms of software, as the community can promptly find and report security flaws which the software owner can fix right away. As we move into the next decade, the use of this software should continue to be used because collaboration will only increase in importance after the events of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Future for software engineers

The title ‘software engineer’ is a broad term and as technology has advanced, the role has encompassed a vast variety of responsibilities that depend on many factors, including business size and customer demands. In essence, the core role of a software engineer is to be flexible and open to consistent learning. The past decade has shown that it may not only take one role, but instead multiple ones, focusing on all areas of software development such as technology trends, company definition and development methodologies.

During Covid-19, the need for technology to deliver has never been more critical as almost everyone relies on it to continue business operations as usual. Not only has this increased the demand for high-quality software, but it has also put immense pressures on software engineers to deliver. Going forward, continuous changes and developments in technology will mean software engineers will gain an increase in responsibility when making decisions relating to CSR and will also have the challenge of keeping abreast with technology developments, including AI, automation and open source software.

Jarosław Porwoł, Lead Software Engineer, Future Processing

Jarosław Porwoł is Lead Software Engineer at Future Processing.