Coding is a skill that traditionally most IT employees will admire with awe in other people, but maybe not think of as one to develop for themselves. This National Coding Week (NCW), that is exactly what businesses across the tech world are encouraging people of all ages to consider. With coding skills now in short supply, six IT experts discuss why businesses should be promoting this crucial skill that is becoming increasingly more mainstream.
Digital Guardian’s Managed Services Security Engineer, Naaman Hart, discusses the goal of NCW, and what security implications businesses should consider when designing their code.
"National Coding Week’s number one objective is to inspire adults to learn digital skills and encourage businesses to engage with that effort. In today’s world where companies are playing a never-ending cat and mouse game with cyber criminals, this effort needs to embrace more than the code itself – it needs to be about designing and coding with security in mind. In other words, being cyber security aware by design.
“Key considerations include keeping things simple. Overly complex designs lead to bugs, and bugs lead to vulnerabilities. Avoid this by writing succinct code. Adopt a ‘least privilege’ approach. This means designing your code to be executable with the minimum amount of permissions. If your program needs full admin rights to function, then it becomes a very attractive target for exploitation. A third consideration is to validate inputs and purge unnecessary data. Make sure that data entered into your system is accurate for its purposes. Don’t trust the user to get the input right. Limit them to what you want to receive. Once you have that data, anonymise or purge anything that isn’t required before you move it on to the next subsystem or task.
“Lastly, spend a little time and read up on the simplicity of exploits like SQL Injection and Input Validation Attacks. For the sake of a few lines of code, many a large business has been compromised to the tune of millions. Avoiding the same pitfalls is an excellent starting point.”
Bob Davis, CMO at Plutora, explains the importance of coding and why businesses should be investing in it to meet their changing needs consistently.
“Today, software drives business. So, if an organisation wants to excel, it needs to become a software-powered juggernaut. To achieve this, companies can gain a competitive advantage by the speed, quality and efficiency of software releases. But it can’t be done without skilled development teams that are supported by strong and fluent coders. Code creates the foundation that developers build upon and create with; without it there’d be no structure. When I think of the basic skills any organisation – from startup to large enterprise – must have within its ranks, it’s the ability to write code that meets rapidly-changing software needs with speed and at scale. Coding is its own language but it’s no longer just the language of tech, it’s a language of all business.”
The changing role of coders
As the digital age is growing and developing day by day, Todd Krautkremer, Cradlepoint’s CMO, discusses how organisations need to ensure that they are open to new ideas and educate themselves on how to manage and work with ever-increasing and complex codes.
“The last two decades have been shaped by pervasive connectivity, the internet, and Web 2.0 technologies. This era has given rise to ecommerce titans like Amazon, hyper-growth SaaS platforms like Salesforce.com and Workday, and media and content ecosystems like Apple. We are now entering a new epoch driven by big data, semantic computing, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and 5G.
“So, what does this all mean for coders? First, software developers need to be bigger continuous learners than ever before as these new technologies bring with them new programming paradigms, new open source ecosystems and new tools. Secondly, data, algorithms, neural networks and natural language processing are becoming deeply intertwined in code, requiring more end-to-end systems knowledge than ever before. For those seeking a career in technology, the need for data scientists will continue to outstrip demand as the world is currently generating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day.”
Encouraging a love of coding for generations to come
One of the key takeaways from National Coding Week for businesses should be the importance of developing coding skills in students and existing employees, and hiring new staff members who can bring this knowledge and expertise to the company.
Domingo Mihovilovic, co-founder and CTO at Exabeam, comments on what coders bring to businesses.
"Employees with coding skills are now essential personnel in the modern enterprise. Good coders have a unique skillset. Yes, they’re technical, but they are also creative, innovative and incredibly good problem solvers. When you run into a bug or vulnerability, if you don’t have a good coder on hand, you’re in trouble. The demand for coding skills is already high, but this is only going to increase over the next few years. We’re at the dawn of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). These technologies are transforming the way we process and analyse data, offering incredible insight to inform sales and marketing, network security, and even product design. We need more people with the skills to manage these evolving technologies. National Coding Week is a great platform to highlight the importance of coding education; more should be done to help students – as well as those already in the workplace – learn and develop these high-priority skills."
Puppet’s VP and MD EMEA, Marianne Calder, explains that the digital world should start by educating younger enthusiasts in particular, to create a generation of keen coders.
“This National Coding Week, we need to encourage more people and especially kids to get into coding – and that means showing that it’s cool to code. It is cool to code because of the creativity involved.
“With coding, there are many ways to solve the same problem. It allows you to be creative and individual, while still being technical. One of the best bits for is that there isn’t a ‘right way’ of doing things – it’s always open to interpretation to find your own solution to the problem.
“At Puppet, we know that being able to code can open doors for people. That’s why we participate in initiatives aiming to teach coding to groups such as military veterans, disadvantaged youth and girls. It’s all part of our drive to grow and support opportunities for underrepresented groups in STEM careers.”
To conclude, Jon Lucas, Director at Hyve Managed Hosting, observes how making the effort now to encourage more people to learn about coding will bring great benefits for the UK’s future.
“As businesses become ever more reliant on programmers and developers with specialist skills, we need initiatives such as National Coding Week to encourage young people and adults into careers in technology. Also, with uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the available pool of skilled workers, the need to nurture home-grown talent is becoming even more of a necessity.
“But that’s just the start of the process and organisations with an interest in coding need to make a deeper commitment to the development of the overall talent pool. Initiatives such as codebar, for example, aim to increase coding learning and development opportunities across a more diverse range of people, and businesses should embrace the opportunities this offers to build their own teams, skillsets and expertise.”
With the skills needed in organisations constantly changing to suit technology’s next big trends, what is certain is that coders will find themselves in increasingly high demand as time goes on. The businesses that employ them – or plan to hire them – therefore, would do well to ensure that their skills are nurtured to guarantee that they will continue to provide their expertise now and in the future.
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