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How new Web application platforms put dev/test pros' careers at risk

Rapid changes in web application development platforms, such as Ajax and Visual Studio, are causing a skills gap. Veteran software developers and testers are struggling to keep up with emerging development platform technologies that don't capitalize on existing APIs and developer skillets, according to Navot Peled, CEO of Gizmox Ltd.. The result? Software pros' career lifespan may end up being as short as another professions', football players.

"Is the future of technology just for the under 40 crowd?" asked Peled, whose company develops open source security platforms, in a recent SearchSoftwareQuality interview. In this Q&A, Peled shares his views on why new Ajax, Microsoft and other web development platforms are creating a skills gap and what could be done about it.

What is the biggest challenge software developers and testers face in their careers today?

As the years pass, the world is replete with solutions for men and women - on a personal level, such as Rogaine, Botox, and the host of other solutions for making us younger.

But unfortunately for the professionals in the technology world, as new technologies are introduced there's no quick fix Viagra-type of solution for developers needing new skills for web and cloud development. After all, not every developer can continue to learn new technologies for the job. Independent developers often can not afford the time and money necessary to learn the new skills at the pace that contemporary technologies are being developed. So, how is the challenging skills update situation playing out for software pros today?
To start with, an average Ajax web application would require the mastering of over five new languages and at least four new technologies, not to speak of the development management of a multi-tier architecture.

The developers have the drive, they know the playing field, and they want to stay relevant in their fields and continue to earn their fair dinner share. And while it sounds extreme, nine out of 10 new applications would be web-focused, and it's a basic fact of life that many vendors are developing new web and cloud platforms or technologies that are not based on the existing skills and knowledge of developers. How are changes in Ajax impacting web application testers?
A very realistic example to look at is the situation facing VB6 developers. Today, millions of VB6 and WinForms developers are facing the scenario that they may soon find themselves irrelevant. No one's talking about it, but everyone's thinking it.

The VB6 or WinForms problem doesn't have to be a crisis waiting to happen. I would reckon to suggest that there are many opportunities in which we can expand from within. Here are some questions that we should be asking technology leaders:

  • Why can't we be developing programs or platforms that enable us to continue using the skills that we have already acquired and know?
  • Why must technology require new training and skill development all the time?
  • Can't we advance a generation of technologies without changing the API for developers?

The scenario you depict makes it clear why development organizations are resistant to changing to new technologies.
If developers know that their jobs will be safe with new technologies, they will embrace development rather than fear it. But there are more benefits than that, including:

  • Developers get to use their skills to advance their company's goals, using their current knowledge on new technologies
  • Companies waste less time recruiting and searching for new staff.
  • Companies save money by not having to invest in training staff.

Is it doable? Sure, but like with everything related to business decisions, the CEOs have to be on board. And this means that instead of just thinking about taking technology further, they have to think more responsibly for their staff. Their employees invest in the company and its future, and the CEOs should think about them and their families too. And with the start of 2010, a new decade for technology, there's no better time than now.

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