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Automated out of a job? Results from the Harvey Nash Technology Survey

A recent survey by recruitment firm Harvey Nash reflects job security fears by software testers, developers and more because of advances in automation.

Nearly 70% of testers think they'll be largely automated out of a job in 10 years, according to the just released Harvey Nash Technology Survey 2017. Testers aren't alone: 47% of developers think the same thing is going to happen to them.

Harvey Nash, a worldwide recruitment firm based in London, surveyed 3,245 people from 84 countries across 17 different job titles. All told just over 45% of respondents thought automation would affect at least some of their job functions by 2027. "Through automation, it is possible that 10 years from now the technology team will be unrecognizable in today's terms," said David Savage, associate director, Harvey Nash UK. "Even for those roles relatively unaffected directly by automation, there is a major indirect effect -- anything up to half of their work colleagues may be machines by 2027."

At a time when companies are looking to DevOps (and ultimately BizDevOps) to speed up software delivery times and increase user satisfaction, automation is one of the most talked about solutions. Automating testing, moving to NoOps (completely) automated deployment and even low code/no code application development could all be considered part of the DevOps journey. "We're still in the nascent stage (of DevOps) but we're going to see changes in skill sets and everyone along the delivery route is going to have changing roles," said Ashish Kuthiala, senior director of marketing and strategy for DevOps at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. "They're going to have to up their knowledge."

Data from the Harvey Nash survey supports that. Just shy of 80% of those surveyed under 30 years old said learning new technical skills was the most important thing they could do to improve their careers. It's the most important thing to those over 30 as well; 62% said they want to learn new tech skills, the Harvey Nash Technology Survey said. Overall 94% of respondents said their careers would be "severely limited" if they didn't teach themselves new skills.

Technology professionals should ask themselves: If the cleverest people in the world were to write a program to replace what I do, just how much of what I do could be replaced?
Robert Grimseydirector, Harvey Nash PLC

And while it appears employers are doing a good job offering training programs -- just 12% of survey takers said that was missing in their jobs -- the issue is to find a way to support developers, testers and other tech professionals who want or need to learn on their own. "With technology evolving as quickly as it does, much of the learning that tech people need to do is more about self-learning and on-the-job learning from getting involved in interesting and innovative projects," said Robert Grimsey, director at Harvey Nash PLC. "Unlike formal training, this 'self-powered' learning requires the employer to provide something much more ethereal than a formal training program: a culture of learning. By culture we mean things like allowing tech people the time to learn, encouraging them to get involved in projects that will help the learning, being the kind of company where people value learning and have time to explains things to people through mini 'learning moments.'"

When faced with automation to near extinction though, it's going to take more than just having superior technology skill, the Harvey Nash Technology Survey indicated. "Technology professionals should ask themselves: If the cleverest people in the world were to write a program to replace what I do, just how much of what I do could be replaced?" Grimsey suggested. Machines are never going to replace human interactions, and they're unlikely to be creative, and jobs that combine those roles, like program and people management, are the least likely to be automated, according to the survey.

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