Evolving Software Careers – The Rise of Hybrid Roles

 

McKinsey & Co (2020) have talked about the “quantum leap” that technological transformation has taken as a direct response to COVID and the worldwide jump to Work-From-Home, estimating that that leap was as far as a decade ahead of the previously expected timeline. Even before COVID (yes, there was a before, even if it’s hard to remember), the expected effects of this transformation were well documented, with predictions that millions of jobs would soon be deemed defunct by Automation, AI and Digital tools.

But what happens if you work in technology, what if you are part of the driving force for that change, what does that mean for your own career prospects?

 

PURPLE SQUIRRELS & UNICORNS

 

Most of us have heard some iteration of the same idea i.e. the ‘perfect candidate’ for the job, the unicorn, the purple squirrel etc. The person with precisely the right education, qualifications, professional history and cultural fit. For as long as I’ve been recruiting in Tech (7 years and counting), the market has been obsessing over recruiting for specialist skills. Queue hundreds of adverts calling for Front End, Back End and everything in between specialists. As languages and frameworks like ReactJS and Python surged in popularity, once highly sought-after competitors like AngularJS and Microsoft .Net took a back seat. However, skills shortages or ‘wars for talent’ aren’t a natural feature of the tech talent landscape, they are created. They are created because every time a language or framework or tool becomes ‘old news’ and a new one becomes best practice, there is an inevitable knowledge gap between the early adopters/ trend setters and those that need to chase to stay relevant/employable. The most heart-breaking part of this cycle for tech professionals being that this ‘old news’ rarely stays irrelevant for long, it usually just a new release away from climbing back up the ranks of LinkedIn’s Most In Demand (insert year) list. So, in a world where the racing pace of technological change can quickly render specialist skills obsolete, how does the job market adapt?

 

THE MANY FACES OF THE SDLC

 

New and evolving Software Development methodologies are constantly changing not only the ways in which teams work and are structured, but also the skills team members must have and the roles they must play. Waterfall teams have typically consisted of four specific role profiles – Developer, Tester, Business Analyst and Project Manager. The linearity of Waterfall emphasises the importance of establishing specialist technical careers in order to ensure long term success. In that paradigm, where so much of the focus is on precision planning, it makes perfect sense to have a specialist team to focus on requirements and planning, a team to focus on managing delivery and implementation, a team to focus on UI, a team to focus on Middleware and Back End, a team to ensure Quality and one to handle Technical Operations and core Infrastructure.

Effectively every team has a very defined part to play and therefore need to be experts in that specific field – an “inch wide, mile deep” approach. However, the burgeoning popularity of Agile as the Software Development methodology of choice, has re-defined software into Engineering, Product and Delivery, creating new roles like Scrum Masters, Product Owners and Agile coaches and changing previously specialist teams with a set mandate into self-organizing cross-functional groups. The precision planning of Waterfall means that requirements are pretty much set in stone, with pretty high stakes in terms of time and money if any mistakes or changes are made, however Agile Software Development by its very nature means that requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration. The heterogeneous nature of this work, and the runaway popularity of DevOps have completely changed the face of what the long-term prospect of a career in Software Development now looks like.

Soft skills like creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and time management are now topping employer ‘Must Have’ list’s rather than a purely technical focus. The ability to learn new skills and take on unfamiliar tasks now often outweighs deep experience with a specific technology or in a particular role. The World Economic Report found similar needs among its highest-demand skills, especially in the need for a blend of technical and cross-functional skills, and the importance of human interaction in delivering new services and products to customers.

 

THE RISE OF HYBRID JOBS

 

At the start of this blog, I noted about the disruptive effect of Automation, AI and Digital tools on the global labour market. However, Deloitte’s ninth annual Global Human Capital Trends report surveyed 10,000 respondents in 119 countries about what they felt the future of work in tech looked like and that report paints a very different picture. Market sentiment now suggests that the changing business landscape is in fact not destroying roles but is actually creating what Deloitte calls “Super Jobs”, more commonly known as Hybrid Jobs.

 

So what is a Hybrid Job?  Hybrid Jobs combine parts of different traditional jobs into integrated roles for example – those that require a candidate to be able to understand and/or be able to write code, while also leveraging a wide skill set from different technical and tech adjacent fields like design, user experience, data analysis, tech operations, customer relationships etc. Over the last 18 months or so the team in IT Search have seen this reflected in the explosion of client requirements for Customer Success Engineers, Site Reliability Engineers, Data Scientists and Analysts, Infrastructure-as-Code Engineers (IAC), DevOps, DevSecOps, SDET’s …. the list could go on. McKinsey & Co have released their own data showing that the rising popularity of these type of roles within market could mean that up to 40% of all workers in tech may need to move into new occupations or upgrade their skills by 2030.

 

Thinking of changing career trajectory, or feel you have more to bring than just your top-class code? In the next part of this series, we will be talking to professionals who have made the Hybrid leap ….