The work situation in Italy has long been under the magnifying glass. The best talents, particularly the young, often choose to work abroad as in Italy the pay and career conditions are very poor. The same applies to developers’ careers.
What we are experiencing is a period of reflection for young Italians, but also more generally for anyone whose activities are based on constant updating, as is the case for software developers. Doubts along these lines should be assuaged by expert advice.
Codemotion addressed the problem and proposed an innovative format meeting: four experts – one to lead and three to play, answered predefined questions. The audience also answered questions gradually presented by the leader, voting on an online platform specifically designed for this type of activity.
Massimo Sarti interviewed Antonella Blasetti, Arnaldo Morena, and Luca Congiu to get a glimpse into their perspectives on the present and future of coding. A second piece linked to this article focuses more specifically oncareer advice.
“Is Coder born or made?“, asks Massimo Sarti, who started his developer career on a Sinclair ZX-81, became a coder and now works as an agile coach. “Everyone has logical-mathematical skills, but at school they get stuck,” replies Antonella Blasetti, implying that a coder is generally born, rather than made. Arnaldo Morena and Luca Congiu gemphasize the importance of experience, concluding that coders are both born and made. Continuous training is an essential point: to remain a coder one must continuously update one’s knowledge and skills.
“Coding was predominantly female until the 1980s,” points out Sarti, “then the advent of video games, perceived as a male phenomenon, subverted the canon.”
The dream of creating solutions
Developing software puts great power in the coder’s hands, and the dream of creating solutions. “Did you have to compromise to make your dream come true?”. The three experts stall for time, looking for the right words to narrate their experience. One point seems stronger than the others: the gender gap. “As a woman, the pressure to compromise can be heavy,” says Antonella Blasetti. Blasetti started her developer career on mainframes; she’s currently the Google Developer Group ROMA Founder.
You may find yourself in an unsatisfactory job. “If you find yourself in the wrong place, what should you do?”. “That was my experience,” says Luca Congiu, currently Senior Solution Architect at Almaviva and DotNetCode’s Community Leader, having started coding on a Commodore 64 home computer. “Before I joined the company where I work, I was in a service company without an IT culture: the challenge was interesting, but I wanted to leave.” “The place is toxic if there is no enthusiasm”, agrees Arnaldo Morena. His 40-year developer career started on a ZX Spectrum, then evolved into all coding activities excluding Java.
In these cases, it is normal to be afraid of what may happen. “Fear is used to make you do things you don’t like,” analyzes Blasetti; “if you happen to feel it, you have to understand it and then exorcise your tensions”.
Very often we find ourselves having to work in disorganized environments and with old fashioned technologies. This is often the case with the Italian Public Administration. “Can it be fun?” Sarti asks . The unanimous first response, in chorus, is “Absolutely not!”. Upon relfection, Morena adds an important point: “having this type of experience, however, is a great enrichment, recommended for all developers”. The best professional is in fact the one who manages to meet all needs, not simply those who are technologically more advanced.
The importance of turning points
The passing of the years leads to very different situations from those of the early career. The age of 40 years is often a turning point. What emotions do these moments bring?
“Great fun!”, says a smiling Antonella Blasetti. “At that age, I had solved my problems and I had a good time.” Then she returns to the subject of fear: “When you have problems, then you are afraid”, she warns, “but it is precisely after pain or failures that there is personal growth”.
“Those who are afraid at 40 were also afraid at 20”, Morena points out.
Luca Congiu is not yet 40 years old, but he is getting closer. With a strong drive: “at the threshold of 40, I felt the need to share my know-how with other, younger coders”, he says; “seeing them grow gives a strong emotion”.
Developer careers: the future is now
“What do you see for coders in the next 5 years?”
“Statistics!”, Antonella suggests, proposing her studies in a modern key. “I was a loser in my day, but today this is data science, an exceptional sector”. Then comes the powerful observation: “Huge amounts of data are just waiting for an investigator to look for needles in the haystacks.”
“What future do you see for machine and deep learning, Quantum computing, and other innovative approaches?” An audience member asks this question.
“I wouldn’t deal with machine learning in Italy”, Antonella Blasetti replies firmly. She goes on: “I certainly would not write the software for new models, but I would apply the existing ones as cloud services: Google AutoML, for example, is fantastic”. Sarti, now an agile coach, also answers this question from the public: “I would focus on soft skills and communication”, he explains: “teams often lack a common language which is essential”.