In order to fill a shortage of programmers, tech organizations have taken to hiring out of coding bootcamps, which advocates also see as a way to improve the diversity sector’s talent pipeline. Learning to code is widely perceived as the steadiest meal ticket available in today’s job market, with so many employers desperate to overcome the programming skills gap. However, not all tech jobs are coding jobs; with the emergence of software that allows people to build applications without writing code themselves, Fast Company’s Cale Guthrie Weissman explores the opportunities this has opened up for non-coders to do technical work:
Heather Bryant, a young woman who lives in Los Angeles and works at the company Sodexo, does just this. Her official title is a “technical solutions director,” and one of her primary roles is building apps. Bryant, however, has no background whatsoever in coding. In fact, she went to school for sports journalism. Sodexo describes itself as a “contract management services provider.” In laymen terms, that means they set up all the extraneous needs of a business—be they janitorial services, painting, catering, anything infrastructure related, etc. One of Sodexo’s primary functions is creating applications that help project management. These apps help streamline how information is recorded and how it’s presented to people on a team.
Bryant’s job is to help build these applications. Her company uses a program called QuickBase, which is a platform for app building. It automates all the technical parts to make it possible for a layman to build at least a rudimentary business application. Before Bryant took up her role, Sodexo had outsourced app building. Her first role at Sodexo was in data entry, but one day she found herself playing around with an application that just wasn’t working right. After a lot of trial and error on the QuickBase platform, “I was able to rebuild the application how I thought it should be built,” she says.
At the time, it was a one-off project, but her boss was impressed that she was able to tackle it. She soon made building these B2B-specific apps her role at the company, since she enjoyed the process so much. The process of building with QuickBase is more visual than most app-building processes. Users create tables about the data they want to include in the applications, and then design the presentation of those figures. Bryant learned that this sort of building, using QuickBase, is something at which she excels. “People come to us with old processes,” she says, “paper Excel-based processes. We transform those into applications.” Her job isn’t crafting code to build brand-new products; it’s figuring out how to funnel functions and data into something that is more efficient.
Some experts dispute the notion that coding skills guarantee long-term job security. As computing evolves into a new era of neural networks and machine learning, others have argued that our future interactions with computers will involve much less coding and much more coaching: i.e. training machines to recognize patterns by feeding them massive quantities of data. The day might not be far away when jobs like Heather Bryant’s are more common than “old-fashioned” programmers.