What the Next 18 Months Hold for Software Careers

It’s easy to put your head down and focus on the work that you have to do today. To think about the job you’re doing now. To think about the technology you know already. To understand the team structure you’re currently in.

Tech ForecastThat’s what’s now. But what’s next? Let’s take a walk through the next 18 months and see where engineering is going.

Focus on Learning

  • What’s Going On: Hiring managers have figured out that tomorrow’s skills won’t be today’s skills, so they’re looking for learners. With the time and productivity crunch managers face — not to mention their desire to sweeten the pot for qualified talent — they’re going to be more inclined to support your ideas for training. More and more companies are creating training budgets that employees can use any way they want.
  • What to Expect: In interviews and reviews, expect to start seeing more emphasis on how you learn, how quickly you learn and what you learn. The good news is that it means you’re also more likely to get an interview even if you only have 80 percent of the job’s matching skills. It also means that you’re going to be more responsible for identifying your own training opportunities such as online courses, podcast subscriptions and conferences to name a few.
  • How to Handle It: Take charge of your own training, whether you’re working or between jobs. Ask your manager what projects are coming up, do some research and suggest training options that make sense. Make your learning projects public even if they’re for personal use, and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Write a summary of how you went about learning so you have a good story to tell at your next performance review or job interview.

Mobile First and Mobile Only

  • What’s Going On: Apps are everywhere. Smartphones are everywhere. According to IDC, PC sales are dropping and will continue to do so through 2018. At the same time, global smartphone sales are up 46 percent, a solid mix of Android and iOS.
  • How to Handle It: Software developers and the companies they work for need to reach people where they are: on their phones. That means more apps, more mobile websites and more emphasis on semi-connected use. If you’re a PC application developer, it’s time to figure out how to build mobile apps. If you’re a Web developer, make sure you’re up to date on responsive design and mobile constraints. If you’re a server developer, there’s good news: All those apps still need servers. You’ll be building a lot of REST APIs. Focus any outside-of-work learning you do on technologies that are mobile-friendly. Volunteer for any mobile projects your company is starting so you can start to learn.

Rise of JavaScript Frameworks

  • What’s Going On: The pendulum is swinging back from thin clients to thick clients, but now the browser is the thick client. To support that, JavaScript is taking on characteristics of server-side programming: encapsulation, light object-orientation, MVC support. The odds are high that your next Web application will use Ember, Angular or something similar. Backbone — the granddaddy of the JavaScript frameworks — has lost momentum but will remain prevalent for a year or so.
  • How to Handle It: If you’re a Web developer, get your hands on a JavaScript framework tutorial and start learning. It doesn’t matter which framework you choose, but this is a tool you’ll need in your arsenal soon.

Testing Integration

  • What’s going on: The future isn’t bright for manual testers. More and more teams are focusing on “whole team testing,” which usually translates to automated testing by developers and “acceptance” or light manual testing by business users or customers. Dedicated testers are turning into specialists, particularly in performance, load and security-related testing.
  • How to handle it: If you’re a manual tester, you’ll need to find a niche (automation, performance, security, etc.) or you’ll have an increasingly hard time finding a job. If you’re a developer, expect to start testing your own code, usually with existing test frameworks. All engineers should expect to spend more time with interested business users and to start explaining features and bugs to a wider audience.


Technologies, techniques, patterns and team dynamics are all places where today’s solutions won’t solve tomorrow’s problems. The onus is on you to keep up so that your career today is a career you can continue tomorrow. Fortunately, you have some notice, so you can be ready.

20 Responses to “What the Next 18 Months Hold for Software Careers”

      • neanderthal

        yes, that’s right.

        Because we all know that a REAL developer is a drab, disheveled, bleary-eyed person with no social skills. Especially the women. They cannot be good developers unless they’re hopelessly ambiguously androgynous.

        Therefore, Catherine cannot possibly be a REAL developer. It defies logic.

        …or does it? IMHO, “bob” and “ken” are bitter COBOL developers. There’s no other explanation.

  1. I wish that hiring managers were focused on learners as you are saying in your article. From my recent job hunting experience they want developers to already know a lot about several technologies. Companies don’t seem interested in training new people even if they have a history of learning technologies though out their career.

    • Unca Alby

      @Craig, my thoughts exactly.

      Indeed, articles like this have been coming out for decades extolling the virtues of continued education to keep abreast of new technologies, on your own dime if need be. But the cold hard fact is, companies only care about the skills you used on the job.

      You can take all the classes available, hiring managers will ask who was paying you. If you weren’t paid to perform a particular skill, it hardly counts at all.

  2. I think you are spot on with your assessment about the growth of mobile. What is interesting is a year ago I did a search on iOS and Android in my area and came back with around 20 hits but in .Net (what I do now) I saw around 300. Today I did the same searches and came back with 150 for iOS and Android, and still 300 for .Net.

    Thank you for the wake up. It is time to get serious about mobile.

    • Thank you Mr. Bill to support me. I had long carrier on Oracle Developer. Now building carrier with Oracle Apex and have been developing a database software of SureWin Election Management and Monitoring System for the political leaders. Here every user have their smart mobile phone but they may not know to handle the PC/labtop. That’s why extending application to mobile apps also. If I don’t do it then the application may be get popularity.

  3. It’s wrong to say everything is moving to mobile phones. Only the simple things… there’s not much you can accomplish efficiently when your screen is the size of a post card and one hand is tied up holding it. For real, hard-core heavy duty business applications, the PC is a permanent home. The bigger the screen the better the UI. The PC will always be more powerful than a tiny handheld device.

  4. I’m trying to understand the articles that are published here with advices that usually seem to disregard most of the job requirements for various jobs… Maybe reading 1 book on accounting is better to understand where IT is moving instead of learning 5 new programming languages.
    Maybe travel the world with your current IT skills, rather than hope for a great IT career in the offshore-outsourcing times, permanent cost-cutting drives of numerous companies.
    “One man army” was a job requirement for 1 IT position, and it’s probably the best job description I’ve seen since the launch of the Great Recession.
    What I “like” most is the focus on development/design/management in these article, rarely mentioning support. OK, you’ve spent $1 million on some proprietary software. At times it’s worthless without someone out there to modify a line or two to make it working…

  5. for me the frustration is breaking in. I have a math degree from 1998 and I used to get interviews in the 90’s and it all dried up after 2001. What are some basic skills you need at entry level? I know this isn’t totally relevant to the article but I hope somebody can give me feedback.

    • I am in the job hunt now after working for a company for 11 years doing .Net development. I didn’t expect to have any trouble finding work, but there are skills that are in demand that I am working hard on learning now to be able to get pass the interviews. Web development is the biggest skill sought after. You have to know MVC, Javascript, CSS, JQUERY, WEB best practices and usually another javascript library like Angular. I know some of this but not enough. After enough interviews I changed my focus from front end to back end development. Here a developer needs to know SQL Server, WCF, LINQ and of course the various tools for source control and debugging. I am finding that for both front and back end development I need to better understand SQL Server. This is my experience applying for jobs in southern California.

  6. These articles are very frustrating. They make it seem like the jobs are plentiful in the “next hot technology”. But the reality, as far as what I experience, is that employers are moving as much as they can to “low cost markets” (ie: India, China, etc), and it doesn’t matter how much you know.. they aren’t interested. I can identify with a couple posters, where you don’t even get a callback, etc. I’m simply not believing the “skills shortage”, because I would be more than happy to take a lot of what’s advertised. Is HR still that picky with finding folks in “high demand”?!

    It reminds me of the game “Blind man’s bluff”, where you’re always fumbling around trying to find the prize.. but rarely getting it.

    My .02

  7. Bob and Ken, nobody’s making you read the article. Apparently you kept reading, probably because it was clear to you the author knows what she’s talking about. That’s how it works: you can choose whose advice to take based on their brains or based on their looks, but not both.

    Also, if you’re worried about finding the next job, consider that someday, somewhere along in your interview process, you may encounter someone who is put off when you make offhand comments about what women in tech should look like. Hint: sometimes this offends guys, too.