Software Engineers Really Excited About Artificial Intelligence, ML

Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning are shaping up to dominate the tech industry in coming years, and software developers are eager to work with them.

This according to a new study from Digital Ocean, which queried tech professionals on a variety of topics. Notably, 81 percent say they are “interested in learning about” or trying A.I. and/or Machine Learning (ML) tech this year. Good thing there are lots of educational resources out there for that!

When asked what advancements they were most interested in, developers and software engineers gave a mixed-bag response, though most were interested in automation. Here’s how it shapes up:

Digital Ocean’s data is close to Stack Overflow’s Developer Survey, which notes 40.8 percent of developers voiced a desire to increase automation in their daily routines. Similarly, 19.8 percent of developers in Stack Overflow’s survey say they felt artificial intelligence was “dangerous”… which is almost the exact same figure who show no interest in artificial intelligence via Digital Ocean’s survey.

Specializing in artificial intelligence and machine learning can greatly boost software engineers’ take-home pay, which is one of the reasons they’re excited about it. Salaries for software engineers are already high: At Google’s L7 level (i.e., senior staff software engineer), annual salary can top $256,059 per year, coupled with $286,176 in stock options and a bonus of $83,294. With the right background in A.I. and ML, though, payouts can spiral into the millions; at Google, self-driving experts were paid so much that they basically started to retire.

Compare Google’s data to Microsoft, where engineers who hit level 67 (i.e., principal software development engineer, and roughly equivalent to Google’s L7) are paid roughly $222,714 in salary, along with $226,000 per year in stock options, and a bonus of $73,143. A.I. and ML skills will make that go even higher.

Consumers are already using A.I. with aplomb. Though the use-cases for digital home assistants are limited, customers enjoy them. A recent Gallup poll shows 85 percent of customers claim to be using at least one device or program with A.I. baked in.

Around 81 percent of developers interested in A.I. and ML has another important angle: it’s a sharp increase from the last time Digital Ocean asked devs how they feel. These ‘Currents’ surveys are released quarterly, with the last coming in December of 2017. At that time, 73 percent of devs were interested in A.I.

Artificial Intelligence is also seeing a boom in job growth. Canadian startup Element AI examined LinkedIn data and found a potential six-digit deficit in A.I. researcher positions. Dice’s own Salary Survey shows skills related to artificial intelligence (such as Python) are lucrative, and incomes are gaining steam.

It’s also worth noting Digital Ocean’s data points to A.I. efforts coming from outside academia or big companies like Google or Apple. 32 percent of respondents work at companies with less than six employees, and 54 percent had a total headcount of 25 or fewer. Only 15 percent came from companies with 1,000 or more employees; the same percentage as those with over 100 employees.