For the past couple of decades, software engineering has been a lucrative and stable career field. If you could learn how to code, you would have a place in the modern workforce.
But it seems like the tide may be changing. Low-code and no-code development tools, which allow laypeople to create their own apps and websites, are now on the horizon. Do they have the power to disrupt what has historically been such a reliable career field? Or can software engineers rest easy knowing they’re not going to be obsolete anytime soon?
What Is No-Code Development?
In case you aren’t familiar, no-code development is a framework that allows people with little to no coding experience to design, build and launch their own applications. People with little to no technical background can use WYSIWYG editors and other accessible tools to create whatever they want from the ground up. Low-code development tools, by contrast, require at least some coding knowledge or allow for extended functionality if you do have coding knowledge.
Hypothetically, if you had enough truly no-code platforms available to the masses, the role of the software engineer would almost totally evaporate.
The Time Horizon For No-Code Development
When are no-code development platforms going to become available for mainstream audiences? In some ways, they’re already here. Take free website builders as an example. A couple of decades ago, the only way to create a website was with an abundance of coding knowledge. Today, anyone can sign up for an account with WordPress or Squarespace and start designing a website from scratch, even if they have no familiarity with programming.
As for more sophisticated no-code tools, capable of designing much more complex apps from scratch with no coding, we may be several years or even decades away from their rise to prominence.
Why Software Engineers Shouldn’t Panic
For the most part, I believe software engineers shouldn’t panic about the impending rise of low-code and no-code tools. Consider the following:
• Truly no-code solutions are still a long way off. We already have the progenitors of no-code programming, but more robust solutions are still many years or even decades from getting in the hands of business owners.
• Demand for software engineers is insane. Thanks to rising demand and the addition of 31,000 new jobs each year, there’s a massive software engineer shortage currently. There will likely be no shortage of job opportunities for the foreseeable future, even with no-code tools in play.
• Someone needs to create the no-code development tools. No-code development tools don’t emerge out of thin air. They need to be developed, and probably with good old-fashioned coding. I believe there will always be a demand for no-code development tool creators.
• No-code still has a learning curve. Just because it’s technically a “no-code” platform doesn’t mean it’s easy for a non-engineer to use.
• No-code can’t do every type of app. Complex and robust apps probably can’t be managed with a simple, no-code development interface.
• Leadership, planning and creativity can’t be replaced. No-code and AI-based tools are no substitute for human ingenuity and leadership.
How Software Engineers Can Make Themselves Irreplaceable
If you’re nervous about low-code, no-code, AI, machine learning or other threats to your job as a software engineer, there are several steps you can take to make yourself indispensable.
• Keep advancing your skillset. This should go without saying, but keep learning. Acquire new skills and learn new programming languages. Earn new certifications. Push yourself to new heights. You’ll stay ahead of the technological curve and prove yourself to be a valuable asset to any business.
• Become a leader in your field. Try to get to a position of management or leadership, such as becoming a CTO. Higher-level roles are less likely to be replaced by intelligent tools and new technologies.
• Focus on your soft skills. Soft skills are always valuable to develop. No-code tools may put the power of a software engineer in an average person’s hands, but they won’t be able to have a conversation about the nature of that forthcoming app.
• Roll with the coming technological changes. The landscape of development technology is going to change, whether you like it or not. The best thing you can do is embrace that change and try to be as accommodating as possible. When new development tools emerge, learn them, incorporate them into your career development and continue growing as a professional.
• Network. Finally, spend time networking. If your network is robust and you’ve made a good impression with enough people, you’ll never truly be out of a job.
As it stands, I believe software engineers aren’t about to be replaced by no-code development tools, but programmers at all levels should be ready to adapt to these new circumstances. Low-code and no-code development are the future of development, and you’ll need to find some way to thrive in that future.