The mindset of software developers is changing, and employers need to take note

Princeton Professor Ed Felten believes software developers today are looking to make a positive change in the world, and employers need to understand their needs.

The mindset of software developers is changing, and employers need to take note

TechRepublic's Karen Roby spoke with Princeton computer science professor and Offchain Labs chief scientist Ed Felten about the most in-demand programming languages, the job market for developers, and more. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Ed Felten: People are doing more things than ever using computers on the internet, and everything that happens there was built by software developers. As long as that's the case, as long as we have the pace of change and innovation in the field that we have, software developers are going to be needed to make it go. And there's really no end in sight to that need, as far as I can see.

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Karen Roby: Which industries are needing developers the most right now?

Ed Felten: Software developers are needed a lot in the software industry. But really, almost every company these days is in some kind of software business. If you make anything, if you're providing a service to consumers really at all, you are involved in technology. So we're seeing software development become an integral part of a lot more companies and a lot more sectors. The answer really is almost anywhere where there's a company that's doing more than just one simple thing, there's a need for software developers.

Karen Roby: What is the most in-demand language right now?

Ed Felten: I think the starting point for a lot of things is basic web technologies. In terms of programming languages, that probably puts JavaScript number one. There's still a lot of innovation in programming languages, and people talk about what is the hot thing these days. Probably there's a lot of interest these days among thought leaders in the space in Rust as a language that lets people write big software in a way that's safe and efficient. That's probably the number one thing, in terms of a trend.

Karen Roby: What are some of the experiences your students are having when entering the job market now?

Ed Felten: They are in huge demand. Really one of the things that's I think a little different about the current group of students who are going out compared to in the past is, they really want to believe that what they're doing is making people's lives better and changing the world in a positive way. And that doesn't have to be solving world hunger or world peace, but they really do want to believe that what they're doing is to the benefit of the public. There's a lot of questions people ask about the software industry, and are they doing good or not? Students really want to be part of doing good and making things better.

Karen Roby: What are the graduates asking their employers for?

Ed Felten: They want to have control over where and when they work. One of the things that people value the most is being part of a really great team. They want to be in an environment that's welcoming to themselves and to all sorts of people.I think it's really the excitement of who they're working with and what they're doing that is a differentiator for a lot of them, especially students who have a lot of choices and who have salaries on offer that seem incredibly attractive to someone who's used to living as a college student. It's really the team and the experience that they value, I think.

Karen Roby: How different are the students' attitudes today than, say, 10 to 15 years ago?

Ed Felten: I think it's gone through phases. Back when I started, you really had people who just were super into computers, and sort of the hardcore nerds were the only people who did computer science. I think we went through a phase where more people came in, because there was money being made in the area, and it was a chance to build something. Now we're seeing, I think, yet a third wave, even more expansion of the computer science student population, into people for whom the technology work is more integrated with their idealism and their broad interests. People see that almost no matter what it is you want to do in life, having a background in computer science is useful--it helps you do it more effectively.

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