Why become a web developer?
Enspiral Dev Academy is a rapid coding bootcamp based in Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand.
There’s been a lot of talk recently about New Zealand’s booming software and startup industry, the shortage of capable developers, and the lucrative career of web development. In this blog we explore what all the fuss is about. What makes web development such a good job?
First of all, what does a web developer do?
Web developers build things on the web that are a little bit more complicated than your simple template-based blog. Web developers have high level coding skills. These allow them to build websites or web based apps that are animated, input and output data, contain areas that store information, or interact with other websites and apps, such as social media or payment processing tools. It’s important to realise that web developers are different to web designers, who focus on the layout, look and feel, and the way people use a site.
The web development job can involve talking to clients and getting a very clear idea of what the requirements are for a web app or website, figuring out the best way to create, present and draw users through the flow of information, and working with designers, marketers, project managers and other people to develop the best possible product within the allocated timeframe and budget. Once the product is built, web developers might also need to maintain it, add new content, and update it to keep up with changes in the online world.
Web developers therefore need to have skills in teamwork and communication, because working with other people is essential to a project’s success. They need to be able to work independently, meet deadlines and respond well to critique. They also need to be able to come up with creative solutions to difficult problems.
So why is there so much encouragement to get into the field of web development? Primarily it’s about growth.
What tech jobs are out there?
The tech field is booming in New Zealand. A quick look on Seek shows Programming and Development to be the fifth most in-demand job available. There are currently almost 2000 Information and Communication Technology jobs on Seek, and the only sector which surpasses tech for available jobs is the Trades.
The tech sector is growing so rapidly that the pool of available talent is struggling to keep up. NZTech analysis shows concern at the lack of tech talent in Aotearoa, flagging “a shortfall of over 10,000 skilled staff that will be needed by the sector over the next three years.” This is a good sign for aspiring developers as it means there are jobs available and companies who will go the extra mile to attract top talent.
The growth of the tech sector has occurred in response to a number of phenomena, including the government’s emphasis on supporting business and innovation, the success of several New Zealand tech startups, and the decreasing costs of technological production which mean there are higher profits to be made in the area. Tech therefore enables entrepreneurship in a way that suits the New Zealand DIY mentality.
As technology itself becomes more accessible to everyday users, the tech industry will only continue to grow, because more and more of our daily needs will be moved online or handled by different technologies.
Like any career, you’ll usually have to start as a junior, and as in every industry a proportion of these IT jobs that companies are looking to fill are for developers with experience. Work-ready skills and a portfolio of projects give you a leg up in the initial job hunt. Employers also tend to value leadership and teamwork in elevating a developer to an Intermediate and Senior position, so these skills are incredibly valuable for accelerating your tech career.
It’s important to note that most of the tech jobs in Aotearoa are focused around the major cities. Do your own research about jobs in your area to get a sense of what the demand is and what employers are looking for.
Who can learn the skills to get a tech job?
The thought of learning web development skills can seem daunting, because they are surrounded by intimidating misconceptions that all developers need to be math geniuses who have been coding in their basements since they were 12. This is not the case.
Stack Overflow’s recent worldwide developer survey (“the largest of its kind ever conducted”) showed that among professional developers, “11.3% got their first coding jobs within a year of first learning how to program. A further 36.9% learned to program between one and four years before beginning their careers as developers.”
Stack Overflow notes that the rise in online courses and coding bootcamps (such as Dev Academy) has had a large impact on enabling adults with no programming experience to transition into a web development career.
“The skills taught at EDA are very practical and cover all the tools of the trade. Learning to be a web developer doesn’t just mean learning a programming language, it means learning the vocabulary, tools, processes and soft skills involved in building a web application. But more than anything, EDA taught me how to learn technical subjects on my own.”
Amandine, Dev Academy graduate
And what’s the appeal of a tech job?
Web development jobs are relatively well paid. Average starting salaries sit at around $53,000 at the moment, and research by AbsoluteIT (a tech recruitment firm) shows that median salaries increase by 60% in the first six years.
Insights from careers.govt.nz shows the 2013 average salary for someone in IT was $103,586, which is twice the average national salary ($45,864 in 2015). AbsoluteIT note that the median salary has increased 1.82% since 2015, showing positive signs of growth. In 2015 four of the top five highest-paid jobs on TradeMe Jobs were in IT.
Web development jobs also seem to be jobs that people love. Stack Overflow’s developer survey shows that 46.3% of developers rated their current jobs at 8/10 or higher, in terms of their job satisfaction. For their overall career satisfaction, 51.7% of developers rated their careers at 8/10 or higher. These are phenomenal numbers, when you think about one in two people in an office absolutely loving their jobs. A full 85% of respondents rated their job satisfaction at 6 or higher.
Aside from the pay, growth potential and increasing job prospects, one of the many reasons why developers tend to feel job satisfaction is that tech jobs offer many extra-monetary benefits in order to retain their in-demand employees. These can include in-office baristas, weekly massages, team ski trips and remote work options. AbsoluteIT finds that two thirds of people working for IT companies in New Zealand receive extra benefits at work.
Remote work options and flexible hours were considered the most valuable benefits by Stack Overflow’s survey respondents. To enable this, many tech companies and offices are set up with chat rooms and video conferencing so staff can join the team from anywhere in the world. Remote work options and flexible hours allow staff to travel while they work, complete projects from home, and work around other responsibilities such as raising small children, or picking the kids up from school.
The ability to work from home makes web development an attractive field for new or expectant parents, and can particularly suit women that are thinking outside-the-box in order to design a lifestyle that meets all their needs. Stack Overflow also found that 2.6% of developers who responded to their survey identified as transgender, non-binary, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, or a different identity (not male or female).
“Nowadays, a lot of the application logic sits in the front-end, which makes it challenging and fun. This allows me to express both my creative and logical sides. Programming is a craft, you work at it, continually improving and it feels really rewarding.”
Amandine, Dev Academy graduate
So where could I work?
In New Zealand many of the most innovative and exciting new companies are found in the tech sector. Hoping to attract and retain top quality staff, these companies exemplify employee-focused policies that attempt to make work enjoyable and lifestyle-oriented. Xero, for example, is notorious for its in-house baristas and weekly free massage therapy. Powershop boasts “a pool table, fancy coffee machine, beanbags and craft beer, and our CEO wears t-shirts” like it’s no big deal. Rabid gives staff time to work on their own projects (taking after Google’s “20% time” policy) and has a commitment to supporting initiatives that benefit society.
Innovation is the lifeblood of the tech sector, so tech companies are usually not afraid to challenge accepted norms and change the way things have always been done in order to produce better results. This applies to everything from seating arrangements (Standing desks anyone? Beanbags? Swiss balls? Hot-desking?) to meeting formats (Standups? Sprints?) to teambuilding activities (Go-carting? Craft beer?) to work arrangements (Remote work? Flexible hours? Glide time?).
Working in the innovation industry is also very exciting. It means coming up with new ideas, mastering the latest technologies, and playing with gadgets that could change how society considers itself. Everyday conversation revolves around what’s happening next, what could happen, and how it could help people. The crux of the industry is identifying problems that plague people, and then coming up with creative and mindbending approaches to solving them. It can be fascinating, fast-paced and passionate work that really changes the world we live in.
“Since EDA I’ve been working as a freelancer creating web apps for a couple of startups and small businesses. The EDA curriculum gives you an excellent starting point into an incredibly broad range of technologies. I’ve been playing around with browser based 3D graphics, virtual reality, programming drones and Internet of Things devices.”
David, Dev Academy graduate
This is why web development is an excellent skill to learn right now. It’s a skill that every company will need, and the foundation of the rapidly growing technology industry. Salaries are high, they rise quickly, and they’re growing. Web development skills enable innovation and entrepreneurship — the cheapest way to launch a new business is often through a web presence. Web developers have high rates of job and career satisfaction, and this is promoted through the flexible and accommodating employment policies of many tech companies. It’s a job on the “bleeding edge” of innovation, and it’s a job you can do while travelling or raising kids. This makes web development an excellent field to consider for people who seek to design their lifestyles to suit their needs.