ChatGPT’s arrival in the workplace is lowering the barrier to entry for aspiring software developers while simultaneously raising the bar for the skills needed for performing AI-related development work.
The results of a HackerRank survey of more than 42,000 developers worldwide revealed 82% of respondents believe AI will redefine the future of coding and software development.
A full three-quarters of developers surveyed said they are adjusting their skills in anticipation of this seismic shift and are racing to embrace artificial intelligence in the workplace.
HackerRank CEO Vivek Ravisankar says he was, in fact, surprised that some of the numbers from the developer survey weren’t even higher.
“It might seem like 75 percent of developers adjusting their skills in response to AI is a good majority, but with the pace of AI innovation and its boundless potential, I thought that number would be closer to 100 percent,” he explains.
He points out AI pair programming assistants will become integral to the development process, delivering massive productivity gains and allowing developers to focus on the more creative aspects of their projects.
“From data scientists to frontend to backend to QA, productionized AI tools will become a standard component of coding toolkits across the full spectrum of developer roles,” he says.
Making Good Developers Great
From the perspective of Nick Durkin, field CTO of Harness, generative AI has the power to make good developers great and great developers excellent, consequently transforming the industry.
“AI can automate tasks like testing, babysitting deployments and monitoring infrastructure to enable developers to hone their craft and drive innovation,” he says.
This means developers that already have a ton of experience can uplevel their skills, and developers with less experience can expand what they’re able to accomplish.
“Overall, AI has strong potential to take developers to the next level, removing the lowest-value parts of their jobs and allowing for more creativity and efficiency in the software development sector,” Durkin says.
He adds engineering teams in the software development industry are curious about how the widespread adoption of AI will impact developers because the potential impact and implications are unknown.
“In fact, AI innovation is often happening even more quickly than teams can keep up with,” he says. “AI remains a positive asset to developers because there is still the need for human validation and verification.”
Durkin puts it another way; all the AI technologies that software teams are working with, like ChatGPT, are akin to a professor or teacher, and developers are like scientists.
The scientists can ask the professor questions and they benefit from the professor’s guidance and knowledge, but the scientists are ultimately the ones that need to test these theories.
“These AI tools are not able to complete the meaningful work, only offer guidance and insight,” he says. “Seeing as humans are currently the only ones capable of accurately testing and validating the AI’s theories, developers remain critical to software development.”
Ravisankar says AI tools will help developers achieve higher levels of abstraction, automating a larger share of fundamental but time-consuming coding tasks like debugging, compatibility testing and documentation.
“That might mean that certain skills, even some we consider foundational, are less in demand,” he notes. “But technology has always evolved in ways that allow developers to work at increasingly higher levels of abstraction. After all, code is no longer written in 1s and 0s.”
He adds a higher level of abstraction makes this sort of technology more accessible, allowing even more people to pick up technical skills and discover programming.
“Overall, AI lowers the activation energy it takes to produce code, which will democratize coding and turn whole new populations of professionals into coders,” he says.
Developer Teams Under Pressure
Durkin says because of a tight economy and increasingly competitive technology landscape, developer teams are facing increased pressure to deliver more software faster and with better quality.
To meet these demands companies are leaning into automation to help boost their productivity and efficiency and are expecting their developers to be well-versed in these new tools.
“Access to AI technology and proficiency in these tools is a game-changer for developers looking to uplevel their skills,” Durkin says. “Devs with less technical experience, or those with less formal software training, can leverage AI to increase what they’re able to accomplish.”
Generative AI tools are also aggregating global knowledge in a single location, allowing any developer to tap into the expertise of the most skilled developers in their field and access testable theories and solutions at any time and from anywhere.
“On top of all the innovation happening in software development, we’re also in the midst of an ongoing developer shortage, and we need more engineers in general,” he adds.
It’s estimated that over the next 10 years, there will be a need for at least a quarter more developers than already exist because of the continued expansion of software development for AI, IoT and other automation applications.
“Companies are stretching their developers thin, and if they can’t find the talent, they’re going to turn to external resources,” Durkin says. “I think the best thing developers can do to stay competitive in the job market is remain curious and up to speed on how these tools are used and can be leveraged to solve unique problems and understand complex systems.”
He says a developer who can offer a solution utilizing AI puts themselves at the forefront of this innovation and proves they are indispensable as that critical source of human verification and validation.
Ravisankar agrees that to stay competitive, developers should embrace AI as a new de facto problem-solving tool.
“This is not a moment of media hype; AI is primed to fundamentally change what it means to be a developer and write code,” he says. “I think the best way for folks to stay competitive and keep innovating is to lean into the moment, implement new AI tools in their approaches, and learn new skills so that they can dream up the tech world’s next big game-changer.”
It is clear that learning how to utilize and harness all that AI can offer will result in the vast transformation of business worldwide.