Last Sunday I woke up with a sore throat and dull headache. Over the next few days, the headache got worse and spread to my neck and chest. By Thursday, I began feeling tingling and popping in my sinuses which ultimately led to the complete loss of my senses of smell and taste. Later that same day, testing had confirmed I was suffering from this year’s trendy new virus, COVID-19. I am one of the 21,000 in Cook County, 489,000 in Illinois, 10 million in the United States, and 50.1 million in the world. Thankfully, I am one of the cases with mild, manageable symptoms. I am lucky to be able to continue making progress towards graduating from Flatiron’s Software Engineering Bootcamp. So, as I sat eating yet one more completely flavorless bowl of Frosted Shredded Mini-Wheats and watching the Chicago Bears embarrass themselves pretending to be a professional football team, I decided I would connect the two major players in my current life. Coding and COVID-19. While researching any relationships the two may have I came across a few interesting articles and studies outlining COVID-19’s effects on the software engineering job market, business operations, and employee work experience.
Like virtually every sector of the economy, the software engineering job market has been affected by COVID-19. Based on Indeed data through the end of July, software engineer job listings across the FAANG companies (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) were down by an average of 27.4%. Apple reported the lowest year to date decrease at 19%, while Google suffered the largest at 35%. In spite of these somewhat alarming numbers, the software engineering job market is still doing pretty well overall. According to the Houston based IT staffing firm, Decide Consulting, hiring within the industry has weathered the uncertainty better than most. In an article published last month, they cite approximately 500,000 job openings for computing jobs in the United States and an IT Industry unemployment rate of about 4.2%. The only industry with a lower unemployment rate is the legal industry. Another promising catalyst for the software development job market is the global demand for rapid digitalization of business operations.
As we are all aware, COVID-19 is constantly changing the global landscape socially, economically, and even physically. With government mandated shutdowns keeping all non-essential employees sequestered to their homes, an unexpected demand was created to move most if not all business operations to electronic avenues. This rise in digital business transformation was seen across all industries creating additional demand for software developers. The IT market analysis provider International Data Corporation reports that spending on the digital transformation of business practices, products, and organizations is forecast to grow 10.4% to $1.3 trillion in 2020. A few interesting examples of business operation digitalization are robotic process automation of insurance claims, visualization programs for online school instruction, and omnichannel commerce applications to enable smooth digital shopping experiences for brick and mortar retail stores. On a broader spectrum, most companies will require remote systems to streamline work from home and enable virtual/automated customer services. Software engineers will obviously play a pivotal role in implementing and supporting these new systems.
While developers have the skills to help companies overcome the troubles COVID-19 causes on their operations, that does not mean they are immune to those problems as well. Microsoft recently published an internal study of the effects of working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the course of 10 weeks, Microsoft surveyed 435 software engineering employees on the challenges and benefits of working from home on a daily basis. In the beginning, the employees most widely reported issues were with their physical and mental health (worries about Covid-19, headaches, over tired, sore back from lack of ergo furniture, etc.) and having too many meetings. However, as time went on, the developers began reporting issues actually related to their job as their biggest challenges. During quarantine work from home, the employees began to feel overworked and undermotivated. To combat this, Microsoft tried to implement any and all measures to alleviate the miseries of working from home during a global pandemic. The organization created a Work From Home Wiki with how-to guides for configuring a good work environment and instituted late-start meetings and No Meeting Fridays. As Microsoft figured out the growing pains of large-scale work from home, their employees began to realize the benefits of the situation. They reported gratitude for the flexibility, increased family time, and decreased commute times offered by working from home. It is important to reflect on the positives as the world continues to fight COVID-19 and adapt to its many widespread effects.