Is No and Low Code Ruining the Software Engineering Talent Pipeline?

July 18, 2022

Low and no code tools are being developed and marketed as a solution to allow non-technical users to build applications. Given how expensive and challenging to hire software engineers are, this seems like it should be a boon to organizations looking to wield the power of software without hiring coders. The reality is many of these tools are only able to replace basic software engineering projects, while the needs of their users grow. Basic web applications that used to built in Rails by entry level software developers are now AirTable apps or Tableau charts. The jobs for these basic apps disappear, but when organizations need more customization they are stuck hiring more expensive senior software engineers. The result is a software talent pipeline that is getting choked off at the entry level.

When I started building web applications I learned how to create basic forms in Ruby on Rails. Using the shortcuts provided by Rails, I can scaffold what a low or no code tool does in code. Then I can deploy it using a Platform as a Service like Heroku. This approach lets entry level software developers sharpen their skills while building basic apps quickly. Now that low and no code tools are displacing this approach, entry level software developers do not get this opportunity. In the worst cases they are forced to learn the graphical interfaces of no and low code tools instead of the coded equivalents. Their coding muscles atrophy and they get locked-in to proprietary software.

If an organization can get by using these tools without software developers, then they are probably worth it. However starting with low or no code tools and then growing into coded equivalents is going to be much more painful than had they started with a code based platform. As more organizations follow the pattern of not hiring entry level coders and instead use no and low code tools, the opportunities for new coders to build their skills will continue to dwindle. Businesses are saving a few pennies today only to pay a lot of dollars tomorrow.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.