As the technology industry is racing forward and requires increasingly larger numbers of qualified software developers, this profession also gets more accessible for everyone who wants to learn programming and enjoy the benefits of high demand for talent and generous wages.
Software development veterans with decades of programming experience often share stories of how different this profession was not too far back, when information about programming languages and development processes was limited and only available in printed textbooks, sometimes of dubious quality. Even seniors who started programming just 10-15 years ago agree that it is much easier to be a software developer today, and this is true when it comes to both the ease of acquiring coding skills and performing the actual job after.
But what exactly makes being (and becoming) a programmer today, in 2021, so much easier than it was in, let’s say, twenty years ago, in 2001? We thought this might be an interesting topic to look at in more detail and that’s what we are going to do now.
Tools making software developer’s job easier than ever before
Of course, as the software development industry is evolving, all the tools, approaches and technologies evolve with it, becoming more powerful and easy to use, while the information gets increasingly accessible and more extensive. But some instruments that were introduced not so long ago, and now are commonly used by the majority of coders, really make the difference. Here are the most notable ones in our opinion.
1. Git and GitHub.
Git is a free and open source distributed version control system designed to handle everything from small to very large projects with speed and efficiency. Initially released in 2005, Git quickly became an industry standard, allowing developers to have a much better control over changes in code and versions of software projects, as well as making collaboration of multiple coders much, much more efficient and organized.
GitHub is a Git code repository hosting platform for version control and collaboration. First launched in 2008, GitHub became the world’s leading software development platform soon after. GitHub makes it much easier for developers to collaborate and contribute to open source projects, create proper documentation for the code, showcase their work to others, and so on.
“I was using Apache Subversion (SVN) before, which is centralized i.e. all changes are stored in one server. That means that when you commit, your changes are uploaded directly. I remember it being quite stressful at times, and the “I’m not sure if this works but I better save this code” moments were really hard to deal with. Whereas with Git you can just commit and worry about pushing later (and, if in doubt, you can always branch),” Guillaume Elias, an experienced C++ Developer, recalls
2. IntelliJ IDEA and other IDEs.
“I started out in the 1980s, back when command lines and make files were the standard. An IDE with integrated source level debugger (my first one was Lightspeed C) was an immense improvement. Every improvement since then has been incremental. Better IDE’s with more integrated functions have improved the development process but that’s just incrementalism. The IDE with source debugging was a quantum leap forward, comparable to the development of programming languages beyond assembler,” William Hembree, a retired software developer and computer science educator, said
3. Stack Overflow.
When it comes to getting coding-related information, a lot has changed in late 2000s-early 2010s with an increasing number of new message boards and community platforms for developers. Stack Overflow is the most popular online community for developers, visited by more than 50 mln coders each month. Launched in 2008, Stack Overflow made it easier for programmers to exchange knowledge and communicate with each other, and simplified the learning processes for coding beginners.
“First thing that comes to my mind is Stack Overflow. Now, you’ll say, it’s not a tool, but it is. It’s an invaluable source of information that people before 2008 didn’t have. We’ve had manuals, books, and mentors (senior developers), and that’s pretty much how people learned and shared stuff before SO,” Antonio Nesic, a senior software engineer from Croatia, points out
4. Managed cloud services.
The rising adoption of managed cloud services also played a major role in making the work of modern-day programmers easier. After cloud services such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, launched in 2006 and 2008 respectively, became available and gained mass adoption, programmers no longer need so many people to set up and maintain servers and networks in order for the system to work. Cloud services also made software development a lot more efficient as today developing teams can be smaller and more productive on individual level.
“When I started dynamic web programming, there was an ASP, and I’m not talking about ASP.NET, an open-source web framework for .NET, but good old classic ASP that used MS Access database. Yes, you heard me well. It didn’t use MySQL, or MSSQL or something similar. You’d attach a MS Access database to it. And then you’d have a server, and the client. And that was it. As simple as that. These days you have DigitalOcean, Linode, Google Cloud, AWS, Azure, etc. And all these have a ton of stuff in their arsenal to help your software scale, and work with the minimum downtime” Antonio Nesic adds.
5. Project management and communication tools: Jira and Slack.
Finally, we definitely should mention Jira and Slack, as well as other similar tools that make project management and communication among developers and other specialists much better organized and planned.
Jira is a proprietary issue tracking solution, first released in 2002, that allows users to plan, track, and manage agile and software development projects. It also has multiple other functions, allowing programmers to collaborate more efficiently, customize the workflow, track bugs and manage the backlog.
Slack is a business communication platform that has multiple messaging and collaboration features such as chat rooms organized by topics, private groups for conversations with several people, video calls and so on. First released in 2009, it quickly became the most popular communication tool for software development teams.
Brett Watters, another experienced programmer, remembered other tools that are worth mentioning. “Skype, Teams, IM, SharePoint, and other similar tools now allow quick sharing of information, collaboration, etc. without physical meetings, discussions, lengthy email exchanges, and so on,” he said
Why becoming a software developer is also easier today than ever before
Of course, as software developer’s work gets easier with new tools and technology development, learning skills required for a professional programmer to have also gets a lot more accessible and beginner-friendly than before. So what has changed in software development education over the last decade or two?
Lots of things. The information increased in volume and became available through multiple sources and in multiple ways, learning technologies have also been enhanced.
- Free programming tutorials.
Partially thanks to the availability of great collaboration tools and platforms and as a result of fast-growing developer communities, both online and offline, today beginners wanting to learn a programming language are able to find multiple free tutorials to learn from online.
This is especially true when it comes to massively popular programming languages such as Java. There are loads of free Java tutorials available online. Official Java Tutorials
from Oracle are certainly worth a recommendation. Some other pretty great interactive online Java tutorials would be LearnJavaOnline.org
, and the one you can find on Tutorials Point
- Advanced online learning courses.
The existence of advanced programming learning courses with learning plans, gamification elements, social features, and emphasis on teaching students applicable skills instead of useless theory is another thing making a difference in software development education today.
Not to be immodest, but CodeGym is probably the best example of an advanced online learning course good for total beginners and able to deliver graduates who are fully functional Java developers. CodeGym is perfect for learning how to get better at coding in the most effective way possible — through practice, lots of it. Starting from the very first CodeGym lesson, you will slowly learn the basics of Java, having lots of diverse tasks (puzzles) designed to help you support theoretical knowledge with hands-on practical skills.
- Programming prep platforms.
Online preparation platforms where coding beginners can practice and prepare for job interviews is another considerable novelty that just wasn’t there until the 2000-10s. Some of the most popular prep platforms are LeetCode
, Interview Cake
. CodeGym, with its more than 1200 tasks also can be classified as a prep platform, by the way. A gamified and fun to use platform, one can add.
- YouTube channels, blogs and podcasts about programming.
New media with lots of user-generated content can be a great learning augmentation source, helping beginners to get information straight from experts in their field via YouTube channels
, blogs and podcasts. As an example, today one can find numerous great YouTube channels for Java beginners
, such as Derek Banas
, Programming with Mosh
, Oracle’s Java channel
, Adam Bien
, and vJUG
Finally, some truly great coding games
were released. As we know, and CodGym is a living proof
, gamification can be a pretty great way to empower your learning
and achieve better progress while also having fun in the process. When applied to learning how to code, it helps beginners to grasp the essence of difficult programming concepts and techniques quicker and with less effort.
Do you agree that learning programming and working as a software developer today is easier than ever before, or did we miss something proving the opposite point of view? Let us know in the comments section below.