Who has the last laugh?

When I was at uni, there was a stall that had graffiti on the wall that was quite similar to the diagram above – words to the effect of “Arts degree – please take one.” It showed the disdain that some students obviously felt for the worth of an arts degree.

Back then, this sentiment was reflected in hiring policies of tech companies. But this interesting article by George Anders in Forbes suggests “That ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech’s Hottest Ticket.”

To quote George, “Software development keeps getting more automated. The rise of content libraries and plug-in modules means that mobile apps can be built much faster, with fewer people. But the nontechnical side–getting everyone to agree on what an app should look like–is more labor-intensive than ever.”

I’m not suggesting that the highly specialised code of OSS is going to become easily replaced by code libraries, but as code / development frameworks improve, the tech side of product development is likely to diminish and the usability side is likely to grow.

Many of the OSS that I’ve encountered have clearly been developed by technical experts. The aesthetics, usability and general ability to connect with end users have sometimes been lacking though.

Students educated in the liberal arts (or any non-technical training) may not have traditionally been a target for OSS resourcing managers, but I wonder whether the broader trend that George has identified in tech industries will also be seen in OSS?

Whilst the era of SDX (Software Defined Everything) is on our doorstep, I suspect that it will be resources with a combination of non-technical and technical skills (irrespective of the type of degree studied) that will become most sought-after… particularly those who are able to use those cross-over skills to make our tech products compellingly easy to use.

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One Response

  1. This is where listening and team work is essential to balance user experience with technical capabilities.
    A well rounded technologist can do both.
    A Liberal Arts person should work well at the user level and, depending upon experience, may be able to facilitate the best technological approach.
    It all comes down to personality, interest and experience and a good ‘professional’ will be very adaptable whatever their primary discipline.

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