Canterbury Christ Church University Senior Lecturer in Computing, Tina Eager, provides her thoughts on the reasons why you should consider becoming Software Engineer.

Under the stresses and strains of Covid19, and its impact on jobs and on the economy, many people are finding that they no longer have a job to go back to after lockdown. Unemployment is increasing, every day there seems to be another announcement of a company closing down, reducing the number of employees, making people redundant. Some predict that there is a good chance that the unemployment rate will reach 30%[1]

However, all is not lost as long as you have the right skills. According to careers and jobs sites, like ITjobswatch[2] the demand for Software Engineers is increasing year on year. There is a national and international shortage of Software Engineers. Some roles are more in demand than others but the prediction is that demand will continue to increase.[3]

A degree in Software Engineering will help you access the highest paid jobs worldwide and locally. One of the things lockdown has taught us is that we no longer all have to be at work to be working. In software development there have, historically, always been people who have worked from or at home. Steve (Stephanie) Shirley[4] founded F International in 1962, allowing women developers to work from home. The business was very successful and many other development houses have adopted that model. You can work for a company in Tokyo or San Francisco from the comfort of your own home, or you can actually go there to work. For software engineers the world is their oyster.

But what about the kinds of things software engineers might be working on? The whole world is dependent upon software. Look around your home. If you have a smart TV it’s software that makes it work, the computer this was written on depends upon software (the operating system) to make it work and more software (the word processor) to allow me to write this.

If you have Alexa, that’s software driven, your tablet, your central heating controller, your washing machine. On a larger scale, NASA would be nowhere (let alone sending things to the moon and beyond) without software. The track and trace app wouldn’t be possible without software.

All but the most basic medical equipment requires software, trains need software (as anybody who has been on a train that has had to be re-booted can testify), nuclear power stations need software. Crossrail and other major mechanical engineering projects are planned and managed with the help of software. It is hard to think of any aspect of our lives that doesn’t have some element of software.

Your timetables at university? Specialist timetabling software.

Your library? Specialist library software.

Your pay? Software.

Your favourite PC game? Software.

Your car? Software.

Book a holiday, fly a plane, map your run? All software.

These days, anything more complicated than a curtain rail could have a software element, and given the increasing use of the Internet of Things (IOT) for things like managing your home why not have an app that closes the curtains automatically when it gets dark and opens them when you get up?

As we find more and more things that can be created or modified to make lives better so we will need people with the skills and knowledge to provide the software that makes them work. A classic example of this is insulin testing kits for people with diabetes. Poorly managed diabetes can kill you or cause other serious health problems.[5]

Ten years ago you would need a pricker, a test kit and an insulin injector. The pricker does what it says, it pricks you and lets you get blood out. You would put a drop of blood onto a testing strip and put the testing strip into a test kit. The test kit would tell you what your blood sugar level is and then you could see if you need insulin (too much sugar in the sample) or sugar (not enough sugar in the sample). If it was insulin you had to work out how much insulin you would need to inject, get out your injection kit, dial up the amount of insulin you needed and inject it. It would take 5 minutes and you would have to stop whatever you were doing to carry out the test. Doing injections in a public place attracts stares at the very least so you may need to find a private place to inject. Then you would need to write down your readings to show to your doctor. You would need to do that several times a day, every day. If you were doing something strenuous you’d have to do it before and again after. If you had eaten more than usual you had to test. Some people had to set alarms to wake them up in the middle of the night so they could test. You would only know what your blood sugar was at the point you did the test, you wouldn’t be able to tell if it was going up or down nor how fast.

Now you might not have to do any of that.

You can get an insulin monitor and pump combined, it monitors your blood sugar level day and night. It senses the level of blood sugar and automatically adjusts the insulin. It will alert you if your blood sugar gets too low. It also keeps a record of your blood sugar levels so that your doctor can check how your disease is progressing. All of that is controlled by software. All the user has to do is make sure it’s attached and has enough insulin and their quality of life is vastly improved.

Software engineering is the discipline that makes sure that the things we depend upon to keep us alive, to make our lives possible, to make our lives interesting and fun actually work, all day, every day giving the right results to the right people in time for them to do what they need to do.

References

[1] https://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2020/05/30/the-likelihood-that-the-uks-unemployment-rate-will-exceed-30-is-very-high/ [accessed 2 July 2020]

[2] https://www.itjobswatch.co.uk/jobs/uk/software%20engineering.do [Accessed 2 July 2020]

[3] https://hired.com/state-of-software-engineers [Accessed 2nd July 2020]

[4] https://www.steveshirley.com/about/ [Accessed 2nd July 2020]

[5] https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/complications