Whether it is baseball, basketball, football, tennis, golf or swimming, nearly every kid plays sports at some point during their childhood. Besides the obvious health benefits, there are some who start early and are able to progress all the way to the collegiate level. For the exceptional, a professional career is the ultimate goal. And what parent doesn’t want their child to reach the peak of not just their sport but the associated celebrity can be very appealing.
Regardless of the individual talent and chosen sport, there are very few kids who ever make it to the professional ranks. There are a multitude of reasons for this dynamic. Some kids are injured before they ever get the chance to reach their full potential. Still others decide that they don’t truly love the sport as much as they thought they did. And for still others, they find that there are peers whose talents exceed theirs.
While this can be a stark realization for those who have been playing sports all their lives, there is some good news. There is a discipline with many of the same characteristics that enables those who can dedicate themselves to years of practice, training, and continuous improvement will find a home - coding.
And, the current gap in opportunities versus available talent shows that there is no limit for those who choose to focus on developing their technology muscle.
1. Professional Salary
Let’s face it part of the allure of professional sports is the amazing compensation. Professional athletes can be expected to make millions of dollars annually on the field of play. And, if they become the elite in their sport, they can be expected to make millions more in endorsements.
While engineers and developers can not hope to match a professional athletes compensation, they still have the opportunity to make a great living. In fact, Glassdoor reports that the average salary of a software engineer
is $115,000 annually. Similarly, there is good news for those who choose to focus on hardware engineering which has an average annual salary of $118,000
Despite the amazing potential compensation, the reality is that there are not a lot of professional sports jobs. In fact, the NCAA made a big advertising push about their student athletes going pro in something other than sports. This wasn’t to be dismissive about their ability or potential. Instead, it was the harsh reality that it is really difficult to go pro in sports.
On the other hand, we know that by the year 2020 (2 short years from now), there will be over 1 million technical jobs that go unfilled due to a lack of qualified candidates. These are not jobs that require you to be the elite athlete with millions of fans. Instead, these are jobs that are within reach for those who dedicate themselves to learning how to build with technology.
Using the general rule of thumb of scarcity along with supply and demand, one can imagine that those who develop the skills to build solutions using technology are going to be in demand and have consistently increasing compensation as a result.
2. Professional Growth
As a software developer or hardware engineer, one typically begins their career as an independent contributor in a junior role working on projects that represent key elements of the overall solution a company is delivering to the market.
Often junior developers and engineers are assigned to groups that have more senior professionals that is similar in nature to an apprenticeship. You are expected to ask questions and challenge yourself to build upon your education.
While these roles can be limited in nature, they offer a great opportunity to prove yourself and show that one can dive into a problem and develop elegant scalable solution.
For those who are able to prove themselves as junior engineers, there is usually an opportunity to become a senior or lead engineer. In this role, you would be expected to work with a product manager or engineering lead in the ownership of key projects that are more encompassing that the smaller bits as a junior engineer. In addition, you would be expected to mentor and guide junior engineers to develop their skillset.
As one proves themselves in a senior engineering role, they are often given a choice between taking on managerial responsibilities which go beyond the pure solution development and incorporate budget, strategy development and planning or to develop deep depth as a technical expert for their given area. Both of these roles can be professional demanding and intellectually satisfying depending on the individual preference.
Within engineering management, there are often opportunities to lead progressively larger teams to deliver solutions that achieve functional, budget and timing targets. For those on the more technical path, they have the opportunity to own a larger and larger scope of the product roadmap and are often asked to come up with increasingly elegant solutions to difficult problems.
Depending on a combination of good fortune, preparation and skill, one can ultimately ascend to a CTO role where they are managing the technology-based solution development for the entire organization. This role requires a combination of technology stack decisions and management acumen as to what engineering managers.
For those who develop transcendent solutions that are utilized beyond the 4 walls of your company, such as DHH who developed Ruby on Rails, you can become nationally and internationally regarded for your development of game-changing solutions.
3. Professional Impact
In recent years, technology based solutions have gotten somewhat of a bad reputation. Whether it’s social media’s impact on elections or the data hacking scandals that have compromised our personal and financial information, there is a lot to be concerned about.
On the other hand, I’m witnessing early signals of the game changing impact of technology in unexpected ways. While there are the popular items that get the major headlines like self-driving vehicles, cryptocurrency and the latest smartphone; there are some under the radar changes that are underpinned by technology which are truly making the world a better place.
While there can be reasons for concern about screen time and devices consuming our time, I’ve also seen how this technology can connect people around the globe. For example, my brother is currently deployed in an environment that would normally cause the family a great deal of concern about his safety and well being. However, he has been able to text us occasionally and comment/like posts on social media which gives us a degree of comfort despite the circumstances.
Uber has been criticized for their harmful culture and the aggressive way they have pursued growth in countries all around the world. However, their carpool feature is solving one of the biggest issues with vehicle traffic; 1 person in a vehicle with 5 or more seats. Using technology initial in the urban setting and ultimately for suburban commutes could be game changing from a utilization standpoint.
We are all familiar with the issue of gun violence. There is an early-stage company that has developed a patented system that can detect where gunshots came from and alert law enforcement faster than someone in the area can call 9-1-1. While they are only in a handful of cities, if this technology catches on; it could be a huge deterrent to gun violence because there would be an increased likelihood of someone being caught if the police are already on their way within seconds of shots being fired.
While the Apple Watch was initially conceived as a consumer device not unlike the watch Michael Knight used in Knight Rider, there is emerging evidence that it may have the potential to positively impact health outcomes. In fact, there is a recent example of an Apple Watch detecting a condition which resulted in someone diving deeper into their medical condition and possibly saving their life
. While we are still early days, there is no doubt that the affordable cost of sensors, the miniaturization of electronics, the development of algorithms, and the ability to meaningfully aggregate data could be game changing for our health.
Even though the above examples are encouraging, there are still many difficult problems in need of elegant solutions. So, while we have talked about the professional compensation and the professional growth; the reality is that knowing how to build with technology truly gives the next generation the skills they need to change the world.