Being a software developer in 2020

As software developers, we learn all the time. New frameworks, new programming languages, new dev ops, the list seems endless. So, we often plan to catch up with X and Y, through online courses, videos, blog posts, asking a colleague etc. Many mention it when giving career advice. And I have done so myself up until the end of 2019.

But it’s different now. I believe that the best you can do for your career as a software developer in 2020 is to focus on climate change*. Reduce your meat and dairy consumption**. Talk about climate change with your family, friends, colleagues. Contact your local politicians and ask that they bring in legislation that keeps fossil fuels in the ground. Contact any organisation you are a member or customer of, and ask them to divest from fossil fuels.

I know, I know, I’m mostly talking about communication skills. And, as software developers, we’re not always too comfortable with those. So it’s a big ask.

“I’m worried I will get behind if I don’t learn framework X and all the other developers do.”

Well, if we don’t keep fossil fuels in the ground, the increase in pandemics, extreme weather events, and food shortages, to name by a few, will render your access to the internet and computer equipment quite uncertain*** – that would be a much bigger problem than not knowing framework X.

The current pandemic gives us a preview of what will come if we don’t keep fossil fuels in the ground. When a large chunk of the population becomes unemployed, or homeless, due to climate change related events, businesses will not push for cutting edge new projects, they’ll just be scrambling to stay afloat (and many won’t).

Hence, why it matters more to focus on fighting climate change****.

Remember I started with “As software developers, we learn all the time“? We can therefore learn how to fight climate change effectively. I recommend How to Talk About Climate Change in a Way That Makes a Difference by Rebecca Huntley. It’s fairly quick to read and, IMHO, full of applicable advice*****.
Now, back to those communication skills you will learn along the way… Those you work with will appreciate them, whether they are fellow developers, designers, PMs, POs, CTOs, CEOs. Those skills will give you a career boost much bigger than learning framework X could.

What next?

– Project Drawdown : the world’s leading resource for climate solutions. The 80 main solutions are all existing solutions, that need scaling up. There are 20 extra emerging solutions, ie new promising tech. The focus, however, is on the 80 proven solutions. It’s not about hoping for a miracle tech solution, but doing more of what works (and, as a consequence, less of what doesn’t).
– CO2: are we stabilizing yet? : in case you’re not quite aware of the current CO2 levels. Perhaps, like me, you remember 400ppm talked about a few years ago, as a level we should remain under?. Well, we are above that now (416.39 in June 2020).
– Climate Action Tracker : how is your country doing?
– The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty : Climate change, like nuclear weapons, is a major global threat. And fossil fuels are responsible for most emissions. Hence, an international deal to keep them in the ground would be most helpful.
Stop Ecocide : an international effort to make ecocide an international crime. At the moment, mass damage and destruction of nature is permitted. An ecocide law would make this illegal.
– Go Fossil Free: Divestment : is your pension fund, company, university, church, government etc listed? Check the list, and if you are a member of an organisation that isn’t there, contact them to ask them why.


* Your career is not the only reason to do it of course. But even if you do it for that reason only, I don’t care, as long as you do it!

** In addition to direct emissions, meat and dairy contribute to the collapse of many ecosystems, deforestation, and ocean deadzones. This is why “Plant rich diet” is ranked very high by project drawdown, the world’s leading resource for climate solutions.

*** You live in Scotland and think warmer summers would be good? Global warming doesn’t mean it’s evenly and predictably warmer. It means extreme weather patterns, such as floods. It means forest fires. It also means new pests, that can decimate the local ecosystem, including agriculture.

**** Of course, there are many other worthy things to focus on. If you focus on them already, keep going, you rock. But, for those of us who mostly focus on technical skills, then it’s time to focus on fighting climate change, it will be far more useful, both to us and to others.

***** With this article, I’m using the “object of care” principle. That is, relating climate change to things software developers care about. I’m also keeping the tone hopeful. I’m not saying “disaster is coming”, I’m saying “it will come if we don’t keep fossil fuels in the ground”. And, before stating that, I suggested things we can do to ensure we keep fossil fuels in the ground, such as contacting local politicians and organisations we are members of. So yes, this article is also part of my own learning process about communication about climate change in a way that encourages others to feel realistic hope and act in order to convert that hope into reality. The future evolves from today, one day at a time.

Author: Natalie Masse Hooper

Mobile app developer with 12 years experience. Started with the Android SDK in 2010 and switched to Flutter in 2017. Past apps range from start ups to large tech (Google) and non tech (British Airways) companies, in various sectors (transport, commercial operations, e-commerce).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.