by Paul Rudo on 19/05/12 at 2:21 pm
Up until the late 1990s, computer programming was an attractive career choice. A young, self-taught programmer with no formal training could easily build a lucrative career by developing custom applications for clients on a freelance basis, by working full-time at a VC-rich silicon-valley start-up, or by getting employed by large company that wanted to automate their business processes.
But a few important events happened which changed all of this.
- First, the dot-com bubble burst caused the job market to flood with an over-supply of desperate skilled workers. Although the effects of this crash have evaporated long ago, developer salaries have never bounced back in relation to other fields.
- Second, worldwide outsourcing has exploded while internet connectivity has also expanded access to inexpensive qualified labour. Although a very good north-American developer can still earn a good salary with job security, a mediocre developer must face fierce competition from highly-skilled off-shore workers that can afford to work for a fraction of the cost.
If you want a career as a software developer today, you need experience, skill, natural talent, and a constant drive to upgrade your knowledge. The market for programming jobs is very competitive, and employers are taking advantage.
However, Big Data is having a profound effect on the way we work with information. And it’s spawning a new technological revolution that will provide lucrative opportunities for developers who are prepared to catch the wave.
Currently, there’s a worldwide shortage for software developers with a deep understanding of mathematics. MapReduce, Cassandra, Hadoop, and NoSQL are the hottest buzz-words in tech right now. If you’re a developer with strong statistical analysis and critical thinking abilities, there are thousands of open positions waiting for you.
It used to be that you would only see “Quants” in niche areas such as Wall Street. But deep statistical data analysis, business intelligence and data mining have now entered into the mainstream. And it’s affecting every industry very deeply.
Because of this, we’ve recently seen a sharp spike in the popularity of online mathematical learning resources. Sites like the Khan Academy, Integral Calc, and PatrickJMT are drawing legions of devoted fans, as people around the world are realizing what lucrative opportunities are available for people with mathematical literacy.
There is also an online community where developers can sign up and compete to solve mathematical and logic questions which can only be solved through computer programming. Project Euler started in 2001 as a sub-section on a math hobbyist site. But by 2006, the popularity of this section had grown so strong that it was spun off into its own web site.
Some of the problems on this site include challenges such as:
- Create a program that calculates 21000, and then sums up all of the digits to give you the final answer.
- If you were to compile a list of the written names for each number from “one” to “one thousand”, how many letters would be in the string?
- Discover a quadratic formula which produces the largest number of prime numbers for consecutive values of x.
Some of the problems in this list are fairly straight-forward and can be solved in less than a minute. But other problems require creativity in working with extremely large numbers which fall outside of the standard supported data types.
On this site, mathematicians and programmers can also get together and share ideas. Project Euler is a great community for anyone with a combined passion for both mathematics and programming.