25 March 2017

Future of Software Engineering

In world of Big Data we essentially have four separate encompassing roles: Big Data Engineer, Data Scientist, Data Architect, and Data Analyst. In most companies the differentiation of the roles generally has a distinctive overlap. However most of these role types are a summation of one main role as it were and that is of a Computer Scientist or more simply put of a Software Engineer. A Big Data Engineer ordinarily is a Software Engineer who is able to look at the big picture. This implies essentially that a Data Scientist, Data Analyst, and a Data Architect are really subsets of the Big Data Engineer. In future, we will witness the convergence of these roles into one where many of the separate role responsibilities will merge into the Software Engineer role. As memory requirements grow to meet Big Data it will mean that Software Engineers take on a broader scope of work. The many disparities in roles converging implies that complexity is more managed and accessible across a standard engineering team. Obtaining a Data Scientist with a Phd is no longer going to be the conservative forte for organizations. Many Software Engineers are able to do the work of Data Scientist as well as Big Data Engineers and manage to look at the big picture from the business standpoint. In almost all cases, algorithms can be taught, approaches can be taught, skills can be re-learnt, but really what teams require is the flexible mindset to adapt to change. Data Scientists have several limitations for organizations: they tend to be good at R and/or Python, specifically a set of statistical and/or machine learning approaches, and generally apply models to a very small subset of data constraints which are not always adaptable to change in the realistic Big Data requirements of a business. They also have a very strong dependency on Big Data Engineers to provide the backbone for ingestion of data sources, feature engineering, data pipelining, and to ease their model building process. That is almost three quarters of the Big Data work. Ordinarily, Software Engineers can handle multitasking across the entire stack as well as practically apply data science concepts. The future means that the roles of Data Analyst, Data Scientist, Data Architect, Big Data Engineers will no longer be necessary as part of recruitment and they will eventually be eclipsed by the standard Software Engineer. It is not so difficult to attend conferences, read journal papers, conduct research, and build models on data. One only really needs the right business mindset or domain knowledge. Learning and applying new approaches is a continuous process of Software Engineers to up their skills in moving with the times. Organizations will demand more out of hybrid Software Engineers in being able to adapt for changes which are often guided by the business need and the data landscape. Applied Artificial Intelligence will imply that even the building of generalizable models for data is going to become a simpler process of engineering without requiring specialist skills.