Discomfort, the new Disruption? Skill Transparency in a Digital Workforce.


“Learn to code.”

During a 60-minute panel, everyone in the audience was told that we had to “learn to code” at least every 7-8 minutes. Instinctively most of us looked down into empty wine glasses, hoping for a momentary escape from an inconvenient truth. The panel, discussing the rise of ‘hybrid’ roles in technology drove their message home with staggering conviction. We all need to learn to code.

A call to action, call to coding if you prefer, is not a demand for everyone to drop their specialities and start fresh as software engineers. I maintain that the rise of ‘hybrid’ job descriptions has very little to do with the generalist/specialist debate, and is instead about skill transparency.

Advocates of hybrid roles are not advocates for employees with an average level of skill in all areas. The rise of the hybrid role is the markets’ answer to a need for an integrated workforce, a single organism that understands the value and function of every individual part. Advocates for hybrid roles are advocates for their employees to have a solid understanding of not only their department but the intricacies of, and challenges faced, by the departments they work with.

Like the safety found in numbers, ambiguity around skill set affords a certain safety from criticism. After all, if no one really knows what you do, no one will know if you could be doing it better. Maintenance of an idea that specialisation or preference for one digital skill means no aptitude for venturing across the soft skill/hard skill bridge holds back the potential of any digital team.

There are two ways to react to the rising popularity of hybrid job descriptions. The first, based in fear, sees an overwhelming feeling of ‘what I’ve got isn’t enough anymore’. Instead of facing the changing digital landscape head on, this fear that our specific skill set might slowly be losing value has meant hiding behind an archaic idea that the divide between soft skills/hard skills is pre-determined and permanent.

“I can’t” has become a substitute for “I don’t want to”.

What you do with the discomfort of increased expectation is what matters. So you have the option of the second reaction, letting the discomfort drive you. The rising pressure for a skill range that might not yet be reflected on your LinkedIn profile has the potential to transform of your career and what you’re able to add your environment.

What’s important to remember when you’re being told to “learn to code” is that it does not mean, “change career track towards full stack web development and make sure you’re fluent in React because of, you know, UI reasons”. “Learn to code” means “understand coding”. Understand what it means, how it’s done, who does it, and what they use. Look into the languages and what separates them, do an online course in your spare time.

Specialisation in one area no longer disqualifies you from investment in another.

A seasoned copywriter with 10 years experience and a certificate in CSS, does not make a front-end developer. It makes a copywriter with a better understanding and ability to connect to the development team they work with.

So get comfortable with being uncomfortable, let the pressure and discomfort push you and, for the love of Moses, learn to code. Discomfort might just be the new disruption

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