I’ve always been a hands-on kind of person. If there’s something I don’t know, I make it my business to put in the research and figure it out. If someone tells me something can’t be done, I challenge myself to find a way. Which is why, right from the outset with Guildhawk, I refused to accept the limitations of existing content management tools. How hard could it be, I reasoned, to design a content management system that was customised to our unique ways of working? After a bit of fruitless shopping around, I decided the only solution was to build our own bespoke tool from scratch. Despite having zero experience of programming, I set about teaching myself how to code. At the time, it seemed like a no-brainer, although looking back, I must have been either mad or hopelessly overconfident – or possibly both! But be that as it may, over the years it’s proved to be a highly useful skill.

So I am constantly surprised by the number of people I encounter in our line of business who can talk knowledgeably and confidently about coding in theory, yet have never been motivated to take the plunge in practice. My curiosity would have got the better of me long ago, even if I hadn’t had to jump in at the deep end!

Our interconnected world is producing data at an ever-increasing rate and creating myriad stimulating and rewarding employment opportunities in its wake. There’s never been a more exciting time to be a data mining engineer – yet, according to Microsoft, among others, there is a serious lack of suitably qualified applicants for the current job market, let alone the future needs of this rapidly expanding sector. Far from being left behind by the next tech-savvy generation, the industry veterans brought up on SQL are in greater demand than ever for their knowledge and experience. With around two-thirds of data processing jobs still requiring familiarity with SQL, it’s a long way from the spent force that some have been predicting. Nevertheless, it seems that many of today’s new recruits are lacking this highly marketable skill.

“I am constantly surprised by the number of people I encounter in our line of business who can talk knowledgeably and confidently about coding in theory, yet have never been motivated to take the plunge in practice. My curiosity would have got the better of me long ago, even if I hadn’t had to jump in at the deep end!”

We recently had reason to test this hypothesis when we launched a partnership project between Guildhawk and Sheffield Hallam University. We’re recruiting data programmers to create a custom-built tool designed to keep us, and our clients, one giant step ahead of the competition. We’re confident that, in collaboration with the University, we’ll find the perfect candidates with the right balance of innovative brilliance and practical knowhow – but the exercise has brought home to me the worryingly apparent lack of suitably qualified applicants for tech/coding roles.

Digital technology is now so much a part of our everyday lives that I wonder if we are simply guilty of taking it all for granted – forgetting that behind every automated process lies a human hand. Every time we make an online bill payment, order a new pair of shoes, or treat ourselves to a home-delivered meal, we’re benefiting from the insight of ground-breaking software developers. Daily tasks like setting the satnav, checking our Twitter feed, or turning on the central heating are effortless thanks to the skill of highly trained data processors. These are dynamic and fulfilling jobs that have been rightly prized for decades, but it seems to me that today’s graduates are less convinced than their predecessors of the opportunities for career development in this sector – and in my opinion they’re missing out big time.

Training as a coder not only gives you the satisfaction of making a positive contribution to the digital revolution, it’s also a great stepping-stone to sought-after engineering and management positions. Here at Guildhawk we’re committed to building long-term careers for all our employees, no matter what level they join us at. And we’re not the only ones calling for coders to be given the recognition and reward they deserve; Mark Zuckerberg claims that even trailblazing Facebook is facing a dearth of talented software engineers, while Mark McCaffrey of PricewaterhouseCoopers has said that the competition for key skills and experience has become a global war for talent.

So there’s no doubt that the future for qualified data programmers looks full of opportunity, and Guildhawk is happy to be among those offering them the chance to create tech which is set to empower people and society – not just track them!