It is coming up to CAO time of the year, and once again students are being bombarded with all sorts of course choices. However, the most lucrative course of all is often overlooked by many: computer science (or its related course electronics and computing ). Computer science is a direct gateway to the global tech industry that has spawned the largest companies in the world such as Amazon, Microsoft, Stripe, and of course, Genesys, the global leader in cloud based software for customer care. Marc Andreessen, who developed the first widely used browser, Mosaic, stated that “software is eating the world”. This is being borne out as we see AirBnb (travel ), Spotify (music ), Netflix (television ), Zoom (video conferencing ), and many more disrupt their respective industries and change the way we live, work, and play.
So how can our children (both boys and girls ) in the west of Ireland get connected to this global wave of innovation? It’s straightforward – put computer science or electronic and computing at any of the local colleges as first choice on your CAO application – NUIG, GMIT, AIT, UL, or any of the Irish colleges. All the courses will teach you software engineering from the basics to a point where you are ready to embark on a well-paid career with great perks (healthcare, pension, lots of holidays ) and a creative and rewarding day to day working environment. Software jobs have been among the fastest growing of all roles among multi-nationals, with ourselves, Genesys, now having more than 300 people here in Galway. And with the expansion of the Portershed in Galway city centre, the Galway Technology Centre in Mervue, the work going on in GMIT iHubs, and the NUIG Innovation Centre, coupled with the network of hubs across the west it is an exciting time for startups, the majority of which require software developers and many are founded by software developers. In fact many of the most successful people in the world have been software developers – Bill Gates, Elon Musk, John and Patrick Collison, to name a few. And it’s not just for the boys, Cisco Systems was co-founded by Sandra Lerner.
Software development has become a diverse endeavour. Take an application like Instagram. We see it as an app on our smartphones, but it is really a cloud application (ie, it primarily runs in a data centre ) with an app for the user interface. To create Instagram involves UX design (the related discipline that enables people interact with software in an accessible and intuitive way ), front-end software developers who are skilled at building user interfaces in conjunction with the UX designer, back-end engineers who build the cloud services to store and serve up all the photos, videos, stories, likes, and comments, AI engineers who create the algorithms that decide what photos and videos to show each individual based on their likes and profile, and DevOps engineers who scale it all up so that millions of users can use it, all at the same time anywhere in the world. All of these skills start with a computer science, electronic and computing, or UX design degree. Software developers work in collaborative teams where the emphasis is on creativity and problem solving. Gone are the days of the lone hacker in a dingy basement. The focus now is on working together to create great experiences for users.
And a computer science degree gives you skills that can take you anywhere in the world with globally recognised qualifications that allow you practice software engineering anywhere in the world. And of course, you always have the option to return home with the skills you have accumulated to a well-paid and rewarding job. Graduates in software have starting salaries around €40,000 and after five years that will have grown to €60,000 to €70,000.
After that, the sky is the limit, just ask Bill or Elon! If you enjoy maths or physics or any science subject, then make sure you seriously consider computer science when you open up the CAO website this year.