Programmers are the blue-collar workers of the future

Programmers are the blue-collar workers of the future

When you picture a coder, the mind conjures up an image of a character like Mark Zuckerberg. A college dropout in a hoodie, who works three days and nights solid to knock together an app with the aim of becoming fabulously rich and “changing the world”?

If that’s the case, then it’s high time that you throw this Silicon Valley cliché over board. At least, this is the opinion of “WIRED” author Clive Thompson. Subscribers to the print version were already able to read this in the December edition – an annual subscription to the US Wired costs a mere $70 here in Germany (and elsewhere abroad), including the digital version for tablet.

Thompson advocates the point of view that we should rather perceive writing code as the blue-collar job of the future. A bit less miracle kid, a bit more proletariat. Not every developer has to write crazy new algorithms for flash trading or neural networks. JavaScript for the local bank will also often do, and is a solid, well-paid (and getting better) middle-class job. Precisely one of those very jobs that politicians often routinely mourn the demise of.

In places hardest hit by the loss of industrial jobs in the USA, people are especially keen take advantage of the new opportunities offered by programming. A former coal miner from Kentucky called Rusty Justice, for instance, has set his heart on code replacing coal. He is co-founder of the company Bit Source, which retrains former coal miners to work as programmers. Justice received an astounding 950 job applications for the first 11 positions he filled. Miners are already used to focusing deeply, working in teams and handling complex technology. “Coal miners are really technology workers who get dirty,” says Justice.

At the same time non-profit outfit CodeTN in Tennessee is trying to encourage high school students to participate in programming courses at community colleges. This has little to do with the Zuckerberg cliché. In fact, according to CodeTN co-founder Caleb Fristoe this misconception has proven to be a burden rather than a boost. “We need to get more employers saying, ‘Yeah, we just need someone to manage the login page, ’” he believes. “You don’t have to be a superstar.”

Naturally, society will always need its superstars – a few lone heroes, who push the boundaries at companies and in research – developing new applications such as machine learning. Still, a new perception of what comprises the vast majority of programming work could co-exist comfortably with these overachievers, writes Thompson. For decades now, pop culture and writers (such as himself) have “overpromoted” the idea of the lone genius, like the young billionaires in “The Social Network” or the anonymous, leather-clad hackers in “Mr. Robot”. The real heroes are, however, those who go to work every day, whether it‘s the coalface, the car production line or the keyboard, and produce great work day after day.

Whether you’re a blue-collar worker or a superstar: We at Retarus are looking for you. With us you will of course not only be writing code, but also history ;-). Find out more at

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