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What technology skills you should focus next

December 1, 2014 - tech
What technology skills you should focus next

iOS and Javascript development skills are on the rise. I am always interested in emerging technology skills that are in high demand so I decided to use AngelList’s Jobs API 1 as a proxy for the broader startup community. I analyzed 14,745 jobs posted between February 2012 and November 2014. Here are the key insights based on the data.

Programming Languages
Web development languages such as HTML, CSS, Javascript, JQuery, Ruby, and Python remain extremely popular, accounting for approximately 25% of all jobs offered. iOS development skills primarily in Objective-C are also on high demand which is not surprising given popularity of mobile apps, with Swift skills growing the fastest. Java continues to be in demand especially for Android development. I also noticed Node.js and Angular.js on the rise as these platforms become more and more popular.

Node.js is a very robust platform with non-blocking I/O asynchronous calls, which allows it to support thousands of concurrent transactions on commodity hardware. I also enjoy the native websocket support and NPM package manager. Angular.js, launched by Google in 2009, is an open-source web application development framework and offers a great alternative to server side code, including the ability to create highly interactive web applications with great modularity. The chart below lists the top programming languages by number of jobs offered.

Note: the steep ascent in early 2014 could have been driven by the popularity of AngelList for startup jobs and not necessarily the demand for such skills.

chart-top-prog-languages

Emerging Technologies
While the chart above shows skills in high demand I am also interested in skills in low demand (fewer job postings) but with extremely high growth. Swift is a clear winner with 3,900% growth in number of jobs posted although starting from a smaller base. Other Javascript-based technologies such as React.js (see Javascript below), D3, and express are also growing (see Javascript below), as well as CSS precompilers such as LESS and SCSS/SASS. With the growth of analytics and big data I also noticed R, matlab, and hive as other high growth areas.

Celery, an asynchronous job queue scheduler, also showed high growth. Many applications have job scheduling requirements and Celery offers integration with Python and Django.

ch_emerging

Javascript
Node.js was first published in 2009 2 and has gained immediate adoption ever since. It is a very powerful and scalable JS-based server with strong support for sockets. It also supports web servers using frameworks such as Express and Jade. D3 is a powerful data visualization library with document manipulation features.

Angular.js offers a quick way to build and launch web applications in a modular fashion 3. Ember and Backbone are competing frameworks with Angular and there are some interesting public discussions about them here, here, and here.

React.js was the fastest growing Javascript library (3000% job growth between 2013 and 2014). Launched by a collaboration between Facebook and Instagram in 2013 and it offers a lightweight web UI library with the ability to update specific data elements as the underlying data changes in the backend 4.

Meteor.js is a complete web and mobile development framework often (unfairly) compared with Angular. While Angular focuses on the client side and depends on REST APIs to access data, Meteor runs on Node.js and manages both frontend and backend. Greg Neiheisel wrote a comparison between Meteor and Angular here.

ch-js

Databases
Every dynamic web application requires a database so let’s look at what’s happening here. NoSQL databases such as MongoDB and CouchDB are quickly gaining ground against traditional relational databases such as MySQL and PostgreSQL. This space is evolving quickly and new database offerings are entering the market at a fast pace as you can see in the chart below.

There are several hosted solutions for NoSQL such as MongoLab and Heroku for MongoDB and Cloudant for CouchDB. These solutions offer a very low barrier of entry for the application developer to build scalable applications at a low cost. I particularly like NoSQL for its ability to store and manage unstructured data such as Twitter feeds and the built-in sharding. Kristof Kovacs wrote a great comparison of NoSQL databases here.

There are also in-memory key-value datastores such as redis and memcached  that I find very interesting although I haven’t had a chance to work with them yet. These databases have very specific applications and are quickly gaining adoption. You can find comparisons on both databases here and here.

Other noteworthy databases are Cassandra (best for huge datasets with a SQL-like interface based on CQL3), HBase (Hadoop’s database), Accumulo (similar to HBase with cell-level security), Neo4j (targeted for graph-data such as routes, maps, and network topologies), Couchbase (memory-based for low-latency data access), and Riak (strong fault-tolerance).

Note to self: the startup community rarely uses the large scale database vendors such as Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, and IBM DB2 as you can see in the chart below.

chart-top_db

Platforms
Amazon AWS is the clear leader in hosting with a robust service and comprehensive offerings ranging from web servers to hadoop implementations. Amazon AWS is also a winner on data privacy, recently winning the bid to build CIA’s cloud infrastructure in 2013 5.

Phonegap 6 has shown impressive growth in adoption. It offers a comprehensive library to enable developers to build mobile apps across applications. This a pain point for mobile app developers who need to build apps across iOS, Android, and other platforms. Its main competitor is Appcelerator by Titanium 7 that offers an eclipse-based platform to build mobile apps using Javascript and then automatically translating into native code.

It is also important to note that Microsoft recently announced a decision to open source .Net which may generate some attention 8 9. The .Net platform is responsible for a small but growing number of jobs offered. Microsoft also gives out a lot of free stuff to startups through their BizSpark offering 10.

APIs are also in demand with strong adoption from Google APIs, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Balsamiq 11 is a phenomenal wireframing tool and it has grown by 2100% in adoption between 2014 and 2013. Heroku 12 is an application hosting solution with great and simple support for technologies such as Node.js and Python.

ch-platforms

Locations
Not surprisingly, Silicon Valley is the top location with 4,319 job posts across San Francisco, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Berkeley, and other locations. New York, Los Angeles,  London, and Boston follow next with over 3,800 jobs. India has grown by more than 1000% across Bangalore, Mumbai, New Delhi, and Pune.

world-map(Click on the map to view larger)

Roles
Developers continue to be in high demand especially mobile developers. This is followed by Marketing, Sales, and Design. These roles are closely tied to product development and business development which is at the heart of every startup. The chart below also include key support roles such as hardware engineer (infrastructure), finance, attorneys, and data scientists.

chart-roles

In conclusion, new programming languages, databases, and platforms are appearing at a very rapid pace. The best thing about it is focus on productivity and support for niche applications. Platforms such as PhoneGap enable cross-device mobile apps to be built much faster although with less features. Yet, it probably covers more than 80% of business scenarios which is enough. Same with MongoDB’s native JSON support which enables quick analysis of social media data such as Twitter feeds. Last, Node.js offers native socket support which enables the development of chat-based applications among many other scenarios. I am encouraged by such rapid technological evolution as it is also lowering the barrier of entry for new web and mobile apps. We should expect faster growth in number of apps and platforms in the coming months as well as new business models. Incumbents should worry.

Thanks to Nick Coult and Paul Johansen for the help writing this post.

Notes:

  1. http://angel.co/api/spec/jobs
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Node.js
  3. https://angularjs.org/
  4. http://facebook.github.io/react/blog/2013/06/05/why-react.html
  5. http://techcrunch.com/2013/10/07/amazon-web-services-wins-again-in-battle-to-build-the-cia-and-nsa-cloud/
  6. http://phonegap.com/
  7. http://www.appcelerator.com/
  8. http://news.microsoft.com/2014/11/12/microsoft-takes-net-open-source-and-cross-platform-adds-new-development-capabilities-with-visual-studio-2015-net-2015-and-visual-studio-online/
  9. https://gigaom.com/2014/11/12/a-milestone-moment-for-microsoft-net-is-now-an-open-source-project/
  10. http://www.microsoft.com/bizspark/
  11. https://balsamiq.com/
  12. https://www.heroku.com/