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Hudson @ Droidcon 2016: why the Android developer market needs to embrace contractors (and women!)

Hudson @ Droidcon 2016: why the Android developer market needs to embrace contractors (and women!)

Droidcon is the biggest event in the calendar for Android developers and mobile tech enthusiasts alike.

Every year hundreds of people gather to meet like-minded people, listen to thought-provoking talks and to celebrate the Android community. 

It's organised by Skills Matter, a 70,000 strong community of software engineers and techies! Led by Wendy Devolder, her and her passionate team help drive innovation in software engineering by bringing smart and creative developers together to learn and share new skills, discover emerging technologies and evolve practices and ideas. 

So allow me to set the scene of the event: 73 expert speakers, 2 days, 1,500 attendees, 1,500 tweets and an after party with 160 pizzas…

The first thing that was most obvious to me was the lack of female presence at Droidcon. I know ‘Women in Tech’ is becoming a tired theme of countless blogs, but it still is something that is yet to change. As a rough estimate, I would say out of the 1,500 attendees, 2 per cent were women - that equates to 30 females in the venue. 

This is also reflected in the number of female Android developers in the mobile market. 92 per cent of mobile developers are men. 

Of course, this data is not truly representative of the world’s developer population. But it is definitely a clear indicator that men are at the forefront of software engineering. 

So how can we change this? There are several communities for women in tech such as the influential Women Who Code who contribute to making women feel more at home in a male dominant tech world. Although these communities encourage women to feel like they belong, there is still not enough women studying to become developers. 

I know myself coding was something I never thought about as a career – I didn’t even know it existed! I enjoyed English and History at school rather than Maths and Science and I feel that I wasn’t the only female student that felt this way. Perhaps if there was more of a push for female students to embrace the latter subjects, then more women would choose computing based degrees and consequently work in tech!  

Then again, a degree in computer science isn’t always the necessary path to get into tech. A lot of coders out there are self-taught thanks to the evolution of sites like YouTube and Codecademy. 

One of the women in the minority of the Android world who I had the opportunity to meet (and get a really cheesy selfie with) is the lovely Lisa Wray… 

Lisa gave a talk called "Radical RecyclerView". To a packed room of engrossed faces, she showcased her own creation Groupie: an Android library which helps coders display and manage complex RecyclerView layouts.

As I was helping out at the event, it was my job to run around frantically with the mic to help field questions to Lisa. The first person on the mic caused quite a stir…

Nevertheless, Lisa took it all in her stride and represented the female minority with grace. 

And while the issue of women and the developer population remains, the same could be said for overall talent numbers. 

The demand for mobile developers is mammoth - there are 800 Android developer vacancies in London alone and 2.4 million apps on the Google Play Store. With the World Wide Web becoming a thing of the past, the mobile market is expanding. Compared with the web, apps offer increased security, additional features, instant access and a higher level of engagement thanks to their own interface environment. Thus, more and more companies are operating solely via app like Airbnb, Deliveroo and Badoo.

The mobile developer market is mainly made up of contractors. Being a mobile dev contractor means that candidates can work on several different projects and build a portfolio-style CV. With that, developers can continue to evolve their skill set as they'll be using different tech and learning new languages to develop these different apps. This counteracts the fear of most candidates I speak to which is that their skills will become stagnant in a perm role.

And yet, clients will still wait months for the right permanent candidate to walk through the door. 

Right now, one of the only ways to find a developer with that 10/10 match to your organisation is to think about working with contractors. Contracting gives a person a strong, diverse skillset and forces them to adapt quickly and efficiently to new environments, and it sets a great example of the Android community's collaborative and innovative spirit. 

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