Blockchain and Government Services take a back seat to Cloud and AI

DC Tech Trends hatchpad

We asked 150 software engineers what programming languages or other tech tools they are most excited to learn next. Their answers hint at a more consumer-product oriented future for DC tech.


There are few industries that attract more lifelong learners than software engineering. Don’t believe me? Check out a DC Python Meetup. DC’s programming Meetups can attract hundreds of engineers – all eager to spend a weeknight learning more about coding.

We’re always interested in how the DC tech startup scene is changing. Since we work with engineers and help sponsor several local Meetups, we had a captive audience, so we decided to ask them what they’re excited to learn next. Many of the engineers we spoke to work with some of the most innovative software startups in the world. If you want to know about the next big thing in tech, it’s worth paying attention to what these professionals plan to learn next.

We interviewed 150 software engineers in the DC metro area and asked them:

What new programming language, topic, or other tech tool are you most excited to learn in the next year?

When we first asked the question, I thought blockchain might be a top answer. Up until recently, “blockchain” was the trendiest catchphrase in Silicon Valley and the techiest catchphrase on Wallstreet. It seemed as though everyone wanted to figure out what the blockchain was and how they could do it too. Instead, only 4 engineers mentioned it.

Rather than blockchain, the majority of engineers said they planned to learn multiple new programming languages or were excited to dive into new topics. Of the engineers surveyed, only three said they had no plans to learn anything new.

We counted 62 different programming languages and technologies that engineers were excited to learn in the coming year. That might seem like a big number, but it’s a fraction of the number of answers they could have given. According to Career Karma, there are approximately 700 programming languages in existence today (though not all of them are actively used). To keep up, software engineers are continuously learning, expanding their skillsets, and adopting new tech skills.

Most engineers listed at least two programming languages or topics they planned to learn. The most common answers listed Amazon Web Services, cloud security, and other cloud tools. After that, big data, AI, and machine learning came in a close second. Many engineers also mentioned they were either already familiar with Python and R or excited to learn them.

Due in part to its proximity to the federal government and a number of great schools, DC businesses and startups are often b2b-facing and work primarily in spaces like cybersecurity, cloud storage, and data analytics, so these results weren’t entirely surprising. In our research, we’ve discovered pockets of technical skill throughout the DC metro area – mostly determined by the businesses nearby.

After big data and cloud technologies, engineers’ answers took a turn towards programming languages like React and Go. Kubernetes and Node followed next. Honorable mention goes to Scala, Spark, and Vue.

These answers may indicate a shift towards more product and consumer-focused companies in DC’s future. As software startups expand beyond Silicon Valley, and cities across the East Coast transform into smaller technology and innovation hubs, areas often adopt a predominance of particular skillsets based on the businesses that move there. The largest software employers in an area often influence what engineers move into the region, which influences what businesses move there, and so on and so forth.

Of course, with businesses like Amazon’s AWS and new HQ2 taking up residence in the area, some of these results were predictable. But, the increased interest software engineers are showing towards cloud technologies, AI, and programming languages like React and Go is a good sign for a city previously known for government services and legacy code.

We’ve written before about how DC compares to Silicon Valley. At the time, we noted a lot of differences between the two regions. Most of those differences remain. But, for software engineers, the DC metro area is less and less limited. DC is increasingly at the cutting edge of cloud computing, big data, AI, and consumer-facing products. If you want to keep learning, you’re in the right place.

Author: Chris Mills

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