Hacker-hot, data deep: How Gen Z code literacy could transform travel-tech
Over the last few years, emerging technologies have continued to evolve at a rapid pace essentially unheard of just a decade ago.
And as a result, technology organizations across every industry, including travel, have witnessed the beginning of a power shift that tips the professional scales toward those who are the most technologically savvy and responsive to change amongst the employee base.
But this phenomenon hasn’t come as a surprise. It has occurred with many previous generations in the workplace, although the subject matter and context were different.
Gen Y will one day be on the negative end of this deal
As a Gen Y member with enough knowledge of emerging technologies to be dangerous, I have been fortunate to benefit from this shift during the first decade of my career. However, the thought often crosses my mind that not too many years from now, my generation will inevitably be on the other side of this equation.
Some predict that Generation Z members, by age of 20, will have evidenced the same technology prowess that Generation Y understands at 30.
Thus, to my millennial counterparts — there’s a reason to be paranoid.
And this week, a ReadWriteWeb article proposed a theory that should solidify that paranoia: “What if computer programming evolves into the next form of literacy starting with Gen Z?”
As second-nature as reading and writing is today, coding could become a skill as natural to grade schoolers as memorizing the alphabet.
What if we enabled every grade-school student to have a similar power over machines that they have today with words when communicating?
And in travel…
For each of us navigating the technological travel landscape, how could that type of radical democratization of programming impact our industry?
Startup directory Angel List indicates some 150 travel startups announced their existence or launched in 2012, maintaining a pace that represents nearly one new travel technology startup on average for every day of the year.
Can you imagine the travel technology landscape in a decade or two when the ability to program a travel application is considered a do-it-yourself skill?
And when individuals can hack their own travel experience however they choose?
Yes, please. What would you build first?
The thought of this possibility is exciting, although I’d have to guess there’s a dissenter or two who might argue this would be bad for the industry?
Would it muddy the waters and fragment the market Or could it be the best thing that ever happens to the travel industry?
Is the simple act of putting more concepts into working code in real-life scenarios going to allow us to more easily and realistically test and ultimately identify the “perfect” travel application?
ReadWriteWeb suggests that the potential for technological innovation is unlimited if we put the power of programming into the hands of children at an early age, and I don’t entirely disagree.
But two additional questions remain:
1. If anyone can code and build their own perfect set of applications, and the feature-rich, high-volume applications we use today became less in demand, would we no longer attempt to solve the hard, complex problems? Selfishly, would there be any point to doing so?
2. Or without feature-rich, high-volume apps, are the hard problems actually no longer as difficult?
Regardless of the answer, my personal agenda is the same: Learn to friggin’ code.
Code-driven versus idea-driven outputs as our technology careers evolve
The reason behind that is my inability to code for the last 2-3 years has nagged at me constantly, thus my recent commitment to completing my first web application before another birthday passes. But that desire has purely been based on my personal agenda, not what my professional career requires.
A Forbes article on this topic in March discussed the growing interconnectedness between business and technology teams operationally, and yet the unfortunate disconnect knowledge-wise:
The two worlds are getting increasingly intertwined, but at the same time, business people are getting increasingly disconnected from technology. As a result, their intuitions about technological evolution are getting weaker, and people with pure business backgrounds are getting blindsided with increasing frequency by technology developments they didn’t see coming.
One obvious solution is that the business people must also become true technologists. There’s something to be said for an MBA who has taken the time to learn how to code.
Even aside from the literacy debate, at a more basic level, our strategic thinking and business concept-centric mindset may very well decrease in value long-term.
Our tomorrow will require more tangible, code-driven outputs versus the text-heavy, idea-based outputs of today on which little to no real action can actually be taken. Thus, no testing can be performed, and consequently no meaningful data-driven learning can occur.
I need to learn how to code to test and to capture data to learn. And that is more than enough of a reason to renew my commitment to learning to code at 30 — bring it on.
Because at the end of my generation’s prime, there’s one thing that is certain: Our Gen Z counterparts, with their pre-teen braces, are in steady pursuit of our future careers.
The 20-year-old know-it-alls really will know it all inside and outside of travel technology.
They’ll be coming in hacker-hot, data-deep and “Hello, World” happy.
It’s time to get your big-girl coding britches on.
Notes: Here are some online programming resources:
- Codeacademy and Code School are online web-based coding tutorials (mostly free),
- Code Academy is a Chicago-based 8-10 week hard-core workshop in programming.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Sarah Kennedy Ellis is a contributing Node to Tnooz and director of Sabre Labs, a dedicated emerging technology incubator and trends research lab at Sabre Holdings.
At Sabre since 2007, Sarah has spent time working in a variety of divisions including everything from strategy and product development to social media marketing and R&D.
She was selected as one of the first members of PhoCusWright's inaugural "Class of 35" in 2009, recognizing the top 35 young leaders under the age of 35 in travel.
She also is invited to speak at a variety of technology conferences & industry events each year on topics including emerging technology and innovation management.
The views expressed by Sarah on Tnooz are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Sabre Holdings, its partners, customers or subsidiaries.