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Sunday, 03 January 2021 00:29

Which programming language and technologies should you learn in 2021? Featured


It’s 2021 and if you’re looking to learn a new programming language, DevOps tool, public cloud, or infrastructure items, the big question is which one to go for? Here are my picks on where to invest your time and energy.

This article was inspired from a pre-Christmas catch-up with a good friend and former colleague who spoke about his love for tech but wondered where he should put his time if he’s to learn new things in 2021. Those who have been in the industry for some time have seen no end of changes.

Once it was pretty simple; C and C++ were the programming languages to learn, with UNIX an established enterprise operating system and Windows an emerging contender. Pascal was being taught, which led to Delphi before Java emerged with its built-in memory management. The Internet, once a secret of military and education, exploded in reach and popularity bringing with it JavaScript - a naming choice seeking to leverage the Java brand despite having no connection. Microsoft’s .NET hit the scene bringing a new way of developing Windows Forms apps before WinForms became passe as XAML evolved. Now the web is the application delivery platform of choice, operating systems are largely irrelevant, and public clouds bring infrastructure to the masses with low barriers to entry. DevOps - the application of programming disciplines to infrastructure assets - is serious business, as is data and analytics.

There have been technologies that have almost disappeared. Adobe Flash, once beloved for online learning, animations and online games - even, curiously, a dental practice management system - is in its last days. We could list tech after tech that has similarly disappeared; good technologies which advanced the field at the time but are now relics of the past and which the newest generation of IT professionals have no interest in taking up, choosing to work on the cutting edge instead of supporting aged and legacy products.

Of course, it's easy in hindsight to see what's emerged as a winner in the past. Knowing what to put your time and energy into today is something different.

If you want to take up new technologies in 2021, which are the best use of your time?

The StackOverflow 2020 developer survey says the languages most loved by developers are, in order, Rust, TypeScript, Python, Kotlin and Go. However, the same survey states the languages with best-paying jobs are Perl, Scala, Go, Rust and Ruby.

StackOverflow is, of course, well-known to developers globally, but there's a potential argument to say its survey is not fully reflective of the world due to the inherent nature of a problem-solving site.

However, GitHub's 2020 State of the Octoverse report gives insights drawn from 2020’s activity of over 60 million source code repositories created, by more than 56 million developers, with 1.9 billion contributions in the year. This reflects what people are actually doing and provides a different top five of JavaScript, Python, Java, TypeScript and C#.

Perhaps it is significant the number one language in use, according to GitHub, does not hit StackOverflow’s “most loved” list, but even so there’s no denying the modern web is how apps are deployed today, and JavaScript has overwhelmingly become the primary web language. Of course, which JavaScript framework you use is a different matter.

It's similarly unsurprising Python and Java are next in the list, though for different reasons. Python has emerged a strong favourite of the data science community while Java still dominates enterprise applications - like NetSuite, for one - and Android development.

For my money, you'll do well picking up JavaScript and/or Python if you aren't already experienced in those languages. Though there’s another important guide we can draw upon to know which languages and technologies are in demand - and that’s job advertisements.

I've gone through the last month of open vacancies on Seek and here's where the opportunities are - which shows in Australia, at least, .NET still reigns supreme. SQL is also right up there, and with the importance of data and analytics, this is always a useful skill to have in your repository. Rust, apparently the most loved language by StackOverflow users, has fewer job opportunities right now than COBOL.

While job ads reflect a moment in time, this data may well help your decision-making.

As well as programming languages, I've included public clouds, DevOps tools, data analytics, and other popular infrastructure technologies. I'll revisit this over the year so we can all track how it changes over time.

Programming languages, databases, frameworks and related 

SQL 3696
.NET 2586
Java 2418
Python 1960
JavaScript 1746
C# 1743
React 1342
Angular 1332
PHP 1222
Oracle 600
Git 456
Scrum 447
MVC 424
Docker 410
Kubernetes 399
PowerShell 391
Jira 391
TypeScript 293
Scala 185
Swift 143
Ruby 113
BASH 107
MongoDB 105
Golang 88
Kotlin 75
Perl 70
Delphi 9
Rust 3
Silverlight 1


Public clouds

AWS 1994
Azure 1777
GCP / Google Cloud 285
Oracle Cloud 147


Operating systems

Linux 1485
Windows 903
macOS 23



Jenkins 317
Ansible 300
Puppet 86
Chef 49


Networking and IT operations 

VMware 749
Cisco 682
Citrix 440
Splunk 179
Juniper 157
ServiceNow 116
Fortinet 77
Meraki 35


Data and collaboration

Tableau 1090
SalesForce 879
Office 365 834
SAS 769
PowerBI 578
SharePoint 289
Confluence 215
GSuite 12


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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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