Colloquium Illuminates Opportunities and Challenges for Software Developers in 2024

February 19, 2024

Dr. Adam Hughes giving his talk

The Computer Science Department’s Colloquium Series features speakers from across the country, and for its latest installment, the department collaborated with GW’s Department of Physics to offer a joint colloquium. On Friday, February 16, they welcomed GW alum, Dr. Adam Hughes, Ph.D. ‘15, to the Science & Engineering Hall to give a talk titled, “Why you should be excited to be a software engineer in 2024.” The talk revisited the significant growth and evolving trends in cloud computing over the past 15 years and compared it with the recent surge in generative artificial intelligence (GenAI). 

“Typically, new technology coming out of labs and companies takes a long time to get to the public. Generative AI, on the other hand, is a technology that makes contact with the public immediately and the results are amazing for anyone to see,” said Professor Rahul Simha when asked why he and fellow organizers of this installment chose this topic of discussion. 

In addition to an overview of the cloud computing sector’s evolution, Hughes broke down GenAI’s evolution into various eras. He says that we are now in the era of developing core models but are quickly entering an era where AI is built into every app we use. While there is a lot of anxiety within the tech community prompted by these advancements, particularly surrounding their implications for technology-related employment, he notes that there is still more growth in AI technology roles than reduction.

“Junior developers just coming out of school will have a set of AI-related skills that no one else has, so you will have an advantage over senior developers,” Hughes stated.

To help attendees cope with tech anxiety, Hughes reminded them to keep in mind that this shift is unprecedented and that all aspiring software engineers are facing these same challenges. One piece of parting advice he gave to students was to carve their own path, which he is a great example of. Hughes earned his doctorate in physics at GW and transitioned into the tech industry due to his extensive use of scientific computing in Python during his Ph.D. research. Today, Hughes is a professional software developer and has recently gained recognition for his insight into GenAI’s impact on the tech landscape.

To summarize his talk, Hughes ended by saying, “2024 is a great time to be a software developer. It’s a scary time. It’s an anxiety-inducing time, but that’s real life. I hope that you saw that there is also lots of growth and potential.”