Information technology has been the labor market hope par excellence for decades. The pandemic wave of digitization has given it even more weight. But not all IT is the same; job profiles are as diverse as the people who work in these jobs, and working conditions and future prospects are just as varied.
The broadly engaged IT expert Andrea* Ida Malkah Klaura, call name jackie, is not only a Smart user, but has also recently joined the board of our own digitization team. We talked to her about her career field and how she sees the future of the industry.
How would you describe your job description, jackie?
I do IT both in contract work and in various side projects, but I also work in team building, facilitation and knowledge transfer. IT has always been a ‘safe fallback’ in that regard, a profession I can return to if needed.
And what specifically are you working on in these different contexts?
I am currently programming web applications for students, teachers and administration at the Angewandte, mainly backend, as part of the ‚base‘ project. This includes for example the ‘Portfolio’, a repository for the intellectual capital statement with showroom, which works like a digital exhibition, the ‘Image+’ image database, and a ‘Teaching’ module. Requirement engineering is very important here, i.e. correctly capturing the client’s ideas and translating them into the language of IT. It is about systematically eliciting the requirements and finding out where they conflict and how this can be resolved. Agile and iterative development is helpful here; it allows you to try something out quickly instead of stubbornly working through a requirements specification. The work goes beyond IT itself and also has a lot to do with organizational development. After all, you can’t just leave your own developments as they are, you have to maintain and develop them on an ongoing basis.
In my side projects I program full stack, i.e. back- and frontend, web applications with CMS systems and plugins, for exciting projects in the field of free radio, for the association Lefö or the platform Global Social Dialog. Free Radios, for the association Lefö or the platform Global Social Dialog.
That’s a lot of work! How do you reconcile all these activities and where does Smart come into play?
I have a 30-hour job and three to four side projects. But I didn’t feel like opting for self-employment for these projects – Smart makes the step into freelancing easier because it’s a very pleasant service and a safety net in the start-up process. I have also always found communication with Robert to be transparent, open and honest.
IT is celebrated as the industry of the future, perhaps more so today than before. Are the working conditions just as promising?
The demand for skilled workers is definitely high and growing, and so is the ‘workforce’. But incomes are declining, and many people are working too much. IT is a really exciting field, but at the same time it can be overwhelming because there is always something new to learn. If you put your mind to it, you can certainly earn good money – not me, I’m not a businesswoman. (laughs) I would rather like to set up an IT business run entirely by women one day, or to work in an IT collective. That should be possible, I think!
In the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic, there was a monumental wave of digitization. How did you experience this period?
There was a lot of pressure on IT! But I was lucky and was able to come down a bit, through educational leave and writing my master’s thesis. Now I’m happy that I can finally work as part of a team again at Angewandte.
Digitization opens up many opportunities, but doesn’t always bring fairness. In any case, the early promises of emancipation made by the Internet have not come true; instead, today we have to contend with bubbles and platform capitalism. How do you see it?
There is no such thing as ‘the Internet’ per se anyway. But the dependencies on certain services have increased. In any case, exploitation through platform capitalism can only be solved through political decisions, not through innovation.
I see a really future-proof solution in federated systems, such as OwnCloud respectively Nextcloud or Mastodon. The basis for this is open standards for data exchange, then OS (open source) or FOSS (free and open source software) and proprietary applications can ‘talk’ to each other. This could be achieved with a standardization of protocols, like DIN or ISO standards. This would prevent ‘data silos’ like Facebook, where users are either inside or not. With federated systems, an exchange between different platforms is possible, and the user decides about it herself.
But again: We have to demand this federation and implement it politically before it can become technically effective.
Interview & text: Xenia Kopf