GitHub CEO: Despite AI gains, demand for software developers will still outweigh supply

GitHub CEO Thomas Dohmke considers AI and software development to now be inextricably linked, powered by assistive tools such as Copilot and its associated Copilot Chat, which the Microsoft-owned company expanded to individual GitHub subscribers today.

But speaking onstage at TC Disrupt today,┬áDohmke maintained that the snowballing AI revolution won’t be the death knell for the software development industry.

“The demand for software developers will continue to outweigh the supply,” Dohmke said in discussion with TechCrunch’s Frederic Lardinois.

Dohmke, among many other tech leaders, has long insisted that AI tools such as Copilot will simply make developers more productive, rather than replace them. But what about the future — say, a decade from now?

“The amount of software in 10 years is only going to exponentially grow,” Dohmke said. “We have an ever growing number of lines of code we have to manage, we have an ever-growing number of ideas that we have, and quite frankly, every company is now a software company.”

Although AI is undoubtedly here to stay, Dohmke noted that while software development might evolve, there are several reasons why developers will still be in high demand for the foreseeable future. One being the sheer amount of legacy code out there that still exists in its original form.

“If you go to the banks and financial institutions and talk to the CTO, they’ll tell you that they’re running COBOL code from the sixties, and those developers from the sixties are all retired now,” Dohmke said. “And that code back then was not written with unit tests and with CI/CD, so somebody has to maintain that and, hopefully, transform that COBOL code to Java or Python. And we’re not even talking yet about code from the seventies, the eighties, or the nineties.”

Maintaining legacy code, of course, might not always be needed as companies evolve their stack. But generative AI itself will serve to create more need for technical talent, according to Dohmke.

“We have a shortage of computer science students, certainly in the Western world, from Berlin to San Francisco to Sydney,” he said. “Generative AI has just created another demand wave, where more companies with bold ideas, both small and large, are now thinking about how can they adopt innovative AI into their business model, looking for developers [who] know how to use the open API, or train a (AI) model.”