The idea of having the world at your fingertips becomes increasingly literal with each passing day. Smartphones allow us to do almost anything at any time. From Facebook to weekly specials at the grocery store to Angry Birds, there's a mobile application available to make life simpler or make time spent on the streetcar more tolerable.
So who's creating these apps to satisfy our desire for sleek and functional wireless technology?
While Human Resources and Skills Development Canada suggests that the field of computer programming isn't Ontario's strongest job market at this time, software developers with expertise in mobile applications are an exception.
One person who's experienced the urgent demand for software developers with the coding skills specific to making big things happen on very small screens is James Larcombe.
British Columbia native Larcombe landed in Toronto following a transfer in his information technology (I.T.) job. Soon he enrolled in Ryerson University's computer science program to expand on his education and help his transition into a design and development role.
"I think I had a willingness to take my education in a different direction," Larcombe says over lunch following a quick tour of the three open-concept offices in his workplace at Transcontinental Interactive. Larcombe's quick wit and chatty, easygoing demeanour defy the stereotype of the socially awkward technophile.
"The education I received from Ryerson was very thorough but too general to lead to a specialist job as a mobile software developer. So a lot of that learning I had to do on my own. But [my education] did teach me [how] to teach myself those disciplines. It totally prepared me for educating myself into the specialty I desired."
Continuing to work in I.T. while at school, Larcombe spent his free time teaching himself the finer points of building mobile applications until he had considerable coding skills to offer new employers.
"I rewrote my resumé, and after less than a week, though I hadn't even applied for any actual positions, eight or nine different recruiters had contacted me," the self-described perfectionist says. "I kind of cherry-picked. I wanted to be part of an existing development department; I didn't want to set one up. That's how I found Vortex."
He went to work for Vortex Mobile, a small business that had recently been purchased by Transcontinental Inc. to become part of its interactive department. Currently, he's the only person at the company creating smartphone applications for marketing and branding campaigns. One of Larcombe's recent projects was picked as iTunes Canada's App Of The Week.
"We have real difficulty in our company even finding mobile developers, because it's such a brand new skill set," he says. "Some of the studios used to develop mobile app have only been around for a year or two, so it's really hard to find expert-level developers. There's less competition for these jobs: so many companies are investing in mobile strategies and so few people are developing them."
While Larcombe is currently at the forefront of interactive technology, he knows that just because he's out of school, his education isn't over.
"These technologies are changing so quickly that although my skill set's relevant now, in a year and a half, if I don't work to evolve, I won't be relevant."