Industry Watch: Developers are a rare breed
A lot has been written about the mythical developer. Loner. Only comes out at night, when the world is dark and quiet. Codes for a living and then, as a hobby, just for kicks, codes some more.
A recent survey of developers and their habits was released last month by Stack Overflow, and some of these beliefs are reinforced in the findings, while others are debunked.
For instance, the report found that 74% of the 64,000 developers who responded from 213 countries – making this the largest developer survey ever conducted – identify as web developers. The next most common were desktop application developers (29%) and mobile app developers (23%).
Diversity among developers is up, with women representing 10% of the developer workforce in the United States, up from 6% last year. Still, according to Stack Overflow VP of community growth Jay Hanlon, “that is an incredibly low number compared to what we’d hope to see.” Women, he noted, were less likely to be DevOps or systems administrators, and more likely to be data and graphic designers. One side note: more women than men reported they have been coding for less than one year. “That,” Hanlon said, “seems to be a promising sign.”
Interestingly, 2.6% of respondents chose something other man or woman when asked to check off their gender. “There’s male, female, transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary gender … these under-represented people tend not to respond” to surveys, Hanlon said.
A big focus of the survey was to see how developers go about finding jobs. And the survey found that in most cases, the job is likely to find the developer. “The market for talent is larger than it looks on its surface,” Hanlon said, meaning that developers are open to taking new jobs even if they’re not actively seeking a new position. In fact, 62% of respondents fell into this category. “A huge number of developers aren’t entering the job market, but they’re actively being recruited.” In fact, Hanlon added, when developers did change jobs, they didn’t first say, ‘I’m going to find a job.’ He said, “A large percentage of developers are happy enough in their jobs but they often change when recruited.”
When it comes to finding jobs, though, 27% said someone they knew contacted them about a position, and 18% said they were reached out to by someone at a company. Another 13% said they went through a headhunter to find a position.
What do developers find most important in a job? Ongoing learning and the opportunity for professional growth. “That even beat compensation,” Hanlon said. Another important factor for developers was the ability to work remotely. Some 53% of those who work remotely reported a higher job satisfaction than those who were in an office.
How about the perception that developers like to work alone, in the dark, at night, with massive amounts of caffeine to keep them going? Fake news. Sad. “Developers are more collaborative than in so many other fields,” Hanlon said, noting that developers will share code online, answer questions from people they don’t even know online. “It’s part social interaction, but they also want to help and be a part of something bigger,” Hanlon said.
How much do developers love their work? “They live and breathe this stuff,” Hanlon said. In the survey, 75% of developers said they write code as a hobby. “Can you imagine finance guys getting home from work and then doing finance as a hobby?” Hanlon asked.
And how do developers see themselves? The survey asked them to choose which portrayal of developers in television or movies most closely reflected the real lives of developers.
The winner? According to the survey, “We can say that the television show Mr. Robot is having a moment, for the developer community at least,” as the main character was one of the top choices in all versions of the question: most or least realistic/annoying/inspiring portrayal of a programmer.
Tony Stark (“Ironman”) was chosen at a high rate for inspiration, while Sheldon (“Big Bang Theory”) was rated highly for annoying. “Office Space” and “Silicon Valley” portrayals were considered very realistic.