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Unleash star developers’ productivity

Earlier this year, 64,000 professional programmers took the world’s largest developer survey from Stack Overflow — a global community of over 50 million developers (1). Though the community includes people from tech hubs like Silicon Valley, more than 75% of the users hail from outside the U.S.: from Russia to Sao Paolo, all over India, and Katmandu. The number of participants who identified as female responding to the survey was up from 2016, clocking in at 10%.

We recently sat down with Alex Miller, Stack Overflow’s General Manager of Enterprise, to discuss the survey results’ implications for technology executives as well as how they can attract the best programming talent and unleash developer productivity in the enterprise.

“Digital transformation-minded executives recognize developers are no longer part of a backend system that makes enterprises a little more efficient. Instead, they create product.”

— Alex Miller

90% of developers are at least partially self-taught

While many executives imagine developers are childhood whizzes who write code from the time they are 11 years old, data indicates otherwise. Over half began coding within five years of their first professional job; 12% secured their first gig within a year of learning to program.

“Because developers are constantly learning, they’re tech executives’ best asset for staying in front of top trends and understanding day-to-day implications for teams and businesses.”
— Alex Miller

Only 13% of programmers are actively looking for new opportunities; 75% want to hear about them

That, combined with the fact that there are five open positions for each developer actively looking for a role, means that you’ll be hard pressed to fill your jobs by targeting only active candidates. Go to where developers are when they’re not just looking for jobs and look past the standard job boards, which only attract active job hunters and force employers to pay for advertising to compete for top talent.

Quality tools and technology are recruiting gold

Even though 88.6% of professional developers have full-time jobs, three-quarters of them still program on off hours. Because they’re used to selecting favorite tools in off-hours, they expect to be able to use the enterprise versions of those tools at work. Picking the cheapest (instead of the best) version control, IDEs and knowledge management tools is a recipe for an unhappy and unproductive team.

“IT leaders in various industries — not just high tech, especially banking and insurance — effectively recruit by highlighting the quality of their team’s tools.”
— Alex Miller

Commonly accepted workplace design makes developers unhappy and unproductive

Overall, the office environment is the third most important factor in assessing a potential job, and 53% said remote options are a top priority. That may be because interruptions inside open work areas can severely impact programming productivity, as other studies have shown. Two-thirds of developers work from home at least once a month and 10% do it full-time or almost full-time.

Even developers that are underpaid value growth opportunities above salary

Like anyone, developers want market-appropriate salaries, and a majority report being underpaid, especially those employed by the government and non-profits. Still, programmers rank development opportunities above other job criteria by a large margin. They care about working with talented bosses and peers to solve interesting and challenging problems, and about having opportunities and resources to level-up their skills.

Non-localized hiring strategies can be strategically and economically effective

Non-U.S. developers receive the highest average salaries, and pay corresponds to specific technologies and given regions. The average highest paid U.S. developer receives $110,000 and uses Go or Scala. Averages in the United Kingdom and Germany are half that amount, where coders use TypeScript and Java, respectively. In France, even less: Python developers average $42,000 a year. These global viewpoints up-level enterprise businesses.

“Developers’ expanding roles increase IT leaders’ importance, especially in their interactions with the rest of the business.”
— Alex Miller

Today’s business leaders recognize developers as the next generation of enterprise revenue and product. By employing a dev-ops model and playing with different configurations, enterprises discover what works. They monitor what developers want to be doing next and integrate that with their overall strategy.

The blueprint for hiring and retaining star developers

  1. Build your recruiting pipeline early and often. If you wait until you have an open position to begin a search, you’ve waited too long. Get engineering leadership blogging; put them on speaking circuits at conferences developers attend. Encourage them to speak about their most challenging projects and mention their open-source technology.
  2. When you hire, create a diverse and global team. Offer market-competitive pay, as well as private offices and permit remote work. Invest in flexible and hybrid working arrangements. You’ll of course want to be sure that you support and/or offer continuing education, as well as encourage nano degrees.
  3. Involve your team in decisions. Allow them open-source non-core technology. Empower them by involving them in the decisions on what tools to use. Where possible, work with your legal teams to carve out clear permissions for developers to work on projects at home.


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