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August 2020
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TD Magazine

Software Developers Want to Learn

Recruit and retain these employees by offering professional development opportunities.

Growth and learning are the top criteria software developers look for in a new job, according to technology recruiting firm HackerRank's 2019 Developer Skills Report. That means talent development can play an important role in attracting these in-demand professionals.

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However, when software developers say they want growth and development, what exactly do they want to learn? According to HackerRank's follow-up 2020 Developer Skills Report, more than half rank opportunities to learn new technical skills on the job as the most important form of professional growth. That was far more important than the other options: taking on more responsibilities and receiving promotions (25 percent), opportunities to develop soft skills (14 percent), and obtaining professional certifications (2 percent).

Other findings suggest that software developers may prefer learning technical skills because many, at least in the short term, do not aspire to manage people. When the study asked participants what role they wanted to have in three years, only 15 percent said they want to become managers. More than four times as many, 62 percent, said they want to become technical leads.

According to CoderHood.com, a technical lead guides the technical vision and execution of a software project, initiative, or technology without having direct reports or management responsibilities. Those individuals are often more experienced than their peers, and they also tend to show leadership ability.

In addition to what software developers want to learn and why, talent development should also consider how. According to the 2020 report, software developers say developer websites, such as Github, and online courses, such as those that Udemy or EdX provide, are the sources from which they are most likely to learn. However, the popularity of other learning resources can differ widely by age group. For example, Gen Z and millennial software developers are more likely to turn to YouTube for acquiring new job skills, whereas Gen X and baby boomer software developers are more likely to learn job skills from books. This suggests that talent development should prioritize flexibility and choice when trying to accommodate technical talent.

About the Author

Alex Moore is a junior research analyst for the Association for Talent Development. Alex returned to ATD in 2019 after spending a year living and working in Chile. Prior to moving abroad, Alex was a writer/editor for ATD working on TD magazine, a research coordinator at ATD, and a customer care advocate at ATD. He graduated from Virginia Tech in 2015 with a B.A. in English.

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