November 2017
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TD Magazine

Software Self-Developers

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Most software developers express a preference for learning on their own.

At many companies, the software development team's culture has a different zest than the rest of the organization. While everyone else serves customers or negotiates with suppliers, developers create and fine-tune applications. Their work is unique, and according to a recent study from DevelopIntelligence, so are their learning preferences.


According to the study, which surveyed nearly 800 software professionals, most developers have an independent streak when it comes to learning, especially early in their careers. When asked about their favorite way to learn, 64 percent of respondents with less than five years of experience said they prefer self-directed methods, compared with 58 percent of those with more than five years of experience. For both groups, reading books, tutorials, and how-to guides is the most popular option, followed by watching videos or e-learning courses.

Why are these self-directed resources so prevalent, you might ask?

For many, self-directed learning is a habit. According to the "Stack Overflow 2016 Developer Survey," 69 percent of all developers are at least partly self-taught, so it doesn't come as a surprise that the DevelopIntelligence study indicates that curiosity or a desire to improve their skills motivates 68 percent of these learners.


So, what can talent development do to support these professionals?

One idea is to build regular study time into software developers' schedules. According to the report, the average software developer already spends seven hours of her own time each week on self-development, so you might consider shifting some of that burden to the organization. You also could let software developers try out new ideas and skills by working on special projects or participating in hackathon events, either inside or outside your company.

About the Author

Alex Moore is a 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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