5 important traits of the modern IT developer

We take a look at a survey that profiles the modern IT developer, assessing it in terms of 5 key traits.

Application and software developers have a reputation as a highly intelligent and inherently curious bunch of brilliant individuals. However, as any relevant hiring manager will tell you, getting an appropriately trained, exceptionally driven developer to sign-on long-term with an organisation can be a tiring endeavor.

This is largely due to the fact that there isn't enough developer talent to go around. While the developer skills shortage is both well documented (especially by vendors) and at times contested in regards to its severity, there is no doubt that CIOs have generally struggled to find fit-for-purpose developers to meet the needs of their organisation.

This problem is only set to become more complex, as the process of developing applications modernises, infrastructure moves to the cloud, and ML becomes a bigger imperative. Indeed, as digital transformation takes hold at organisations of all sizes, the scope of developers has become wider and more nuanced, with each role carrying a very particular set of challenges.

This then begs the question of what your average developer actually looks like in this day and age, both in regard to their training as well as the devs themselves. Developer training and recruitment organisation CodinGame set out to answer this very question, surveying roughly 20,000 developers to work out what they look like and what makes them tick.

We broke down their findings to determine 5 key traits of the modern software developer.

Developers are well educated, but not always through university

While you might think that any developer worth their salt must have done a degree in computer science at a prestigious university, the results of CodinGame's survey don't quite reflect that picture. While it's true that the majority of devs learnt to code at university (42.66%) or school (15.45%), over 1 in 3 (34.6%) consider themselves to be self-taught, which is an impressive figure for such a demanding profession.

Only a slight majority 54.8% of developers even have a bachelor's or master's degree, with 21.67% without any kind of formal qualification in the field at all and 21.55% with some other kind of tertiary education. For those that did study a formal qualification, the vast majority (76.40%) studied computer science, while 13.64% studied another science (such as maths, physics, or aerospace) and close to a tenth (9.96%) studied "something else entirely."

It's also clear that while qualifications can be an important factor, the art of software development requires persistent an ongoing learning, even outside of work hours. The survey found that 1 in 3 (33.19%) developers code more than an hour a day outside of work or school and over an additional third code for "up to" an hour per day.

In accomplishing this supplementary learning, 64.86% cited that they consume online written tutorials (such as blogs and official documentation) while 60.77% watched YouTube videos. Although there are many other cited sources of learning, including competitive programming platforms, online educational platforms, tech books, and open source project contributions.

In terms of the skills developers are hungry to pick up, machine learning/AI topped the list, with 49.17% indicating a desire to learn ML skills. This was followed by game development (35.43%), and web development (33.14%).

Proficient in a mix of languages and frameworks

With the vast quantity of programming languages and frameworks out there, it can be hard to nut down just what is actually worth learning and which systems are worth implementing. Going by numbers, though, JavaScript tops the list of most well-known languages, with 65.46% trained in this. This was followed by Java at 62.74%, and open-source trailblazer Python at 57.13%. We start to see a steady drop off from there, with C++ at 51.73%, C at 49.58%, C# at 42.92%, and PHP at 39.10%.

We can start to understand why Python is rising up the ranks of practiced languages so incredibly quickly, as it is also developers' most-loved language by a good margin, according to Codingame. 35.97% of devs indicated it was amongst their favourites, followed by Javascript (29.48%), and Java (29.10%). PHP comes out as devs' most-hated language, picking up 25.10% of respondents. This is followed by Java (23.93%), and Javascript (21.29%), which just goes to show how divisive those languages are.  

On the framework side, Node,js is the top known here, with 35.76% indicating proficiency (which makes sense given Javascript's popularity). This is followed by React (23.80%), and .NETCore (22.82%).

Most developers are passionate about the craft and are happy within their jobs

If the fact that developers are actively spending hours outside of work time learning new skills and perfecting the craft doesn't at least indicate developers are dedicated to their jobs, other parts of the research reveal that they also have a distinct level of passion and satisfaction when it comes to their work.

66.4% of respondents say they love their job, overall rating their job satisfaction at 7/10 or above. This is true regardless of their background and specific training, with very little discrepancy between happiness levels of university educated and self-taught developers.

Having said that, location can make a difference to happiness levels. The report indicates that developers from the UK are happiest, with an average rating of 7.4/10 in job satisfaction, followed by Canada (7.38), the US (7.33), Brazil (7.16), and Germany (7.14).

They are also happiest in certain industries, namely Technology (7.29), Media (7.28), and Education (7.22). Meanwhile, Manufacturing recorded the lowest rate of happiness at 6.27/10, followed by Aerospace at 6.57.

While it's great to see that developers are generally quite happy in their craft, this conversely makes for a bit of a challenge for hiring managers trying to lure them away from currently held positions. This is complicated further when considering that a slight majority of developers (50.1%) are employed full-time, with jobseekers only representing 8.3% of those surveyed.

Developers are predominantly young and male

Gender diversity has long been an issue within software development to the point where it has been raised as a solution to the lack of developer talent within the industry in general (i.e. fix diversity within software and fix the talent gap). The issue was plain to see in CodinGame's report, which found that only 11.5% of surveyed respondents were female. Optimistically though, this figure is rising every year, from 6% two years ago, and 8.7% last year.

The age of developers also skews towards younger demographics quite heavily, which probably isn't too surprising given software's increasing importance in recent decades. The majority of respondents - 64.09% - were found to be between 20 and 34 years old, with 12.91% between 15 and 19, and 9.67% between 35 and 39 (with a significant drop off from there).

This carries logic given that, by experience, junior developers, with less than 3-years' experience, outweigh senior developers with over 5 years' experience.

Developers come from all over the world, but there are a few hubs

CodinGame's survey respondents represent a vast collection of countries from all over the world, although there were a few hubs that stood out. French developers represented a massive 27% of those surveyed, although this is likely skewed by the fact that Codingame is a French company. Other hubs include the US and India, which each made up 15% surveyed devs. This was followed by Germany (10%), Russia (8%), and the UK (5%).

From this we can ascertain that there are potentially big developer populations within India, the US, and Europe, although it must be noted that this particular study may not be the best indicator for this metric. To compare, a study carried out by software developer Ben Frederickson gets similar results in terms of the top nations, but with differing ranks.  

Frederickson looked at the number of developers around the world based on active GitHub user accounts. He found that the US leads the way, with roughly 651,000 accounts, followed by China which had just shy of 184,000, and India which hosted 168,000. Europe, overall, has solid developer numbers as a region, with the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Poland (amongst others) all appearing in the list with high dev numbers.