Skip navigation

What Motivates Today's Developers?

It probably won't come as a surprise that money placed high on the list.

Some of the things you think you know about developers might not be true. For instance, I still hear that the best way to get code written in a hurry is to put a group of developers in a room and feed them pizza and beer until the wee hours of the morning. Evidently, not true. A whopping 48 percent of developers say they're most productive between 8 a.m. and noon, with 21 percent listing noon until 4 p.m. as their best hours. As for all-nighters: only 5 percent indicate 8 p.m. to midnight as a high production time, with only a few more, 8 percent, saying they're at their best between midnight and 4 a.m.

That's one of many takeaways from a new survey, aptly titled The 2017 State of the Modern Developer, that was conducted by research firm Coleman Parkes for the software analysis and measurement company CAST. In all, 500 developers in four countries -- USA, UK, France and Germany -- were surveyed. According to CAST, the research was conducted "to learn more about the motivators and behavior of modern developers, in addition to their attitude towards code quality."

There's no shortage of information in the survey which might be useful to everyone from HR departments looking for the proper carrot to dangle in front of potential recruits to execs trying to get a handle on quality control issues. For the former, the survey indicates that modern devs are most motivated by money and location. Forty-eight percent of those surveyed said that money and bonuses were the most important criteria, followed closely by the 43 percent who said that work-place location was key.

Startups, which offer the opportunity help design a product from the bottom up as well as promising riches down the road if the company is successful, are no longer king. According to the survey, most developers these days want to work for Google, Apple, or Facebook, in that order -- except for France where devs find Facebook more attractive than Apple -- with only 9 percent saying working for a startup would be their ideal. There also appears to be little interest in working in the financial sector. Only 11 percent of those surveyed thought FinTech as an ideal place to work. With a 16 percent showing, banks and financial organizations also scored low.

"Top technology shops continue to dominate as the developer’s dream job," Bill Curtis, CAST's senior vice president said in a statement included in the presentation. "This creates a market for heated competition among traditional industries, where they must often settle for second and third-tier talent."

In other words, it's a sellers' market, with the devs holding the reins.

Unfortunately, it appears that the folks at CAST were unable to resist the temptation to interpret the data in ways beneficial to their marketing needs in some cases. A key metric in the survey, which is also featured near the top of the company's press release about the survey, falls under the heading "What drives high quality work?" CAST interprets the results with the remark: "Pride in craftsmanship is the prime motivator for developers globally (20 percent), code quality standards are not a key driver (8 percent)."

Not necessarily true. It could be that many of the developers who ticked the "pride in craftsmanship" box figured that answer would include paying attention to code quality. I would.

Even if CAST's interpretation of the numbers is correct, much of the blame would fall at the feet of management. According to the survey, 37 percent of developers are not graded on code quality. The standards are notably higher in the US, however, where the number is only 27 percent. Things are much more lax in France, where the number is 45 percent, and Germany and the UK at 39 percent.

The most popular programming language? C++, weighing in with a score of 38 percent, followed closely by Python at 35 percent.

“If you want a job for the rest of your life, learn COBOL,” Curtis is quoted as saying in the presentation. "COBOL may not be 'sexy,' but it still manages the world’s money, and banks are slow to replace it."

Good advice for the few who still want to work in the financial sector.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.