Challenging misconceptions around a career as a developer

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Technology is experiencing a talent shortage, with developers in high demand — the tech resignation rate rose by 4.5 percent in 2021 according to Harvard Business Review. For some employers, this shortage is driving investment into existing talent or prompting the growth of talent from scratch. But many startups lack the staffing levels or time to train people, and they are competing against tech giants for experienced staff. In these cases, finding and hiring the right people can make all the difference.

Finding the right people means keeping a hawk-like focus on the skills and attributes the business actually needs and looking for talent wherever it can be found. There are many misconceptions about what makes a good software developer and a successful career path. By examining these misconceptions, a business can identify the individuals that will build their winning teams. The key here is not just the individuals, but also building the team. Software developers are not well-known for their soft skills but here’s the catch: who are the software developers with the most successful track records? Those individuals who have emotional intelligence and communication skills in equal proportion to their smarts.

Identifying these hidden talents requires  thinking again about the job requirements and especially the language used when advertising for the right candidate. It also means looking at all those skill sets during the recruitment process and making sure everyone involved knows what’s expected. Business leaders need to cut through the myths about software developers — and perhaps reassess their existing hiring practices – to find the right combination of technical chops, soft skills and attitude. Winning teams are not built from a row of humans who all have the same attributes, but from those with interlocking skills, smarts, and trust to lean on one another and reach higher.

Broadening the search

What will the team you are building need to deliver? The output required should be the starting point for the search. Entering the hiring process with a fixed idea of what a software developer looks like or how they like to work means that only a narrow pool of potential hires will be identified. Is the goal to hire people who sit in the dark, work alone, and produce a masterpiece that nobody else can use or change? Or how about a team that assembles a solid core code base that is still running the business three funding rounds later? Those are the people to look out for. Perhaps there is a ‘stereotypical developer’ in the bunch, but probably there are also individuals who teach dance, run the local woodworking cooperative or play chamber music at weekends.

When bringing this skills-based focus to the table, even experienced technical leaders may be surprised by the humans that fit the adjusted criteria. The humans applying for roles may also be surprised themselves, especially if software development has previously been part of their role but not their main focus. Those people coming from allied disciplines in industry, academia, or even retraining into technology with a raft of other skills already under their belt can be lynchpins in very successful teams. Helping an individual to grow, learn and find new ways to bring impactful contributions to their work inspires loyalty and high performance. Finding a wider pool of candidates increases opportunities for future highfliers, and, according to Gartner, improves the team’s chances of success.

Keeping an open mind

The point here is that success for individuals, teams and companies can overlap, but only when the process is approached with eyes that are open to some important truths. A successful software development career might not be what an individual expected when they started out. And for a business hiring a top-notch software development team, that team may not look or work quite the way that was expected. By overcoming misconceptions on both sides, a bright future comes into focus.

Image credit: belchonock/

Lorna Mitchell is Head of Developer Relations at Aiven

Author: Martha Meyer