Do You Know How Developers Feel About Learning?

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Do You Know How Developers Feel About Learning?

If not, you should. Studying how software developers learn is key to understand how they perform in the workplace. Learning can affect how quickly they react to new stimuli, or how engaged they’ll be in solving business challenges. It can be a prime motivator in promoting high level performance, and its presence can indicate whether or not developers will stay with an organization long-term.

Companies need to know how developers learn, what training works best for this critical workforce cohort, and what technology needs business and learning leaders should anticipate in the next three, six or even 12 months. This information will help organizations create better, learning-centric work environments and proactive rather than reactive training strategies that not only advance global business, they will help developers learn and thrive.

2020 Developer Report

That is the kind of insight you will find in DevelopIntelligence’s new “What/How/Why Do Software Developers Want to Learn in 2020?” report. With fresh data points from hundreds of thousands of active software developers, this meta report offers first-hand information on learning preferences and the specific technologies that software developers want to learn now. From programming languages, to data science and machine learning, and what developers look for in a learning environment, DI’s 2020 report offers an in depth look into how developers think, what excites them and how organizations can use this insider information to advance their business.

For instance, it’s common knowledge that developers are in high demand and can switch jobs pretty much when they like. Our research shows that some 56 percent have been in their current role less than two years. Keeping their skills sharp and up to date allows them significant upward and lateral career mobility. But how are they acquiring this valuable new learning? Do they prefer online video courses? Reading or watching videos on their own? What about formal training?

Some 35% of respondents said they have received on-the-job training similar to an expert-led DevelopIntelligence course. Other top responses include participating in coding competitions like HackerRank (24% of respondents tried it) or participating in Hackathons (26%). We recommend combining many of the aforementioned learning modalities into a formal learning program for developers.

Instructor-led courses are our bread and butter, but we’ve helped many companies organize internal hackathons and coding competitions. Plus, our instructors regularly recommend the best MOOCs to students to ensure that learning doesn’t stop once a class is over. Learning happens in so many contexts and forms. Companies have to leverage the ones that developers like the most to promote knowledge retention and on-the-job application.

Data on Developer Preferences

Consider, some 83 percent of developers prefer to read the online documentation or standards for a technology, 50.2 percent prefer to read a book or an e-book, and 50.1 percent like to tap into online developer communities for help when needed. While we appreciate the amount of self-teaching developers willingly do, it’s important to contextualize that learning through an opportunity cost lens.

When developers are self-teaching and reading documents, they’re not programming and building products. Our research found that developers study an average of seven hours per week. Now do the math. Multiply those hours by the high salaries developers command, and you’re looking at least $18,000 or more per year in lost productivity – that’s per developer. One hour in an expert-led, hands-on course is worth more in learning dollars than many hours of reading docs alone.

Did you know that most developers prioritize learning on the job? They do. Younger talent place an even higher premium on it. So, instead of trying to out recruit the FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) companies for talent based on pay or stock options, companies should use their developer learning programs as a talent lure. High quality learning/growth opportunities can be a key marketing asset for organizations competing for young talent.


At the end of the day, having fresh, relevant data like this leads to better decision-making. DevelopIntelligence’s new 2020 report offers learning and business leaders the data they need to create effective learning and development strategies for the software developers in their workforce.

This key talent cohort has very particular learning motivations and training needs. Further, they’re in high demand in the marketplace. CLOs and training leaders need to know how they think to retain them, and to keep them happy and productive on the job. DI’s 2020 report can offer the insight learning practitioners need to keep developers engaged, creative and focused on aligning their work with company business in particular and with the industry at large.