Thursday, March 24, 2016

"Trying to be nice" Becomes Less Important For Developers As They Gain Experience

No, I didn’t say this, but 56,033 developers in 173 countries who responded to recent Stack Overflow's developer survey did.  I have always enjoyed going through these surveys to validate my several hypotheses and learn new things. I would strongly encourage you to go through the results from the most recent survey here.

Here are some interesting insights:


"Full stack developer" is the most identified developer occupation. More and more developers are gravitating towards this occupation where they are simultaneously working on 5 to 6 programming languages or frameworks at time. Rise of new languages and frameworks don’t mean developer fragmentation, but more developers picking up more and more languages. It’s not about SQL or Angular; it’s SQL and Angular.

Ninjas: 10% of respondents self-identified as Ninjas! Yeah. So, yes, watch out.


The millennial: The highest percentage of developers, 28.4%, are in the age group 24-29, followed by 23.6% in the age group 20-24, and 18.1 % in the are group 30-34. This validates my hypothesis: more than 70% of developers are millennial, from youngest to oldest.

Average age: India has the lowest average age for developers, 25.5. This might surprise some people unless you look at the overall population and demographics of India. While there is a large number of Indian developers who are older than 25.5 the current number of engineers graduating from colleges and entering into the workforce are outnumbering some of these developers to bring the overall average down. India is the second most populous country in the world (behind China) with median age of 25. Compare that to the US where the median age is 36. It will all make sense.

Star Trek versus Star Wars: The highest percentage of developers (68.4%) like Star Wars. The same age group also happens to like Star Trek the least (17.6%), if at all they know what Star Trek is. If you really like Star Trek you must be old :-)

Gender disparity

This continues to be the most depressing statistics.

92.8% “developers” are male.

There’s not much salary gap between genders for young developers in the US, but male developers of the age of 30+ get paid up to $20,000 more than female developers. This perhaps explains the ongoing debate: male and female developers get initially hired at similar salaries, but male developers negotiate harder for promotions and raises compared to female developers. I would argue this disparity will most likely be also true for disciplines other than technology.


While 73% of developers responded they value diversity, product managers and engineering managers responded they value diversity the most. It validates my hypothesis that people value diversity more when they either hire/manage people or manage a product. While individual contributors still work in a diverse team and most of them value diversity they perhaps don’t realize and appreciate the bigger impact of a diverse team.


Machine learning developers have most likely completed a Masters or a PhD. This isn’t surprising given the complexity around this domain and traditionally how niche it is. As it becomes more mainstream I expect these skills to get commoditized and the numbers will likely change.

Developers, across the board, with Masters and PhD degrees get paid more. Good to know that higher education is still important.


The most popular stack: JavaScript is the most popular technology (55.4%). No surprises - thanks to Node.js, Angular, and many other frameworks. SQL is the second most popular language followed by Java. This proves the power of SQL as ubiquitous database access language and simplicity of JavaScript that makes it a preferred choice of language even for backend programming.

Emerging technology: Developers seem to be loving React (trending 311.3%). It proves that if you design a better framework developers will flock. Developers are not necessarily married to a specific framework; they love to learn and adopt newer things if it helps them solve their problems in a better way. If you’re are an organization making technology decisions your life is going to get more and more complicated. You have to design your platform and architecture to embrace newer languages and frameworks more frequently than you would have anticipated or desired.

Developers love Mac: Mac is the most popular desktop OS for developers. Windows has been losing its share and this year Mac overtook Linux as the most popular desktop OS.


Looking for a new job: Indian developers amongst all other developers are either actively looking for a job (29.2%) or will consider an opportunity (60.7%) when approached. This is consistent with what I have experienced: it is extremely hard to retain talent in India and developers will jump ship when offered something slightly better. Employers are outcompeting each other in attracting talent and offering outrageous raises. Unlike many countries, developer salaries are not normalized in India and the country has relatively high inflation rate and weaker currency (against US dollar) making it easier for US-based companies to offer more money to make developers jump ship.

Priorities: German developers prioritize work-life balance over salary. I have personally known many German developers and many would agree to these numbers.

Titles: Developers care less about titles and more about making or influencing decisions as they gain more experience. Titles may sound exotic when developers join the workforce, but they realize over a period of time that titles are often disconnected with compensation and empowerment. These numbers are a reflection of that realization.

Promotions: Getting promoted is one of the biggest priorities for Indian developers. This explains the hierarchical nature of Indian companies and the societal value of a promotion which might be less relevant in the most western countries.

Source: Stack Overflow 2016 Developer Survey


US and Australia are somewhere on the top when it comes to developer salary (considering purchase power parity). My hypothesis is that good higher technical education and favorable immigration policies in these countries are making it relatively easy to attract the best students and early talent. This creates a vibrant ecosystem where skills are appreciated and valued more compared to other places. Also, good developers attract other good developers.

Large companies tend to pay higher salary than smaller companies. The survey does not seem to reflect the equity versus salary split and preferences - that could have been a better indicator of where and why developers work. Contrary to popular belief freelancers/contractors are paid about 10% less than full-time developers.

Photo courtesy: Thomas Hawk

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