Because you’re so busy trying to recruit and hire developers, it’s easy to say, “I’ll think about how our developers experiences at work can be difficult after I’ve hired them.” However, understanding the unique challenges that developers face in their careers is not only a good way to connect with potential candidates, it’s also good insight to boost your retention efforts. Here are a few career challenges that the respondents to the 2016 Stack Overflow Developer Survey told us they face.
Not surprisingly, 33% of the respondents to the 2016 Stack Overflow Developer Survey told us that one of the biggest software development challenges is building products under unspecific requirements. To many developers, the words “gathering requirements” mean that a handful of business consultants have come up with their ideal product, and expect them to read their minds as they set out to build it. However, Chris Wright, founder of the Scribble Agency, says that because so many people are often involved, the traditional requirement gathering process is broken. He continues by offering a few tips on how to improve the process, including appointing a single person to lead and coordinate requirements throughout the software development process.
Coming up just behind the unspecific requirements under which they write code, 32% of developers told us one of their most pronounced career challenges involves managing unrealistic expectations from clients and internal stakeholders. Adam Pisoni, co-founder of Yammer, says this problem traditionally stems from management’s attempt to create a plan that predicts what needs to be built and how long it will take to build. He also says that on the flip side, successful engineering methodologies empower teams to decide what and how to build. Pisoni adds, “these teams are composed of people from different disciplines to ensure they're able to do whatever is necessary without waiting for others to give permission or provide assistance.”
Bernard Meisler told The Atlantic that “even the best of these APIs are hard to use because the documentation [...] is terrible.” Meisler isn’t alone, as 31% of developers told us that poor documentation isn’t just one of the most obvious software development challenges, but that it’s also amongst their most prevalent career challenges. To address this, our CEO Joel Spolsky once wrote that he likes to ask developer candidates to explain complex technical concepts in layman’s terms, which allows him to measure how well he or she can articulate them without relying on buzzwords. If your tech team is struggling with documentation, take a few steps back and make it a point to evaluate how well your developers can explain their work to anyone. If you determine that your team is struggling to communicate well, invest the time and resources to coaching them to speak more coherently about their work.