We often think of coders as those who work within software and tech companies, but developers work at all kinds of companies, from finance to media, and healthcare to manufacturing. I’ve spent my whole career writing code in some capacity or another, but my job here at Stack Overflow is my first where I officially work within the software industry.
I recently analyzed data from the 2017 Stack Overflow Developer Survey to better understand new developers who are entering the workforce today. We can use these results to further explore the population of new developers by comparing students with professional developers already in the workforce.
We asked developers, both students and professionals, about how they evaluate potential jobs and we found that students care more about the industry they would be working in than developers already in the workforce.
In our survey, 16,120 professional developers and 3,038 student developers told us how they prioritize industry in their job evaluation process. Students are about 1.5 times more likely to say that the industry they would work in is “very important” or “important” to them when assessing a potential job. This difference is even more dramatic if we look at only developers in the United States.
Sara Johnson, a senior studying computer science at Western Washington University, says she would consider jobs outside the tech industry because of personal experience with engineering and manufacturing, but she sees most students sticking with the companies and industries that they know the most about. She says, "I think it’s more of a gamble trying to start your career in an industry that is unfamiliar. I’ve also worried that it may be less relevant to my career goals."
Rafa Moreno graduated this past May with a degree in computer science and now works as a software engineer at OJO Labs, a tech startup. He says he avoided certain industries during his job search because he preferred to work where software was the company's business, not in a supporting role. He says, "I chose my startup because of the talent that I would be directly learning from, and the responsibility that I was going to have, which I wouldn't get this early anywhere else."
He is happy about the drive and mission of working at a startup, but does see how the specific industry might have less impact than he originally thought. "There are multiple weeks at a time where the work that I'm doing seems to be pretty product agnostic." He says he could see himself working outside of tech in the future with the right projects and the right people.
We asked our survey respondents this year about a wide variety of considerations they would take into account for prospective jobs.
When we compare how both students and professional developers assess potential jobs, we see that both groups rank some job characteristics similarly. Both groups highly prioritize opportunities for professional development, and rank the specific technologies they would work with and the office environment of a job about the same.
There are some aspects of a job where students and professional developers have different priorities. For example, students are less likely to say that compensation is as important to them. Here again we see the difference between these two groups when it comes to the industry in which they would be working. Students place a high level of importance on what industry they will be working in, higher than other considerations such as the the financial status of the company or even the specific team or role they would have. Students ranked the industry of a prospective job about as important as how much they would be paid and commute time.
Denise Irvin, a senior studying computer science at Texas A&M University, has completed internships both inside and outside the software industry, at Rackspace and Boeing. She says, "The main differences students think about are the culture differences and whether they want to write software for a company to consume or for a product to sell to the world." One reason she values her internship experiences is for understanding what corporate culture can be like, from a tech company where things move fast and technology trends are followed quickly to an established corporation that has the resources to invest in larger, long-term projects. "Different people find different work meaningful," she says. "It really is enjoyable to work for a company that you are a good fit for."
When companies need to hire developers, it's important to understand what developers value and how developers search for and evaluate jobs. If you are hiring for an industry like media or software that is attractive to new developers, you can know that this will play in your favor. If you are hiring for an industry like manufacturing or finance that has less cachet with new developers, take that into account in your hiring strategies. Remember that more experienced developers are less invested in this characteristic of a prospective job. Data-driven understanding of who developers are, across the spectrum of experience, can help you meet your goals.