A Look At Software Development Culture

February 13, 2018

By Steve Mezak

Software developers are a unique breed. Certainly every company needs access to software written by skilled programmers, but the effort to recruit, hire and retain these skilled workers may be more of a challenge than your company may want. We believe a software development culture is a distinct one – and may not align well with your company culture.

Technology - Not Industry Focus

Many of your company employees are professionals who will align their careers with a particular industry vertical: financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, etc. In contrast, software developers rarely tie themselves to a specific industry. Instead, when a programmer goes hunting for the next job, the focus of their search will be on the technology opportunity (i.e. tools and programming languages), not the industry.

Similarly, recruiters trying to lure away your software developers won't be only representing companies in the same vertical niche. Your programmers’ skills will appeal to a wide array of companies who are hiring.

Key Takeaway: If your programming staff goes job shopping, they have a broader range of employment options in comparison to other employees. In addition, talented software developers on your payroll are recruiting targets for a broad base of companies. Software developers orient themselves to categories of technology (Java, mobile development, etc.), not the business vertical in which they currently work.  

Professional Growth = Exposure to New Technology

Companies with a software development staff must use a different strategy for professional development as compared to other departments. Programmers view exposure to new technology as an important measure of their career advancement.

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It can be difficult for management to address this need. Companies typically have a limited portfolio of applications and technologies in use. Often, the programmers who develop a business application will be asked to become the main support person for the system thereafter, rather than being reassigned to something totally new and different. In cases like this, your risk is high that the  great developer you've trained and groomed may go looking elsewhere for employment. Your developers have options in the marketplace and they know it.

Key Takeaway: The typical company strategies for employee professional development don’t fit the software development culture. Rewarding software developers means that you continuously expose them to new and different technology challenges. Many companies are not equipped to do this.  Software development companies like to cross train staff across different projects and clients, creating a variety of experiences for their programming staff.

Properly Equipped

Tools are important in the software development culture. Software languages, “sandbox” development environments, automated testing tools, etc. are some examples of what a software development team wants to see in their “tool box”. Some of these tools can be costly and may be seen as “frivolous” by management, since the purchases are not core business expenses. Perhaps some of the tools make sense for a brief season during a project, but are hard to justify as a perpetual licensing expense.

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Key Takeaway: Most companies cannot justify and perpetually maintain the appropriate tools needed for a software development team. However, companies whose core business is developing software can justify the spending and infrastructure commitment.  

Collaborative

Software developers are most effective when they are in a collaborative community. They share design ideas, code snippets, and other experience from previous assignments in creating an application. If one programmer gets stuck on a de-bugging issue, a colleague gets called in to assist. In many companies, software developers are niche specialists and the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues is limited. Generally, coding for a software developer isn't only their occupation, it is also a personal passion and hobby.

Key Takeaway: Most companies cannot justify a team of software developers with similar skills. This limits the amount of professional collaboration which is possible among colleagues. In contrast, a software development company can be a natural incubation for technical creativity and productivity.

Non-Traditional Work Environment

Software developers are simply wired differently than the typical office worker. They aren’t lazy. They don’t have a poor work ethic. But, their work style and pattern is different than the standard office culture. This difference can create a strain in relationships between your developers and management – or other departments. 
 
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Key Takeaway: There are 2 kinds of companies: ones that cater to developers (think Googleplex) and those that do not. Companies that offer attractive, fun, top tech, non-traditional environments have a better chance of attracting the best minds. "Traditional" companies that aren't in the business of building software to compete against the Googolplexes of the world - and it's no contest. A software development company is naturally geared to create a more conducive work environment to the software development culture.  

In Summary

Every company has a core business mission and focus. To be successful and continue to be competitive, you need quality applications written by skilled software development teams. A software development outsourcer – who understands the software development culture – may be just the kind of business partner you need.

  • Their focus on technology is attractive to professionals who are making a career out of software development.
  • Their management style and professional development strategies are geared towards nurturing the software development community.
  • They perpetually maintain best-in-class tools in order to stay competitive.
  • They create natural opportunities for peer collaboration in a software developer-friendly culture.

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