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Top 5 Takeaways from the 2020 Developer Skills Report

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For the 3rd year in a row, we surveyed our community of over 7 million developers to understand the state of developer skills. This year, 116,648 developers from 162 countries weighed in.

If you’re interested in reading the full survey results, you can find the 2020 Developer Skills Report here. Otherwise, you can check out our top five takeaways below:

1. Full-stack & back-end developers are in highest demand

Of the hiring managers that answered the survey, 38% said that “full-stack developer” is the most important role they need to fill in 2020. Back-end developers, on the other hand, were top priority for 24% of hiring managers. Priorities shifted slightly with company size, but across the board, full-stack developers are the #1 priority. 

For hiring managers and talent acquisition (TA) experts, this sends a strong signal: competition for full-stack developer candidates is still high. So how can you navigate it? 

First, you need to determine what, exactly, defines a “full-stack developer” at your org. The term “full-stack developer” can be ambiguous at best. Its definition varies from company to company, and even from business unit to business unit. To bring in the candidates with the right mix of skills, you’ll have to define your org’s point of view. Otherwise, you risk engaging candidates that are a match in title, but not in skill. 

Another way to navigate the competition? Keep an open mind when it comes to your candidate search criteria. Again, the role “full-stack developer” is notoriously vague—so only sourcing developers with full-stack developer titles could prematurely limit your candidate pool. Depending on the needs of your role, you might find that candidates from a variety of backgrounds—and job titles—might have the skills you need. 

2. Chances to learn new tech skills are a major perk

In the 2019 Developer Skills Report, we found that professional growth and balance is the perk most developers prioritize in their job search. But depending on whom you ask, professional growth can take a number of forms—from managerial training, to technical skills training, soft skills training, and more. So this year, we sought out to determine which form of professional growth is most important. 


The answer: opportunities to learn new technical skills at work. 59% of developers say it’s the form of professional growth they value most. 

For engineering managers, it’s an opportunity to differentiate your team. Setting programs in place where individual contributors (ICs) can explore new tech skills at work—like Google’s famous “20 percent rule”—could be an edge when you’re selling a high-demand candidate. Orchestrated lunch-and-learns or mentorship programs are also great options to try.

3. Individual contributors want career paths that point to tech lead roles

As we learned in the last data point, developers value chances to learn new tech skills over new soft skills. So it makes sense that most individual contributors eventually want to become technical leads. 

In fact, 62% of individual contributors want to be in a tech lead position within the next 3 years. But 19% are perfectly content to remain as an individual contributor for the near future. Only 15% want to be an engineering manager.

This takeaway underscores the need for tech skills training. Learning new tech skills is already the form of professional growth developers value most—and it’s also a key ingredient they’ll need to move to a tech lead position.

For hiring managers, it’s worth self-examining how you’re enabling IC-level developers to grow their tech skills at work. What sort of career coaching are you offering? What programs and support can you provide that would help them grow into a technical lead position? If you can provide an internal career ladder that supports the individual contributor to tech lead path, you’re likely to appeal to a broader pool of candidates at the IC level. 

4. Bootcamps are gaining steam with younger generations

The 2020 Developer Skills Report showed that Gen Z is more likely than any other generation to learn new coding skills from bootcamps. In fact, they were 1.6x more likely to learn from bootcamps than Baby Boomers. 

Looking at the generation-over-generation data, a clear pattern emerges: the younger the generation, the more likely they are to rely on coding bootcamps to learn new coding skills. 

On the whole, coding bootcamps are relatively new to the world of tech. As noted in the 2020 Developer Skills Report, the first coding bootcamps only appeared around 2011. But they’re growing quickly: one report says attendance has grown 11x since only 2013. 

Consider it this way: studies estimate that roughly 20,000 students graduated from US and Canadian coding bootcamps in 2018. On the flip side, IPEDS data shows that US institutes granted roughly 42,000 Computer Science degrees in the same year. 

While it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, it’s clear that a considerable chunk of early talent developers are learning to code at bootcamps. And given their uptick in popularity amongst Gen Z, it may be worth folding bootcamps into your sourcing strategy to ensure you’re not missing out on this new and growing talent pool.

5. Hiring managers are vouching for bootcamp grads

Coding bootcamps aren’t just becoming more popular: they’re also becoming a respected education source amongst hiring managers. In fact, 72% of hiring managers that have hired a bootcamp grad said they’re equally or better equipped for developer jobs than other hires. 

It's an overwhelmingly positive sentiment from hiring managers. But surprisingly, only about 1 in 3 hiring managers say they've hired a bootcamp grad. Combined, it signals that bootcamp grads have the skills most hiring managers need—but are still an underutilized talent pool. 

To capitalize on that gap, it may be worth formally introducing bootcamps into your sourcing plan. You could start by taking a look at bootcamps like Codeworks, AppAcademy, and HackReactor, which were the three most commonly attended bootcamps in the survey.


Want to view more insights? See the full report—including data and insights from over 116,000 developers—here:

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