Major companies have had it wrong for years – top engineers aren’t drawn to campus life and office perks. The pandemic this past year has proven what remote working evangelists have been preaching for years. Skilled and motivated technologists want to work on their own terms — our recent software developer survey proves it.
We asked engineers about their priorities in current roles, primary motivations to search for new roles, what defines meaningful work, what meaningful work, what skills they are most excited to develop, and more. Here are some of our key findings below.
The #1 reason engineers join a company is for the team culture
Our research revealed an interesting disconnect between what leads engineers to initially seek out a new opportunity versus acting upon one. While the initial motivation to search for a new job is driven by a desire for an increase in compensation, the ultimate decision about whether to accept a new job is primarily dependent on whether the organization has a good team and culture fit.
A major component of building a strong team foundation is clear, effective communication, which in a remote environment is more important than ever. Communication can translate to both writing and speaking. For example, providing written documentation regarding a specific workflow is one effective way that engineers can share information and improve communication among teammates.
“In a remote setting, it’s better to overcommunicate,” said Andela Technical Delivery Manager Oluwatobi Akinseye. “In fact, many organizations encourage engineers to ask a lot of questions, provided that these questions are informed and based on research. This is because many companies will have complex systems that they won’t expect engineers to understand right away. So if you don’t ask a lot of questions and try and get up to speed, it can actually be a bad sign.”
Effective communication is critical to align with the team on product roadmaps and other major initiatives. Additionally, engineering teams promoting strong communication will give one another honest and actionable feedback so the whole team can grow and improve. Lack of communication = stagnation.
Engineers are looking to develop soft skills as much as technical skills
While technical advancement is an ongoing priority for engineers who need to continuously upskill in order to keep up with the pace of change, developing soft skills is an equally crucial area of focus.
“In my view, there are two sides of the coin: the technical skillset and the soft skills,” said Simon Mbatia, a backend engineer at Andela with 11 years of experience in Java and other technologies. “To excel, you need both. Obviously, you’ll need to master your chosen language and framework. However, to really be successful in software engineering, you need to be empathetic, consistent, punctual and always maintain a professional manner when it comes to meetings, customer needs, and project requirements.”
Engineers are ultimately drawn to organizations that emphasize the importance of traits like empathy, consistency, punctuality and strong communication, because, as Mbatia says, cultivating all of these traits is as important to long-term engineering success as technical skills.
While upskilling and professional development of soft skills were deemed top priorities for engineers when asked about desired learning topics, formal education from institutions and universities ranked last in learning sources. This relates to larger trends we see in the engineering space as a whole, with the importance of formal education increasingly questioned in recent years.
Nearly half of respondents want meaningful work and to give back to their community
Community and mentorship have long served as pillars in the tech industry and show no sign of slowing. While independents in other industries, such as in business and finance, can feel threatened by new entrants into their space and often hide learned trade secrets, technologists continue to understand the need to develop the next generation of talent. The abundance of available work and nuanced diversity in skillsets has propagated an industry ripe with benevolent spirit, and engineers are eager for opportunities to give back.
Additionally, engineers are eager to grow their network and leadership skills and build their personal brand. Companies that provide opportunities for engineers to write technical content or present at webinars or meetups can differentiate themselves from competitors solely offering a lucrative salary.