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The hunters become the hunted: Tracking Australia’s most in-demand developers

The hunters become the hunted: Tracking Australia’s most in-demand developers

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Stephen Gillies, APAC Technology Evangelist, Fastly, tells Intelligent CIO Australia’s best coders want to work in an environment where the roadblocks are removed and underlying systems and practices allow them to be at their best.

Stephen Gillies, APAC Technology Evangelist, Fastly

In the world of sales, the approaches adopted by different sales professionals can often be understood and categorized through the lens of a small number of ‘personas’.

There are ‘farmers’ whose focus is mainly cultivating accounts, ‘trappers’ whose focus is on finding and capturing new leads, and ‘hunters’ who are always out there looking for the latest thing. It’s the hunters who drive new business, innovate and quickly develop ‘street cred’ in the market.

Applying the same segmentation to the software community, most developers in Australia right now, particularly those in the major capital cities, are hunters: chasing new things, and going where they can find them.

The developers we talk to are looking for environments that allow them to innovate constantly, implement frequently and take applications forward.

They want to work at a company that has a vision – and the enabling systems – to constantly push new and market-leading products and features out into production.

If that isn’t where they currently work, developers are willing to move to get it.

One recent survey found more than seven in 10 tech workers expect to reconsider their options within the next year.

That broadly mirrors a trend seen across many industry sectors, where a ‘great resignation’ is not just taking shape but is accelerating.

This, in turn, is forcing employers to reconsider and reshape their value proposition in terms of the environment, culture and conditions they offer, with a focus on personal fulfilment, agility and chasing industry-leading best practice.

The best places to work

During the dotcom bubble, a cool place to work may have boasted lounges, a pool table, arcade games and a well-stocked fridge.

Two decades on, a lot has changed. Developers want to work somewhere with an appetite for innovation, and – perhaps more importantly – that has the tooling, work practices and culture to facilitate and even celebrate that innovation.

The companies rising to the top right now, in terms of retaining their best talent and that are also most successful at attracting the best talent sitting outside their organizations, are those that have embraced secure DevOps, CI/CD automation and everything-as-code.

However, walk into any high performing IT organization today and you will find a strong desire to be more efficient, innovative and agile. These are admirable ‘high level’ goals but they don’t actually describe the path to get from where an organization is now to where they want to be.

Organizations that successfully become more efficient, innovative and agile – and therefore attractive to the best developers – have a plan that runs over a period of time and that clearly lays out key steps and milestones, which are tracked and reported. They also work to get existing staff interested in the journey and onboard for the ride, with consistent top down communication which encourages feedback.

In short, they put in considerable effort to become employers of choice. It is not something that can be achieved overnight or with the deployment of a single software tool.

Best practices and systems

Being attractive to ‘hunter’ developers may necessitate a tooling review, with the goal of achieving an integrated, consolidated approach to the way applications are created, tested, deployed, managed and secured. Developers want to work in an environment where automation allows them to move fast and react to market changes and opportunities in real-time.

In all likelihood, a secure DevOps (also sometimes called a DevSecOps) approach and tooling will be needed to remove friction from the developer experience.

Secure DevOps is a culture, movement and practice that enables collaboration between development, operations and security teams throughout the entire software delivery lifecycle, from design and development to production support.

It is often encoded into software tools as a series of guardrails and automations that streamline checks and balances throughout the lifecycle, while ensuring that none of these checks become obstructive. That is, they complement innovation rather than work against it.

Visibility of what is happening throughout the process is also crucial. Developers appreciate having a clear view of what their code and product are doing. Giving developers a tool that can help strengthen both their code and their security mindset is a win-win.

If employers can’t create an environment for secure DevOps to be successful; that is inclusive of different individuals’ opinions on how to move forward; and where innovation and agile development is valued; their ability to compete for development talent will be severely diminished.

Once developers sense a legacy environment and legacy thinking, they will simply look elsewhere for an environment that looks forward – and move on.

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