Why is a so-called millennial’s take on life as a software developer a topic worth thinking about? What is different about my professional career compared to my older *ahem* more experienced colleagues? There must be a reason that my generation is the topic of so much discussion and analysis. The first and obvious reason is that millennials are quickly becoming a key consumer base and the largest segment of the workforce in the software industry. But those are just demographics and bottom lines, there is something else below the surface of corporations trying to better market to and employ millennials. Let’s explore why millennials are the most talked-about demographic in the industry.
My millennial colleagues and I were born in the digital age, and most of them have been fortunate enough to be using computers from a young age. It is an inherent advantage that younger people grew up learning and using new forms of technology. These skills transfer directly to the workplace, as the sheer volume of development technologies, tools, frameworks, and techniques is exploding. With an unprecedented number of software developers in a strong industry, best practices can change every month as someone develops new approach to a problem or improves on existing standards. The flexibility needed for working in such an environment is something that millennials can excel at. Growing up with technology integrated into everyday life offers a difference of perspective as well, which can be a boon to businesses where technology can solve more problems.
A successful developer is a tech-savvy multi-tasker, characteristics that all my colleagues share, regardless of age. Knowing how to apply technology to solve a business problem is our job and something we are successful at.
Millennials are described as compulsive job-hoppers, switching jobs frequently to chase potential wage gains and find a suitable workplace culture. Taking these factors into consideration, employers are putting lots of effort into attracting and keeping good workers by offering flashy perks and cool, modern offices.
What we want from employers is the same thing that all employees want: a challenging, fulfilling occupation that also gives them a healthy relationship with their workplace. I find my work to be the most fulfilling when, at the end of the day, I’ve given my best effort to solve complex problems, and I’ve done it as part of a cohesive team of great co-workers. A traditional, “boring” office is a better place to work than a trendy open concept office if I can find gratification and value in my work. The beer fridge, bean bag chairs, and ping-pong tables are great fun, but superficial.
There is the notion that millennials are a generation of instant gratification. This would indicate that in order to successfully retain and manage a younger workforce, a company would need to go out of their way to actively engage a millennial software developer with unique experiences and an ‘agile’ way of life. How else to keep these impulsive and impatient developers on-task?
I learned very quickly, as all developers do, that real-world software development involves patience. There is no instant gratification when working on tasks that can span weeks, often with very little reward besides the thrill of solving a problem. Spending days chasing an elusive bug only to find the culprit in one line of code is something that software developers of any age can share.
My final thought is that there are no meaningful differences between generations of programmers. There may be differences in experience with different programming languages, tools, and coding standards, but we’re all working to solve the same types of problems. We’re all dealing with the rapid changes in the software development world and trying to make an impact at the workplace.