It’s official: the oft-decried tech talent shortage is a myth. Droves of junior developers are entering the job market thanks to the skyrocketing popularity of computer science degrees and code bootcamps.
While this is great news for the booming tech industry, where competent developers are always in growing demand, the flood of junior developers has created its own issue: a gap in experience between senior developers and all the new graduates entering the workforce.
A computer science degree or a stint at a bootcamp may teach you the basics of a programming language, but not the native intuition to know the most efficient way to complete a task. It can take years of practical experience putting that knowledge to use in order for developers to become truly effective in their jobs.
How can companies narrow the experience gap that’s keeping junior developers from realizing their full potential?
At Yeti, we’ve found that we can help junior developers hit the ground running by encouraging continuous learning and mentoring on the job.
Making the time for mentoring might seem like an impossible task to fit into your employees’ already hectic schedules, but by prioritizing employee development and incorporating mentorships into existing systems, companies can reap the benefits of developers who learn the ropes that much more quickly.
We’ve discovered several ways to incorporate continuous learning into our regular work practices:
Implement two-way code reviews: A standard code review practice where senior developers review junior developer code—and vice-versa—can create connections across the gap. The software developer’s career can tend to be a solitary one, but by building more interaction between senior and junior developers into your standard practices, you can encourage more collaboration.
Organize company workshops: Hold internal seminars where more experienced developers help teach others a certain technology or area of interest. You can create internal workshops for individual teams, or organize Meetup groups to share expertise with your local community. We’ve found that holding regular Django meetups has helped us connect with our local tech community while fostering the spirit of continuous learning in our own employees.
Invest in training: Investing in employee education is another way companies can help their junior developers to more quickly gain experience and develop their skills. Far from a luxury, meetups, workshops, and classes are essential to the growth of developers, helping them to stay on top of current trends and developments in a rapidly-changing field. Conferences such as PyCon, JSConf, and WWDC not only expose developers to the latest developments in the field, but can also spark fresh ideas and rekindle excitement in their own work.
Encourage self-directed learning: Allow each employee to set aside time at work for self-education. Encourage them to take advantage of free online courses offered by MIT, Udacity, or Coursera to learn new languages and technologies, and reward them for completing courses.
If you want your junior developers to grow into their roles, you need to give them the space and freedom to collaborate with others, educate themselves, and develop personal projects to learn new programming languages and technology integrations. Give them the tools to become the best developers they can by building a culture of passion around engineering for its own sake—not just for the benefit of your company’s bottom line.