Some of the most successful CEOs in today’s business landscape are under 30 years old. Specifically in the tech industry, millennials are making a huge impression: They are the first generation of digital natives to enter the workforce and have a strong understanding of how our existing and future digital world operates.
We’re undergoing a huge shift in digital right now. IoT devices and new platforms like messenger bots are changing the way we build and implement software. Millennials are entering the workforce with a completely new set of skills and interests to meet these needs, and they’re providing a kind of value their more veteran counterparts often don’t have experience with. It’s the right place and the right time for the millennials to make their impact.
(Related: Agile needs to be modern)
“Millennial Developers”—as they’re called in the tech world—have a few very distinct differences from their Boomer and Gen X counterparts. But they aren’t just simple personality traits—these differences could also have a ripple effect on the larger business world. It’s infectious and it’s necessary.
Speaking a new language
But it goes beyond language. The infrastructure supporting today’s technology tools is also undergoing a transformation. APIs and SDKs didn’t exist 10 years ago as “public” mechanisms for integration, but they quickly became standard practice at major tech companies like Amazon. Now, they are changing again. REST APIs are being “evolved” by GraphQL, which offers a more sophisticated analysis of a request for action. Today’s technologies require this higher-level API performance, and pretty soon anything REST-built will become a relic of the past. Millennials will quicken the pace of that transition.
New ways to learn
Millennial Developers are hungry for new information and have an intrinsic desire to learn new technical skills. But the way they go about learning them is a far cry from their veteran peers. Ten to 15 (or more) years ago, college coursework and massive conferences like OOPSLA—or those hosted by big names like IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and Novell—were the preferred outlets to learn new technical skills. Line engineers would host demos and classes, and developers would brush up on the latest languages, networks, services and best practices.
But Millennial Developers can learn more in three hours on their own than any veteran developer could learn at a whole week-long conference. They are self-taught on platforms like GitHub or Bitbucket, where they can download a Docker Container, test it out first-hand, and learn the ins and outs of the entire system on their own. It’s a sign of the times, and the result of an increase in technical material that’s openly available to developers on the web today. Who would have thought that Microsoft would open-source .NET and then put its documentation on GitHub?
I believe it’s also the result of a mindset shift. Today’s young professionals grew up in a world that’s devoted to the social sharing economy. They opt for shared vehicles and vacation rentals. In the technology world, that’s translated into a desire to share knowledge with others and crowdsource information and education. Freely available information breaks down barriers for developers—we’ll see more people flock to this newly accessible career path, and a tribe of skilled developers will advance the profession by teaching others online.
Faster pace of working
This intrinsic desire to learn new skills and seek out freely available information has also supercharged Millennial Developers’ ability to work quickly—their pace is phenomenal. Millennial Developers churn out new updates and features constantly and they subscribe fully to the agile/Scrum ‘’build as you go’’ model. As a result, the projects these developers work on are quickly released to the public, and routinely updated to become better and more advanced for the user. Snapchat is a great example of a company filled with Millennial Developers. The amount of functionality and features they turn out on a weekly basis is mind-boggling. The functionality integrated into Snapchat’s app with every update would likely take a legacy company about 10x as long to implement.
It’s all because these millennial-driven companies build less process into the development cycle—they forego arduous marketing plans and executive review cycles. Their ability to work around these bottlenecks and churn out great products more frequently positions them extremely well against competitive technology vendors. If the product doesn’t hold their attention, the user jumps on to something new. Try, fail fast, move on. These companies run by Millennial Developers, or those that employ them, have conditioned the masses to expect new updates on a more frequent basis. They’ve upped the ante, and now, we’ll see legacy technology vendors struggle to adapt, and cut processes where possible to compete.
The times are changing
To date, it’s been easy to trace the impact Millennial Developers have on the technology world, specifically within the tools they use. Social media sites are the most rapid innovators out there—using new tools, attracting a larger pool of developers, and quickly releasing updates and new features. Beyond that, I believe we’ll see this replicated across the technology industry as a whole as the Millennial Developers grow in numbers and power. And it’s an amazing thing. Millennials have the technical chops and intrinsic desire to truly change the (software) world for the better.