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How Enterprises Can Bend the Programmer Learning Curve

By June 5, 2012Article

Anyone who works in a corporate environment will tell you that trying to hire developers is probably just as stressful as raising venture capital, if not more so. Why? First, there is the challenge of finding the right kind of developers. Second, once you find the best people, even the most qualified developer can cost a fortune to train; so they seek out environments that can educate them faster and focus on their skill sets and interests.
Why is this an issue? Much more is needed for an enterprise to flourish than just sufficient capital. Enterprises need access to talent in order to execute their vision. Once the talent is found and hired, the new employees can rarely hit the ground running. Often it takes months to find and hire the right developers, and then even more time to “bend their learning curve” so they can successfully contribute to the business.
Imagine a world where enterprises and their developers are able to cultivate the depth of skills that were once reserved for employees with many years of experience and apply these talents instantly to new staff members and application projects. To help speed the ramp-up process, thanks to the advent of applications such as Puppet, Chef and Brooklyn, which allow instant manipulation and modification of enterprise applications, this imagined world is becoming a reality.
With the ability for new employees to quickly get up to speed working with existing enterprise applications, the learning curve on those enterprise-grade solutions has been twiddled away to days rather the years.
In order for enterprises to take advantage of the skill sets of new developers as soon as possible, they must utilize any tools at their disposal, like the applications mentioned above, to bend the learning curve to the enterprise’s advantage.
However, getting a developer up to speed on existing work is just one step in the growth process that enterprises need to embrace. Companies must consider how they can look at each individual developer’s learning curve and bend each one to benefit both the employee and the organization as a whole. Personalization is key in this stage of learning.
For examples of successful education programs, enterprises can look to startups. Unlike many companies that desire that developers bring their own cultivated knowledge to the job, startups tend to take the time to learn about their employees’ desires and educate those who want to be proficient in one or more open source languages (e.g., PHP, Python, Ruby) and can work across the stack and strive to learn more so they are relied upon and viewed as an asset to the business.
While there seems to be a decent pool of, C# and Java developers already in place in organizations, enterprises need to learn that it is cheaper and more efficient to utilize open source technologies (in most cases), and to find employees who want to become proficient in these languages. Typically in the past, many skilled enterprise developers didn’t adopt open source languages simply because they didn’t know any better, and they became stuck in their ways or earned enough money not to care. Instead of taking the time to learn new languages, they focused on their existing strengths.
However, a new age is dawning and the enterprise can learn from the methods of the startup and discover that shortening the developer learning curve by enticing them with new-age applications that appeal to their interests is key to achieving enterprise business success.
If you are a competent developer, you generally have no need to worry about job security because you are in such high demand. If you think about it, this situation is actually quite scary because the developer holds all of the cards. This won’t change any time soon.

Since most companies will not, or cannot, take the time to provide education on new skills, if the position where you are currently employed becomes stagnant, you simply move onto the next one. But, if the enterprise is willing to look into employees’ passions and educate them to develop based on their interests, the learning curve is forever bent in the favor of the enterprise, the “growth” of the employee and their combined future.

It’s fair to say that education for developers is continuing to improve, but there is still a ways to go. Enterprises need to offer more open source languages alongside, if not in favor of, the existing languages taught in corporate training facilities, allow employees to gravitate towards their strengths and focus on applications and needs that tie into their passions.
As more companies allow developers to drive the evolution of their education, the faster these organizations will help create an internal revolution, where the benefits to developer morale and work quality will be seen almost immediately. Once the learning curve is bent to the developer’s strengths, enterprises will see the passion and drive that startups have seen for years and the results will speak for themselves.
Christopher M. Carter is vice president of business development at Cloudsoft. He is responsible for driving Cloudsoft’s business development and partner relationships. Chris is a serial entrepreneur who founded two successful startups and is credited with creating the world’s first SAP cloud solution. He brings over 20 years’ sales management experience in the technology sector, most recently in a senior business development role with ServiceMesh.

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