Kevin Eaton, PhD

Technology Leader, Non-Profit Founder, PhD, Chaplain, Geek


Random thoughts on technology, leadership, and entrepreneurship.

Software Engineers and Motivation, Part 2

In my last post, I provided some background on to why I was interested in exploring motivation with regard to software engineers. In this post, I will explain my findings and some implications of the research. After I posted to research instrument online and briefly advertised it, 1559 respondents began the survey and 1054 completed the survey (n = 1054). That is a completion rate of 67.6%, which is pretty good considering the number of questions; people are busy!

Software Engineers and Motivation, Part 1

In 2016, I wrapped up my took-forever-but-worth-it dissertation for my PhD in Business Administration and Applied Computer Science. Given my background, I took a psychological approach to my research and decided to explore something that has always interested me, but could also make for some valuable insights. I explored what motivates software engineers in a general sense. You see, motivation is a tough egg to crack. There are many different theories and insights.

Wrong Tool for the Wrong Job

I am happily employed. This has not always been the case. Here, I share a few stories and anecdotes, both from me and from several of my peers. In order to move quickly and flexibly, developers need to be happy and have the right tools. The right tools can enable developers to do amazing things, while the wrong tools can hinder motivation, efficiency, and agility. What the “right” tools are depends on the job.

Offices are Overrated (Especially Open Offices)

Developers are expensive. Hardware is cheap. We’ve heard that maxim time and time again. We use it to justify automating every possible task in the developer work flow. We use it when selecting languages that are more productive but less efficient. Its true, especially when servers are pennies or dollars an hour, whereas a junior software engineer is making $25+ hour ($65,000 / 2040, give or take). So the goal of any business, especially a lean business, should be maximizing the work we get from our developers per hour.

The Problem with Hiring Software Engineers

I have been on both sides of the interviewing fence. I have sought new opportunities in a variety of industries and have been the primary hiring decision maker for both big companies and startups. From both perspectives, I have come to only one conclusion: The way we hire technology professionals is fundamentally flawed. The anecdotal evidence is everywhere. From White-Board driven interviews to lame “I hope you can remember some minute details that you would otherwise be able to look up” style questions, it is obvious that we make life harder on ourselves than we should.