Two years ago, we ran a survey to find out what makes developers happy. This year, we wanted to go one step further and find out what really drives them. What ambitions do they have for their career, their skills and their community? We got 1000+ responses from developers across Europe and had a lot of fun learning from the wide array of responses and comments. Hopefully this report will bring the community closer together (and help employers understand how to keep you developers happy)!
In this report, you'll find the topics grouped into four sections: Career, Personal Growth, Office & Geography, and Community.
YES, you can get a pdf version to share! Find our full Developer Ambitions Report here.
1. Career Ambitions
Developer Role Ambitions
26% of developers aim to be an individual contributor in a company.
While 15% of male developers reported wanting to be founders, only 3% of female developers reported ‘founder’ to be their ideal role. Interestingly, 14% of current engineering leads and 26% of engineers with 9+ years of experience reported that they would like to be individual contributors. This is in line with the several write-in answers we received from developers who report not having an interest in transitioning to management despite their years of experience.
'Management is not a promotion, management is a change of profession. And you will be bad at it for a long time after you start doing it. If you don’t think you’re bad at it, you aren’t doing your job.
Managing because it feeds your ego is a terrific way to be sure that your engineers get to report to someone miserable and resentful, someone who should really be writing or finding something else that brings them joy
It isn’t a promotion, so you don’t have any status to give up. Do it as long as it makes you happy, and the people around you happy. Then stop. Go back to building things. Wait til you get that itch again.'
Charity Majors, cofounder and CTO of Honeycomb on the The Engineer/Manager Pendulum
Company Size Preferences
The #1 choice for developers is to work for a startup.
A whopping 88% of developers have a company size preference. Though there are several reasons to choose a specific size of company, two details stand out: 29% of those who want to work for a startup do so because they seek less bureaucracy; and 35% of those who want to work for an enterprise company do so because they seek more security.
Industry of Employment Preferences
Only 15% of respondents reported having no preference about which industry they work in.
According to some, working for FAANG is the crowning achievement for a developer. They pay more, have more prestige and generally make your parents say ‘ooh, aah’. However, we found that only 7% of our respondents report wanting to work for FAANG.
7% want to work for FAANG.
52% of women developers want to work for a company with a good cause.
32% of men developers want to work for a company with a good cause.
Criteria for Next Job
44% of developers say work-life balance is their most important criteria when considering a role.
After work-life balance, developers across the board agreed that team/culture, remote options and salary were the next most important factors.
'Job Hopping' Preferences
Nearly 50% of developers don’t have a preference as to how often they switch jobs.
Most developers reported not really having an opinion on whether they should or shouldn’t job hop. In fact, 26% prefer to stay with the same company while 24% would prefer to job hop.
However, 28% of developers who did not report they would prefer to job hop still intend to change jobs within the next year. This could indicate that, while developers aren’t actively thinking of ‘job hopping’ as a strategy, something is compelling them to move on to greener pastures at this moment in time.
2. Personal Growth Ambitions
Drivers and Motivation
26% of developers are driven by the desire for personal satisfaction and pride.
Developers reported that a variety of factors and ambitions are driving their career. However, it’s clear that networking and status are the least important overall.
Side Project Ambitions
33% of developers want to work on side projects that solve real world problems.
Only 5% of developers reported not wanting to work on any side projects. Whether it’s having fun or solving problems, it’s clear that developers are generally driven to use their skills outside of working hours.
Developers are most likely to hone their skills through self-study and regular work. Despite the prevalence of bootcamps and self-taught developers, 8% of respondents reported an interest in completing a university degree. Sometimes you can’t go wrong with old-fashioned college education!
Soft Skill Growth and Ambitions
61% of developers would like to work on their negotiation & conflict resolution skills.
It seems developers are not only interested in becoming better negotiators and public speakers but also at better managing their time. While this interest in time management decreases for developers as they gain experience in the field, it does appear to be a clear point of interest for developers across the board.
Mentoring and Coaching
50% of developers report wanting to mentor others.
On top of this, 51% report being interested in having a mentor within their organisation. This isn’t so surprising given the complex nature of the work. Developers must regularly learn new things and creating a reliable community and sharing culture within organisations would likely help developers do their jobs better.
‘Mentoring is a process. It’s not a toolbox that you open up… You start by talking about something that you have in common and then go deeper.
As a mentor, I’m going to try to open the door. At the end of the discussion I‘m going to try to leave the discussion open so that person has something to think about and something to come back with. I want this person to come back to me and talk again.
You have to start getting comfortable talking to people—about whatever suits you. Just pick something you like and see where that leads you.’
Dealing with Burnout
67% of developers report that vacation is a key defense against burnout.
While it’s not surprising that vacation and talking to a manager are good defenses against burnout, developers also reported a desire to employ meditation and mindfulness. In fact, 40% of developers with 9+ years of experience reported that they would like to use meditation and mindfulness to mitigate burnout. Interestingly, developers also reported being more likely to quit their job than speak to a therapist or other professional.
‘When I worked in construction, after I went home, I didn’t start building in my free time. I just enjoyed my free time. I didn’t have to worry about not being able to get a job if I don’t learn 10,000 things in an afternoon… but I have a bad relationship with tech, because I feel the need to always learn stuff and create.’
3. Office and Geography Ambitions
Most Desired Locations in Europe
Top City: Berlin
Top Country: Germany
Even when we removed respondents who are currently living in Western Europe from the data, Germany still came out as the most desired European country to live in. However, we must note that many of our respondents were also users of the Honeypot platform—a job platform specifically for DACH and the Netherlands. This could mean that respondents were more likely to have an interest in these countries than other developers.
Office Wants and Expectations
45% of developers want to work fully remote.
Remote work has been all the rage the past couple of years. Even today you can’t stand up without hitting your head on an article about how it’s changing the world. However, it seems reality is slightly more nuanced as 70% of developers still reported a desire to live in the same country as their employer. Only 30% reported preferring to be in a different country from their employer entirely.
Social Wants at Work
The vast majority of respondents reported a desire for social interactions at the office but no particular need to turn workmates into best friends.
Politics at the Workplace
When it comes to employers having a stance on political topics, most developers fell somewhere in the middle. However, it seems that nearly half of developers believe their employers should have a clear position on major topics
In particular, Northern Europe proved to be the most political and Eastern Europe the least. 20% of developers located in Northern Europe report wanting employers to go the full nine-yards in terms of politics. On the other hand, 50% of those in Eastern Europe preferred an office with no political topics at all.
4. Community Ambitions
Biggest Problems to Solve
#1 Problem: Bad Project Managers
There’s no doubt about it. Developers really, really dislike bad project managers. Apparently we shouldn’t have even asked. We are so sorry.
Ambitions for Popular Topics
For our final question, we wanted to ask something kind of complicated. We asked developers what they would like to see more focus on in the developer community, and they were allowed to only select three options.
Overwhelmingly, respondents voted for work-life balance and mental health. While gender equality had a number of votes (23%), POC and LGBTQ+ inclusion had far fewer (6%). Some write-ins also include the issue of ageism, neurodivergent inclusion, and fewer working hours.