What do millennial developers want from their workplace?

By Harrison G Saylor, on


How do millennial developers think? What do they want out of their work? Here I am, a millennial app developer, to answer that for you. The short answer is simple: millennial developers want to develop. Of course, as with any short answer, there’s a much longer and more complicated one.

New and innovative technology

Millennial developers grew up with some rapidly advancing technologies. As such, we are enamored with the latest and greatest. Having to use anything less than that is frustrating and disappointing. This can easily become a pain point for millennial developers joining established teams. Fortunately, there has been a movement within IBM to migrate to some newer technologies, including GitHub and Slack. As a developer, you want to be working with the latest technology, languages and programs.

When we have the opportunity to transition to new technologies, millennial developers will jump at the chance to make the switch. After all, that’s how we get better at what we do. And that’s how we contribute most effectively to the companies we work for. When Swift and the Xcode Storyboard were introduced, our team at IBM was quick to implement and start the transition from Objective-C. While it can be easy to fall into the familiarity of a known and mastered language, suggesting anything less than the newest advancement is hindering to the work we do. It’s like asking someone to revert back to an older version of a program once they know all the functions of the new one.

Collaboration with designers

Many millennial developers consider themselves “full-stack,” meaning they can handle all aspects of development: front-end, back-end and everything in between. We want to avoid being seen as either a front-end developer or a back-end developer because we can handle both aspects. Because of this, we want to work very closely with designers and want our input to factor into the designs. Sometimes, designers come up with something that looks cool but is incredibly awkward to use in practice.

Millennial developers also act as gatekeepers, suggesting improvements for design before they’re implemented. I see this a lot as it relates to the iOS Human Interface Guidelines because developers tend to be more aware of them. Millennial developers want to be proud of what they make, and collaboration between design and development teams is a great way to make that happen.

Time to focus on code

Millennial developers and management don’t always agree on what’s priority. This relates back to the idea that we want to develop. Getting bogged down in micromanagement red tape and unnecessary meetings is devastating; it pulls us away from the work we want to be doing. The best managers I’ve had attempted to shield me from the clerical things and let me focus on code while still keeping me informed on company happenings.

Lowekey Camp

I recently spoke about development at Lowekey Camp in Cleveland, Ohio. Sponsored by Lowekey Labs and IBM, the program gave Generation Z high school students the opportunity to learn every aspect of app development, from the idea to development and legal. Speaking with the students, I saw repeatedly that they wanted to become entrepreneurs and work for themselves. They know that path isn’t easy and they were excited that large companies are attempting to address concerns of millennial (and Generation Z) developers.

Millennial developers are all about embracing advancements and learning new programs. We are ready and excited to take on the challenges associated with learning and building with the latest languages. Creating an environment that fosters innovation, encourages collaboration with designers and allows us to focus on coding is integral to attracting and retaining millennial developers, and pretty soon, Generation Z developers.

About The Author

Harrison G Saylor