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Developers Rank the Best Ways to Upskill (Survey)

Written By HackerRank | May 9, 2024

As new technologies, programming languages, and frameworks emerge, the ability to adapt and learn is paramount. For employers, upskilling their tech teams is vital for fostering innovation and increasing productivity. Upskilling is similarly crucial for developers to ensure career growth and stay ahead of emerging technologies.

But there are many ways to upskill. In a recent survey conducted by Hacker Rank, developers shared their preferences for different learning methods to enhance their skills and knowledge. Understanding these preferences is crucial for both developers and managers to support effective skill development strategies. Let’s look at the top upskilling strategies.

1. Learning as Part of a Work Project

How this strategy works: Developers acquire new skills or deepen existing ones while actively working on projects within their roles, applying knowledge directly to real-world scenarios.

Developers overwhelmingly favor learning new skills within the framework of a work project. This sentiment is echoed by other professionals, including engineering managers, TAs, and executives, who believe this method is the best way for developers to upskill.

Learning within work projects is preferred because it offers real-world application and relevance. By tackling challenges within the context of their job, developers can immediately apply new skills, enhancing both their proficiency and problem-solving abilities. This approach also benefits the company by fostering innovation, improving productivity, and ensuring that new skills are directly aligned with project needs.

However, this strategy has some potential limitations. Learning within work projects may slow progress or introduce risks if developers struggle with unfamiliar technologies or methodologies. Additionally, not all projects may offer suitable opportunities for skill development, limiting the available scope of learning within this context.

2. Structured Online Learning 

How this strategy works: Developers follow a predefined curriculum through online platforms which offer structured guidance and assessment to facilitate skill development. Formats for this educational content include video tutorials, lessons, and quizzes, 

For developers, structured online learning offers flexibility and convenience. They can progress at their own pace, revisit materials as needed, and track their learning through assessments. This method also provides a structured curriculum, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the topic at hand.

From the company’s perspective, structured online learning can be cost-effective and scalable. It allows for consistent training across teams and geographical locations without requiring extensive resources or logistics.

However, developers may encounter difficulties maintaining motivation or engagement, particularly when faced with lengthy or monotonous content. Structured online learning may not always offer the same level of hands-on experience or real-world application as learning within work projects, which could limit its effectiveness in specific scenarios. 

3. Self-Directed Learning

How this strategy works: Developers independently explore learning resources on platforms like YouTube, StackOverflow, and Google, tailoring their learning experience to their specific interests and needs without formal instruction or assessment.

When opportunities for learning within work projects or structured online courses are limited, developers often turn to self-directed learning through a variety of platforms.

For developers, self-directed learning offers unparalleled flexibility and a diversity of resources. They can choose from various tutorials, articles, and forums to explore topics tailored to their interests and learning styles.

Self-directed learning allows developers to delve into niche or emerging technologies not covered in traditional courses. Developers can explore whatever they are interested in whenever they want. 

Companies encouraging this strategy empower developers to take ownership of their learning journey and pursue skills that directly benefit their work. It can also be cost-effective, as many resources are freely available online.

But with this many resources available, developers might struggle to discern credible sources or navigate through overwhelming amounts of information. Moreover, without structured guidance or accountability, there is a risk of learning becoming unfocused or disjointed, potentially hindering skill acquisition.

4. Bootcamps or In-Person Learning

How this strategy works: Developers participate in intensive, immersive training programs, either in person or virtually, led by experienced instructors and focused on rapid skill acquisition in a condensed time frame.

While boot camps and in-person training were once hailed as the pinnacle of skills development, developers’ enthusiasm for team-based or in-person learning has recently dwindled. Despite this shift, it’s important to acknowledge the benefits that boot camps and in-person learning can offer.

This approach provides immersive, hands-on experiences that can accelerate learning and foster collaboration. The structured curriculum and guidance from experienced instructors can help developers quickly gain proficiency in new technologies.

Additionally, the networking opportunities provided by boot camps and in-person training sessions can be invaluable, allowing developers to connect with peers and industry professionals.

However, developers may find these formats less flexible and accommodating to their individual learning needs than online alternatives. The time and financial commitments required can be significant, making them less accessible to some developers. As a result, while boot camps and in-person learning still hold merit, their appeal has diminished in the face of more convenient and cost-effective online learning options.

5. Team-Based Learning Programs Tied to Department Goals

How this strategy works: Developers engage in collaborative learning experiences within a team setting aligned with departmental objectives, fostering knowledge sharing, accountability, and skill development towards shared goals.

These programs offer several benefits despite their lower preference. Collaboration among team members facilitates the sharing of knowledge, ideas, and best practices, enhancing learning outcomes. Working in teams also helps developers improve their soft skills and fosters accountability and motivation as they work towards shared learning goals. 

Team-based learning programs cover various topics relevant to departmental objectives, ensuring comprehensive skill development. By building relationships and trust among team members, these programs create a supportive learning environment conducive to collaboration and knowledge sharing. 

The trade-offs of this learning strategy include a lack of the flexibility and individualized focus that developers value in their learning experiences. Rigid structures and predetermined curriculum may not cater to each developer’s diverse learning needs and preferences.

Additionally, the pace of team-based learning programs may be dictated by the collective progress of the group. This progress could either be too fast for some developers, leading to feelings of being overwhelmed, or too slow for others, resulting in frustration or boredom.

Moreover, team-based learning may also introduce group dynamics and communication challenges. Conflicting schedules, differing skill levels, and personality clashes among team members could hinder effective collaboration and learning outcomes.

Key Takeaways

The key to a successful upskilling initiative – whether it’s company wide or independently driven – is to match the right combination of learning methods to the goals and learning styles of everyone involved. With enough motivation and the support of an upskilling program or software, no skill is too difficult to master.

Abstract, futuristic image generated by AI

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