What shape do you like your developers?

The choice is T-shaped – or hole-shaped

Given that financial services firms are now effectively technology firms with banking or investment licenses, the capability and engagement of developers has never been more critical.  And yet many don’t invest in developing technology staff, especially the critical 5-10% who are 10-20 times more productive than the rest.

Hand-in-hand with development opportunities, firms need to show a clear career path that recognises and rewards technical expertise and delivery.  Most developers don’t want to be managers, but take that path simply because it’s the only way to progress their careers.  As a result, financial services firms face losing their most talented technologists, either because they leave to go somewhere offering a more attractive technical career path, or because the only way to progress is to become a manager, which means both the firm and the individual lose out in the long run.

Two other key factors mean a radical re-think of technical career paths is needed:

  1. Flatter organisational structures: fewer levels mean fewer promotions with bigger jumps between them.  Promoted individuals are neither prepared for, nor set up to succeed in, roles with significantly greater scale, scope and impact.
  2. Transition to agile: old ‘job families’ are no longer relevant as organisations no longer rigidly split business analysts, project managers and testers from developers.  Agile brings a more fluid (and we believe better) ways of working for technologists, breaking down silos and freeing the firm to focus on increased flow and value.

How should organisations respond?  Make your developers T-shaped.  Develop both their breadth of knowledge (across planning, analysis, development, testing, deployment, support) and also the behaviours to enable a broader remit to work in teams and large organisations – not just the depth to succeed in only one or two specific domains.

Written jointly with my colleague Mark Brotherwood, our latest whitepaper explores these challenges. We show how you can create a career path that demonstrates your commitment to your technology team, keeps them engaged and develops them to take on a breadth and scale of challenge throughout their entire career.

If you’d like us to help you think how to make your technologists T-shaped, before they leave and you find they’ve left a hole, please contact us.

Note: This opinion piece was first published by Catalyst prior to the Sionic merger

Meet the lead author

I help organisations and the individuals within them change and develop; to be better, more effective and have a positive impact on the clients and society they serve. 

I specialise in the education and development of technologists and for example transformed one tier 1 bank to operate in a DevOps way by implementing agile.