Original research: What ordinary people think about software developers

Idego Idego • Mar 28
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It seems that software developers are a mystery to the regular people who professionally have nothing in common with the IT industry.

We asked them what they think about software developers to discover their perceptions.

Specifically, we looked at common misconceptions and myths that software developers often believe based on feedback from their relatives and friends, or so-called “normal people.”

We wanted to verify whether they are “magicians who hide out in windowless rooms on their computers,” or “they get everything behind the scenes up and running.”

Here is a summary of our key findings:

  1. 30% of people don’t have any opinion on software developers
  2. 62% of participants have a positive opinion about software developers
  3. 42.3% of people think software developers are smart
  4. Almost 1 in 4 people think they can hack into your social media account
  5. 1 in 5 people believe software developers can repair computers
  6. Only 4.1% of regular folks think software developers are introverts
  7. 17.6% of cohabitants of the planet believe that software developers are great
  8. According to ordinary people, software developers are hardworking
  9. The third most commonly expressed opinion is that software developers are very needed
  10. It’s not true that software developers are difficult to communicate with.

30% of people don’t have any idea about software developers

Many people don’t have an opinion on what software developers are like, and they have a general idea of what they do. Regular people don’t know the nuances between software developers, software engineers, and IT support. For 30% of our panellists, software development seems to be a job like any other.

“I don’t really think about them all that much. But, like any career, there are good software developers and not so good.”

62% of participants have a positive opinion about software developers 

Even though “normal people” might not know what a software developer’s job looks like, general opinions are overwhelmingly positive. Only 12% of respondents expressed negative feelings. So, instead of us describing what level of positivity we’re encountering here, let us repeat some of the quotes:

“I think that for the most part, they’re doing a really good job of providing the people with valuable resources. Some developers are admittedly corrupt, but thankfully most are not!”

“They make all sorts of interesting, useful, and fun things for us.”

“I don’t know any personally, but I’m sure they’re fine. I don’t love that sometimes they break what works when trying to update things.”

“I think they are an integral part of a society that is growing in technology.”

“Software developers are amazing! It’s great to have them because the future is in their hands. Technology is rapidly growing, and there’s a lot of room to learn.”

Of course, there’s always some negativity. That’s fine.

“I think they are a different breed. Minds like robots.”

“From outside looking in, they appear to mostly be lunatic leftist commies. But that may just be the image presented by the lunatic commie companies they work for.”

What people think about software developers - opinions
More than half of the respondents have positive thoughts about software developers. 1 in 4 people is neutral.

42.3% of people think software developers are intelligent

It’s not a surprise. Software developers work in tech and are good with computers, so they must be intelligent, right? It’s a kind of cliché, but hey, it’s a pleasant one (e.g. in comparison to how marketing is perceived).

“Very intelligent. I can’t even begin to imagine the skills it takes to execute their work.”

“I think they are intelligent, focused and detail-oriented.”

“I think they are very intelligent. Some of them do not have the best communication, but I do know a few who are great communicators, so I know this is not the case for all of them. I also think they are very detail-oriented people.”

“They’re intelligent & capable of helping the world & possibly harming the world too.”

A lot of people think software developers are smart and detail-oriented.

Almost 1 in 4 people think they can hack into your social media account

24% of respondents agree that software developers can hack into their social media accounts, but most are not sure.

Does a software developer know how to hack an account on social media like Facebook?
1 in 4 people believes that software developers can hack an account on Facebook or Twitter.

1 in 5 people believe software developers can repair computers 

We asked this question incorrectly. Instead of asking if a software developer can repair a computer, we should have asked if it’s their responsibility at work.

Many software developers could repair a computer, but that doesn’t mean that they do it for a living (of course they don’t), yet still, 44% of people are not sure if software developers can or can’t do it, and 20.7% believe they can.

Only 4.1% think software developers are introverts

Contrary to the opinion promoted, e.g. in movies, only around 4.1% of regular people think software developers are introverts, and 4.3% think they’re nerds. 

One could ask, why so little? The panellists answered with the first thought that came into their heads, and that was intelligence. Being an introvert and a nerd was their 6th and 7th choice.

17.6% of people think you’re great (yes, you)!

Almost 18% of people think that you’re simply fantastic. Take a look at some of the quotes:

“The best people in the world. I love them.”

“Software developers are pretty cool.”

“They’re honestly the best, and I regret not being a software engineer.”

“Software developers are amazing! It’s great to have them because the future is in their hands. Technology is rapidly growing, and there’s a lot of room to learn.”

“I have a positive view of them. Developers are responsible for the world as we know it today.”

“Pretty amazing. I have no idea how they do what they do.”

5.7% of people think software developers are hardworking

More people describe a software developer as hardworking rather than a nerd or an introvert.

One of the panellist wrote that software developers are the basis for the tech industry.

“They are amazing. Thankful for their hard work and what they do.”

“Hard work, the industry is always evolving faster than they can keep up.”

“I think they are very hardworking people and are the backbone of the tech industry.”

“They are hard workers and definitely smart people! I can’t even understand a thing!”

“I think it’s a very tedious job and takes a lot of work to learn.”

7.8% of folks expressed that software developers are needed

It’s the third most common opinion about software developers. But, of course, technology has more and more impact on our daily lives, and regular people know that.

“Software developers are needed to develop all sorts of software for humanity.”

“I think they play an important role in the industry.”

“It is a great job. Very necessary in today’s world.”

“I think they are critical to today’s world in helping build and maintain everything we do, from shopping to social media.”

“I think they are an integral part of a society that is growing in technology.”

“I think that software developers have an important role, as they build things that society might have the opportunity to use every day.”

“They are the backbone of my future.”

“I think if it weren’t for software developers, we wouldn’t advance so far technically in the future.”

Some people think that software developers do important things for the world.

28.2% of “regular people” think that software developers are communicative, and 45% think it’s hard to say

There’s a widespread belief that communication with software developers is difficult. However, the data doesn’t support this claim. For example, 28.2% of panellists believe software developers are communicative, which is quite a score for people described by some as “more isolated and have more limited social skills being in front of computer screens all the time.”

Graph: Is the software developer communicative?
A graph shows that almost half of respondents don’t know if software developers are communicative.

Conclusion

People, overall, don’t know what software developers do or what they like. Still, in general, they have far more positive opinions than expected. Fortunately, the common perception as people who find it challenging to communicate, geeks, and introverts, doesn’t have support in the collected data, but additional research would be required. 

Methodology

At the beginning of February, we surveyed 750 US citizens, all genders (census), all ages (full census), and all incomes, excluding software developers, with a Margin of Error +/- 4%.

We asked open-ended (later encoded) questions, questions with a 5-point Likert scale, and performed sentiment analysis on all responses from open-ended questions using Valence Aware Dictionary and Sentiment Reasoner.


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