What Do Geeks Really Want?

Susan Hall

With the difficulty in hiring tech pros, especially in niche areas, there's been a lot of hand-wringing about what these folks want. Comfy couches? Unlimited sugared cereal? The ideas can get pretty silly.


A recent study of federal employees that compared those ages 20-29 with those 50-59 found that, despite all the talk about how the new generation is different, the two groups were actually pretty similar.


A piece at ere.net notes that 785,000 new jobs in technical and math occupations will be created between 2008 and 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, in 2009, data that's a bit old, fewer than 38,000 students graduated with bachelor's degrees in computer and information science, but more than 89,000 students gained degrees in the visual and performing arts.That prompted serial entrepreneur Jon Bischke to write at TechCrunch:

We are raising a generation of American Idols and So You Think You Can Dancers when what we really need is a generation of Gateses and Zuckerbergs.

Two points, there: First, neither Bill Gates nor Mark Zuckerberg, though they became vastly wealthy, earned a college degree. So are we really comparing apples to apples? Second, tech companies offer great salaries, especially compared with the humanities and social sciences, which suggest that those fields offer something that tech doesn't in terms of intrinsic value. What is it?


Serial Web entrepreneur, Rob Walling, in his article "Nine Things Developers Want More Than Money," came up with these things:


  1. Being set up to succeed.
  2. Having excellent management.
  3. Learning new things.
  4. Exercising creativity and solving the right kind of problems.
  5. Having a voice.
  6. Being recognized for hard work.
  7. Building something that matters.
  8. Building software without an act of Congress.
  9. Having few legacy constraints.


That should give managers at tech companies plenty to think about, as should this comment by a reader on his post:

It doesn't matter how exciting the technology is if I don't get to see my son.

Some motivations are pretty basic.

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