In April 2021, we put together our first-ever company-wide survey, a “State of the Nation” if you will. It asked questions about both work at New Things, but also wider questions in general. We surveyed everyone, designers, developers and back-office alike. There were in total around 90 questions, ranging from specifics about our company to more general questions about tools we use and tech we prefer, to industry-related queries.
The survey was anonymous. In total, we had 18 respondents out of the 21 people in the company, and since this was the first survey of its kind within our company, it was very much “rough around the edges”.
Towards a better understanding
For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.
Carl SaganThe Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
As Carl has famously written, it's much better to know about the situation at hand rather than pretend everything is ok. We wanted to gain insights into peoples feelings about different subjects, both sensitive and non-sensitive alike - even if, as a company, some of the answers are hard to deal with.
One of NTC's key philosophies is to be transparent at all times when possible. Some of the questions we asked, whilst anonymous, allows us all to understand sentiment within the company.
In addition, especially with Covid, it's hard to get to know one another as much as we would like. This survey would allow employees to open up information about themselves to a small degree so we can all understand each other better.
And finally, we wanted to get interesting statistical information that would make up this blog post to allow anyone reading to learn about us, which again factors into our model of transparency and openness.
A few notes
Most questions had a “No Answer” option, in all of the results below, these answers are ignored.
Most results below have been rounded to some degree or another for presentation purposes. Actual percentages will vary depending on the rounding.
On to the meat
This article focuses mainly on non-sensitive questions but all the data has been made internally available to anyone at NTC.
What you will see below are various graphics with annotations and some lightweight analyses about each.
For most of the sections below, you can see how different categorisation groups have answered the questions differently. The categories that you will be able to view are:
21 - 35 years age range
36 - 50 years age range
NTC's Diverse Makeup
The following graphics depict who we are and which different kinds of people make up the Thingiverse. All of the graphics contain answers from all of the respondents to the survey.
We are a small team of people, more heavily focused on developers but have a sprinkling of very talented designers that make up our front-office team. We also have one hybrid developer/designer, but for this tally they have been included in the developer count.
We are diverse through age groups and nationalities but the gender diversity is a little lacking and it would be nice to have a more neutral balance.
Currently, just under 10% of our thingies are ladies. Like a lot of tech companies, there is a certain struggle to maintain an equal balance between the sexes.
Our survey asked for age ranges in 5 year intervals. Each of the age ranges from 26 up to 45 had respondents and each of the ranges was roughly occupied by the same percentage. 26-30, 36-40,41-45 all have 24% and the most populous age range, but not by much as the 31-35 year olds group with 28%.
There are some heavyweight middle agers at the top of the age bracket range, but the median age ranges are in the early 30s. Basically, we have a widespread spectrum of people covering people who are starting out in their career, to people who have seen and done a lot of different things.
As you would expect from a company whose median age bracket is early 30s, the ratio of thingies that have families at home is an even split with 50%. There’s not really much more to say than that, aside from 50% of the people are happy coming to work on Monday, the rest, not so much…. Just kidding of course, maybe.
3 years is the minimum number of years that our people have of industry experience. The mean is 6.5 years with the median at 7.06 years. The maximum number if years in industry is a hefty 22 years.
As this graphic shows, our aim has always been around hiring experienced and very capable talent. This may have to change in the future as the heated developer recruitment market currently shows, experienced people are really hard to attract senior developers. Luckily as we expand and get more people in through our doors, we will be able to better support more junior developers in their roles. So if you are a junior stay tuned to our job postings!
The education section is where we start to be able to break down the responses for you.
What is your highest level of education?
Overall it's a "fairly even" split between Masters and Bachelor degrees which is not really suprising considering Finland has a high percentage of people staying in education to complete masters.
There is a slight increase in bachelor over master degrees for the 36 - 50 age group, but given the small result set this is not necessarily statistically relevant - however, it would be interesting to see this on a larger result to see if the older developers and designers have a tendency to be "less educated" than their younger counterparts.
How important has your education been to your career?
It's interesting to see that when looking at everyone's answers together it forms a bell curve where there are a few cases where education is extremely important and a few there it is not at all important, but the majority is in the middle of somewhat important.
This sentiment is echoed a little bit by the developers, however, the bell is a little more to the righthand side of the not important scale.
Designers however are flatter in terms of how their education has impacted their career when looking at a weighted average.
There is also an interesting difference between the younger people and how their education to career relevance is right in the middle and is neither extremely important nor extremely irrelevant. Compared to the older age group who's curve is more of an inverse bell, where more people find it extremely important or not at all important.
When did you first learn to code (or design)?
With the oldest person starting to learn to code at 30, it really shows it's never too late to learn a new skill set and be truly proficient at it.
There is a slight difference between the age groups, whereby the older age group's median age at which they started to learn was older, but not by much (1.5 years) than their younger counterparts. Whether this be through schools switching to a more digital curriculum or not, this dataset cannot say, but it is also likely that the rise of the internet had something to do with it.
In addition, it's interesting that the youngest designers first started to learn to design, started learning later in the adolescents than their developer counterparts.
Life at NTC
The following breakdowns gives you a little insight into the daily life of NTC.
How many other companies have you worked for in your career?
It seems like the median number of jobs that people have had before starting work at NTC is actually about what you would expect given the median age group is 31-35.
Also, the difference between the age groups is obvious, with the older group having a lot higher average than that of the younger group.
How long have you worked at the New Things Co?
The average amount of time a thingie has been with NTC for 2.6 years.
There is no special statistical significance to this result set, but it is clear to see that we have not hired a new designer in a while. Perhaps it is overdue?
In addition, we have not recruited anyone from the older age group in the last few years. I wonder why this might be. I would posit a guess that this is down to the superheated job market and senior developers, especially those with a large number of years of experience are very hard to get.
How do you feel about your job at New Things?
Over 94% of the respondents said in working for NTC they were satisfied, very satisfied or there was no better company to work for, with 6% saying they were slightly dissatisfied. It’s sad to think we aren’t living up to everyone’s expectations, however, 94% is above average for most companies our size so it’s not completely bad news. In addition, we go to great efforts to make sure we help people when they need it using our internal Happiness Tool
How many hours per week do you work on billables, on average?
This is where the money is made. At NTC we have a philosophy that only 85% of your working week should be billable. So from this point of view, it’s interesting to see that most people are actually working on billable hours for 80% or less. Other factors that lead to this are on the job learning where in some situations we might not bill that time to the client, extra NTC internal work.
How much flexitime do you currently have?
One thing that NTC tried to stress to everyone is that we don’t want people to overwork. Of course with client deadlines that is not always possible. NTC’s working week is 37.5 hours. If you work more than that you get to take time off using your flexitime bank. I personally was happy to see that the vast majority of people do not have a large number of hours built up. You will notice that there is a gap between 24 and 72 hours that has no one in it. From what can be deduced by this is that there are a few people who do tend to work longer hours and it also suggests that these people tend not to take the time back, at least not when this survey was conducted.
One thing to note here is the in our result set, the older you are, the more extra hours you tend to accumulate.
But it is also important to consider that at the time of the survey people could have been planning to take time off, or just taken time off and these results are easily skewed without any real meaning.
This is a little bit more simple, we asked some basic questions about what matters when we select the client work that we would like to work on. We used scores based on 1 - 6 of how important each criterion was to the person, and then weighted averages to work out what was most and least important.
The full list of options that could be selected was as follows:
Opportunities for professional development
Flexitime or a flexible schedule
Remote work options
Languages, frameworks, and other technologies I’d be working with
Office environment or company culture
How widely used or impactful my work output would be
The Industry that I’d be working in
Diversity of the company or organization
Specific department or team I’d be working on
Financial performance or funding status of the company or organization
When picking a new project how important are the following?
What was ahead by quite a bit in all of the breakdown groups from the other three top answers was that the New Things team look for opportunities for professional development before most other things. It differed a bit between the groups how important it was but generally speaking in each group it was ahead by ½ a point.
It was somewhat of a surprise to not see the "How widely used or impactful work will be" higher in the list of the top of what people look for in projects.
If you compare designers and developers and think about the ordering differences of what each group looks for, they make a lot of sense. The real interesting difference here is between the age groups, with a key importance to the older group is the office environment and culture of the client, compared to it being in the middle of the order with the younger group. As being part of the older group myself, I guess this is just down to experience and having been through many different types of projects the older group knows that good client culture really can make or break a project.
It's also interesting that you start to see a lot of the same points in the bottom order of all of the result groups. The key takeaway is that the client company's financial situation does not really matter at all to anybody.
There are 15 (16 if you include the hybrid) developers thingies at NTC as of July 2021. We asked the developers many more questions than this, however, they will feature in a further analysis later on in the year.
What type of developer are you?
The vast majority of our developers are full-stack developers. Since we are a small consultancy we tend to have multi-disciplinary developers since they are easier to find work for rather than single focus developers.
Typically this means that our developers will straddle frontend development and backend development. However, it can also mean that they could sit on backend development and devops too.
If you look at the breakdown by age we have slightly fewer fullstack developers and instead more backend only. Perhaps this is because as people get older they find more focus towards what they prefer working with. But of course with our small sampling this is likely to just be conjecture.
What is your desktop operating system?
Nothing to note here aside from our developers tend to prefer macOS and Linux more than Windows.
Which IDEs do you use?
Respondents to this question could reply with more than one answer, which is why the percentages don't add up.
There is nothing too surprising here as IntelliJ products are first class and Vscode has the most customisation via plugins so it was expected that they would be the top contenders.
What is surprising however is that there is at least one person here who uses Notepadd++!
How many screens do you use?
The preferred number of screens in both age groups is two.
Personally, I found it amazing that people still prefer to use one screen. But having worked on the NTC balcony for a two week period before July I actually managed to find it ok once I got used to working with the reduced real estate.
What programming language do you use the most?
It's important to note that this is not the most preferred language to work with but the most used language.
There are 3 designer thingies, 4 if you include the hybrid, at NTC as of July 2021. Similar to the developers' questions, we asked many more than just these results and they will also feature in a different article at a later date.
What type of designer are you?
Similarly to our developer portfolio, our designers straddle multiple fields but really specialise in UX and service design.
What is your desktop operating system?
No real surprises here.
What do you PRIMARILY use for brainstorming and ideation?
Note, this is the primary ideation tool only and not all the tools. The respondents answered only with which that they use the most.
Miro is a real contender here, I've only just started using it myself, but it's really easy to use, but I found it surprising that it was being used for design ideation.
What do you PRIMARILY use to design user flows and site maps?
Note, this is the primary user flow and site mapping tool and not all the tools used. The respondents answered only with which that they use the most.
Figma easily wins this round.
How many screens do you use?
Bit of a mixed back here, but if you look at the all group you can see that the majority of designers at NTC use one screen. Which is different from the developers average of two screens.
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud".
This question was specifically asked in order to open up a discussion about imposter syndrome. It's something that nearly everyone feels but is rarely talked about. Personally, I experience this all the time, but recognise it is part of the continuous learning and improvement process that is software development and so I try to keep it in check.
Do you have, or have you ever suffered from the effects of imposter syndrome?
These results really blow open how widespread imposter syndrome really is within the software industry. The results are also surprising because we have super talented developers and designers who are top of their class in what they do. It just goes to show it affects everyone from juniors to super senior talent.
Juniors take note, don't just look up to your senior counterparts and think you will never be as good, because we seniors also look around and feel the exact same way on occasion.
How often do you go through imposter syndrome in your job?
There's a small but general trend here, that whilst developers, designers and others all suffer from imposter syndrome, it generally happens not that frequently.
As part of this section of the survey, we also ask how people overcome their imposter syndrome so we can also try to help others do the same thing if they are struggling. Here are some of the answers.
I realise that I know a lot more about certain things than others, and others now more about some things than me. It's a balancing act.
Collaborating with colleagues helps, when you get to work with others and talk to them. Working alone in a silo and watching others succeed is poison.
Realised no one knowns the answer to everything and we're all in this to learn from one another.
It just comes and goes. When I realize that it just a feeling, I can "put it to background".
Interacting with other people at different skill level helps a lot.
Well you just push through remembering that new things are always hard the first time you do it. And this field is always full of new things to learn.
Lastly, we asked some just for fun questions. Not 100% sure why, but perhaps it had been the glass of red wine that I had when compiling the list of questions to ask. Regardless, we asked, thingies answered.
Do you like bananas?
Of course, there is no relevance between these two groups, but it is a funny happenstance.
What is the perfect vacation?
Pepsi or Coke?
There are definitely a few insights to be had here, however, they are probably not statistically relevant to the developer and designer population as a whole and really only useful for showing a breakdown of who were are as a company.
As stated in various places there are a lot more questions that were asked, particularly of the designer and developer groups. A more detailed analysis of tools, tech and other things will come later this year.
Additionally, in the future, we might do a more detailed grouping, based on other answers such as preferred tech etc, but for now, we believe this is sufficient to give a little insight into the State of Thingies.
About the author
Senior Developer and Designer of Shiny New Things
I'm a senior developer and a designer. I have two young boys, and since they were born, most of my hobbies went out the window. But if you can’t find me on my computer, you can either find me eating an insane amount of chilli, on my bike or in my canoe.