The Time Is Now for Developers: Talking With Jason Warner, CTO of GitHub

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On this episode of IT Visionaries, we’re excited to welcome back Jason Warner, the CTO at GitHub. In his second appearance on the pod, Jason was excited to discuss how there has never been a better time to be a developer or an engineer looking to climb the ranks in the industry. Plus, he took us through some of the trends he’s been seeing in the technology world, including how people are working in the cloud and what ways those in the field are effecting change.

Key Takeaways:

  • There has never been a better time to be a developer
  • As a leader, you have to optimize for the entire team, not just individuals
  • Creating more developers and improving their skills is a top priority

Being a developer today

Many believe, and Jason agrees, that there has never been a better time to be a developer. There is a ton of choice, opportunities to learn and open jobs that developers are in an excellent position to excel. And Jason believes that Github is one of the places where they can find a home. In fact, 40 million developers currently use Github, which, according to Jason, makes it one of the preeminent software companies in the industry.

Business is built on the ability to sell something, and today the thing many people are selling is software. The developers are the ones creating that software, so they are the hot commodity in terms of talent companies are going after. Jason says that puts them in a good spot to capitalize for a long time. 

“Every day is a better day to be a developer than it was the day before.”

“Most developers in the world know what Github is and if you don’t, you will. It’s just one of those types of companies and one of those types of products. And with that, I think comes a responsibility. If you think about caring about software development or developers, you have to think about that on a day in, day out basis. So I look at this as a privileged position and we get to serve developers who are making some of the world’s most valuable companies or most innovative products and their developers. We all say developers are the people who are making the value in the world today. Well, think about what’s gonna happen in the next 10 years — we get to enable those folks.”

“At the end of the day, I think if you give developers or give users what they want, they’ll stay. There’s very little incentive to move on to other things.” 

How people with technical backgrounds will climb the corporate ladder

Jason is among the group of people who believe that CEOs of the future are more likely to come from the technology and engineering fields. Those who have the closest relationships to customers are the ones likely to rise in the corporate ranks because they are more plugged into the business than most everyone else. And today, the people closest to the customers are often CIOs and CTOs. 

“There are two groups that are going to very much matter in that role of CEO — the external world and the internal world. Your employees have to follow a CEO, they’ve got to have confidence in you, so you’ve got to know how to connect with your internal employees and you have to be able to articulate vision and strategy. And your customers have to believe in you to give you money. So the critical skill I think that is needed in those scenarios is communication….What I think is important is the ability to take abstract concepts and make them real and to craft a narrative around it. Many CEOs might have people for that, but if you cannot do that, it’s very unlikely that you will be a CEO.” 

“It’s important for the CTO and CIO to get out and talk to customers and it’s not to push your product. If you’re going to talk to customers to push your product, you’re not learning, you’re selling. You should go and ask them questions. What are your challenges? What are you seeing? What are we not doing? Use it as valuable feedback to get for a product. If you’re going to talk to some of the largest telecoms in the world and you’re pushing your product as opposed to seeing what their challenges and roadmaps look like, it’s the wrong focus.”

Top priorities moving forward

Creating value for companies, customers and the general public is the one thing everyone should be focused on. And, according to Jason, developers are the ones who are creating the most valuable things. However, there are simply not enough developers in the world today, so the focus should shift on going from zero to one and then from one to two. What that means is getting people into programs int he first place, and then have them shift their focus on doing and creating things of real value. 

“We need more [developers]. We need a lot more because what we have proven is that if we have software developers focusing on things, more value is created, and then the more things that we can focus on.”

“I’d rather not, not have people do frivolous things, but that will happen. But the point of these things from a social and societal perspective is that the more things that you can retract away, the more time you should be able to spend on hard, really sophisticated problems. But if you’re only mucking around with low-level bits, you can’t think about the higher-order bits. I would hope that we have more people so we can focus on some of those things.”

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Jason Warner, the CTO of GitHub, returns to IT Visionaries to discuss the prosperous world of developers and how to get more people into the tech industry.

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