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Python creator Guido van Rossum joins Microsoft

Guido van Rossum, the creator of the Python programming language, today announced that he has unretired and joined Microsoft’s Developer Division.

Van Rossum, who was last employed by Dropbox, retired last October after six and a half years at the company. Clearly, that retirement wasn’t meant to last. At Microsoft, van Rossum says, he’ll work to “make using Python better for sure (and not just on Windows).”

A Microsoft spokesperson told us that the company also doesn’t have any additional details to share but confirmed that van Rossum has indeed joined Microsoft. “We’re excited to have him as part of the Developer Division. Microsoft is committed to contributing to and growing with the Python community, and Guido’s on-boarding is a reflection of that commitment,” the spokesperson said.

The Dutch programmer started working on what would become Python back in 1989. He continued to actively work on the language during his time at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology in the mid-90s and at various companies afterward, including as Director of PythonLabs at BeOpen and Zope and at Elemental Security. Before going to Dropbox, he worked for Google from 2005 to 2012. There, he developed the internal code review tool Mondrian and worked on App Engine.

Today, Python is among the most popular programming languages and the de facto standard for AI researchers, for example.

Only a few years ago, van Rossum joining Microsoft would’ve been unthinkable, given the company’s infamous approach to open source. That has clearly changed now and today’s Microsoft is one of the most active corporate open-source contributors among its peers — and now the owner of GitHub . It’s not clear what exactly van Rossum will do at Microsoft, but he notes that there’s “too many options to say” and that “there’s lots of open source here.”

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Want to hire and retain high-quality developers? Give them stimulating work

Software developers are some of the most in-demand workers on the planet. Not only that, they’re complex creatures with unique demands in terms of how they define job fulfillment. With demand for developers on the rise (the number of jobs in the field is expected to grow by 22% over the next decade), companies are under pressure to do everything they can to attract and retain talent.

First and foremost — above salary — employers must ensure that product teams are made up of developers who feel creatively stimulated and intellectually challenged. Without work that they feel passionate about, high-quality programmers won’t just become bored and potentially seek opportunities elsewhere, the standard of work will inevitably drop. In one survey, 68% of developers said learning new things is the most important element of a job.

The worst thing for a developer to discover about a new job is that they’re the most experienced person in the room and there’s little room for their own growth.

Yet with only 32% of developers feeling “very satisfied” with their jobs, there’s scope for you to position yourself as a company that prioritizes the development of its developers, and attract and retain top talent. So, how exactly can you ensure that your team stays stimulated and creatively engaged?

Allow time for personal projects

78% of developers see coding as a hobby — and the best developers are the ones who have a true passion for software development, in and out of the workplace. This means they often have their own personal passions within the space, be it working with specific languages or platforms, or building certain kinds of applications.

Back in their 2004 IPO letter, Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page wrote:

We encourage our employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google. [This] empowers them to be more creative and innovative. Many of our significant advances have happened in this manner.

At DevSquad, we’ve adopted a similar approach. We have an “open Friday” policy where developers are able to learn and enhance their skills through personal projects. As long as the skills being gained contribute to work we are doing in other areas, the developers can devote that time to whatever they please, whether that’s contributing to open-source projects or building a personal product. In fact, 65% of professional developers on Stack Overflow contribute to open-source projects once a year or more, so it’s likely that this is a keen interest within your development team too.

Not only does this provide a creative outlet for developers, the company also gains from the continuously expanding skillset that comes as a result.

Provide opportunities to learn and teach

One of the most demotivating things for software developers is work that’s either too difficult or too easy. Too easy, and developers get bored; too hard, and morale can dip as a project seems insurmountable. Within our team, we remain hyperaware of the difficulty levels of the project or task at hand and the level of experience of the developers involved.

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Recession-proof your software engineering career

Software engineering is generally an employee’s market.

In 2019, demand for frontend and backend engineers grew 17%, according to Hired’s 2020 State of Software Engineers Report. In 2018 there were 23 million software developers and by the end of 2019 that number had grown to 26.4 million. 67% of IT managers said they planned to expand their teams in 2020.

But as COVID-19 spurs layoffs, furloughs and hiring freezes, hopes of a V-shaped recovery are vanishing. Where companies once fought each other for talent, software engineers are likely to find themselves out of work — many for the first time. To help you prepare for what’s next, I’ve talked with software developers who’ve been through previous recessions to get their advice on what moves to make now to put yourself in the best position possible in a recession. Let’s start with your network.

Cultivate your professional network

Workers with large, powerful professional networks get hired faster, earn more money and enjoy more professional success than their less-connected peers, according to Harvard Business Review. One survey showed referrals brought in 78% of recruiters’ best candidates. Another survey showed 70% of new hires had a personal connection at their company and 80% of professionals considered networking important to career success.

In a recession, you’ll be competing with far more software developers for each role. So it will be vitally important to set your resume apart with a personal recommendation. Companies often don’t even publicly post their best jobs. “The only reliable way to find a job is through your network,” said Grant Gould, Senior Software Engineer, Toyota Research Institute .

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