Does the Initial Environment Impact the Future of Developers?

Minghui Zhou and Audris Mockus
Peking University, China; Avaya Labs Research, USA
Developer Waves

Software developers need to develop technical and social skills to be successful in large projects. We model the relative sociality of a developer as a ratio between the size of her communication network and the number of tasks she participates in. We obtain both measures from the problem tracking systems with her work-flow peer network representing her social learning, and the issues she has been working on representing her technical learning. Using three open source and three traditional projects we investigate how the initial project environment reflected by the sociality measure at the time a developer joins, affects her learning trajectory. In particular, the probability that a new developer will become one of long-term and productive developers is highest when the project sociality is low and there are significant differences between the social learning trajectories of the developers who join in low and in high sociality environments and between open source and commercial projects. These findings point out the importance of the initial environment in determining the future of the developers and may lead to better training and learning strategies in software organizations.