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Pluralsight has released new research via its Flow Developer Success Lab titled The New Developer: AI Skill Threat, Identity Change & Developer Thriving in the Transition to AI-Assisted Software Development. The research compiles survey results from more than 3,000 developers and software engineers across 12+ industries engaged in the transition to generative AI-assisted software development.
The New Developer research investigates the evolving possibilities of AI-assisted coding, delving into the impact on developers, emerging equity and opportunity gaps, and risks to productivity, quality of work, and motivation.
“AI is quickly entrenching itself in software development, revolutionizing the way code is written and software is built,” said Dr. Cat Hicks, VP of Research Insights at Pluralsight. “However, the human needs of developers matter profoundly in how this new technology is adopted and whether its implementation is successful. While there is marked uncertainty and anxiety among developers, our research underscores that core skills of lifelong learning and collaboration remain central to building software, and the future of AI-assisted coding relies on prioritizing a human-first approach.”
Key findings in the report include:
1. 45% of developers experience AI Skill Threat.
AI Skill Threat describes developers’ fear, anxiety, and worry that their current competencies will become obsolete as they adapt to AI-assisted coding. Of the developers surveyed, 45% showed evidence of AI Skill Threat regarding whether they could succeed in this era of rapid AI adoption with their current technical skill sets.
Notably, software teams with high contest cultures, where talent must be proven through aggressive competition, exhibit higher levels of AI Skill Threat. This underscores previous research that contest cultures, commonly found in STEM fields, predict increased stress, reduced motivation, and decreased success.
2. 74% of developers plan to upskill in AI-assisted coding, but equity and opportunity gaps persist.
While creating a culture of learning may seem like a daunting task, software teams are well positioned to do so. Nearly three fourths of developers plan to upskill in AI-assisted coding in the near future. This is indicative of broader industry trends towards an AI-enabled developer landscape.
The research reveals systematic group differences emerging in developers’ experiences with AI-assisted coding, however. While the majority of developers are planning to upskill in AI-assisted coding, there are notable equity gaps impacting minority developers.
• Female and LGBTQ+ developers reported significantly lower intent to upskill, while racially minoritized developers reported significantly higher intent to upskill.
• Furthermore, 56% of racially minoritized developers reported a negative perception of AI as compared to 28% of all developers.
These and other emerging differences point toward a critical need to understand how organizations ensure that AI-assisted coding adoption is equitable and accessible.
3. Cultures of learning and belonging mitigate AI anxiety and drive efficiency.
Building a culture of learning and belonging can help developers and their teams decrease contest culture, improve productivity, and strengthen resilience in the transition to AI-assisted software development.
• Developers who felt like they belonged and were supported to learn were more productive, which in turn positively impacted their team’s effectiveness.
• Other thriving factors such as coding self-efficacy and role-based belonging were associated with greater productivity. Role-based belonging was also associated with greater team effectiveness.
The findings emphasize the importance of social, human-centered factors in creating healthy and thriving developers in the era of AI.
Generative AI Adoption Toolkit
The New Developer Report provides a Generative AI Adoption Toolkit comprised of free and adaptable research-backed resources to help practitioners increase learning and belonging within their organizations. The toolkit includes facilitation guides and an assessment tool enabling teams to measure and track changes in their own AI Skill Threat, learning, and belonging as they navigate AI-assisted coding adoption.
Additionally, Pluralsight Skills offers upskilling resources across a broad range of AI topics, including generative AI, for technologists and technology teams looking to hone their AI skills.