Rebirth of the Developer

In my 15 plus years of working in Silicon Valley, I never heard of a developer or engineer referred to as ‘IT’.  It wasn’t until a very brief stint at a bank that I heard the term ‘IT’ used to refer to the developers that were designing and building sophisticated systems to underwrite mortgages.  I remember feeling profoundly disappointed that these developers had seemingly been reduced to technological serfs.  ‘IT’ was an uninspiring title and grossly undervalued the creativity of their work.

Then sometime last year I began hearing the term ‘IT’ used to refer to developers here in Silicon Valley.  It caught me off guard.  Wasn’t ‘IT’ a term reserved for banks or the people you would call when your mouse stopped working?  Digging deeper, I found it was a new generation of online marketers that were using this term.  What was behind this cultural change?  When did a developer become “IT staff”?

Until a few years ago, most online marketers were focused on paid search and SEO.  Funnel optimization was delegated to the product team, since developers and sprint scheduling was needed in order to make changes to the website.  Off-the-shelf tools for optimization were clumsy, expensive and so hard to use, that the product and marketing teams I knew actually preferred to shepard changes through their dev process rather than use the tool (sorry Adobe, but I’m referring to Test & Target, formerly Offermatica).  I believe it was at this point that marketers began to think of developers as ‘IT’ – a team that sat on the other side of the building, which was called upon when something “technical” needed to be done to the website.  Just like the IT department who you called when your mouse stopped working, these resources needed to be requested and scheduled whenever you needed help.

However, a change is afoot.  An onslaught of inexpensive and well-designed optimization tools (think Optimizely, Visual Website Optimizer, Unbounce), are enabling the marketer to retake control.  Now a marketer doesn’t have to go through a product manager or “involve IT” to do an AB test – even a sophisticated one.  With a single line of JavaScript inserted on a web page a non-technical marketer can create marketing experiments via a WYSIWYG interface, and then publish them to the website in minutes.  These new tools are the support system that allows marketers to move the needle without relying on heavy duty development skills.  I like what I see (and so do the developers I know) and that is why I refer to this trend as the “Rebirth of the Developer”.

When we decided to start Qualaroo, we firmly believed we were on a mission to empower marketers and to liberate developers.  Testing pages, gathering insights and driving user behaviour should be faster than a two-week sprint.  And to put it frankly, the developers I know would always take a really hard problem (think scalability, graph traversal and memory management) to moving pixels around a page.  We welcome online marketers and developers to this new and exciting era and encourage them to enjoy more power, control and flexibility than was ever thought possible.

Do you share this sentiment? Let us know by posting a comment below.