Student engagement: The next generation of developers
Students are an important developer segment and should not be forgotten about or dismissed as ‘just students’. In the not so distant future, they will be shaping the future of software development and are the next innovators. Getting the student developer community actively engaged with your brand and using your platform, products and tools start to form their advocacy and loyalty to you from early on in their career. If you fail to engage these developers whilst they are actively learning and honing their developer skills, you’ll potentially miss out on an entire community of developers from adopting your products.
A lot of students will often choose their tools based on availability – is it free or cheap? Whilst learning to become a developer there’s nothing better than getting hands-on experience with different platforms, products and tools, and trying them out in real-world scenarios. Student programs, partnerships and outreach are critical to getting your tools and platforms in front of them. There is no hard and fast rule about which approach is better, and like many things, it depends on what product you have on offer and your budget.
The obvious first step to engage with student developers is to offer products and tools for free. If you have chargeable elements to your regular offering, remove this barrier for students. One thing student developers often don’t have the luxury of is vast amounts of money to spend on acquiring lots of different tools. The best student developer programs have their own dedicated area of a developer portal, where students can go and find out exactly what’s on offer for them and any incentives that are running (student developers love free swag even more than regular developers).
There should also be resources and experts on hand to help get them to get started with your tools and products. This is also the place to have a specially dedicated blog and post news about any student developer events you’re holding. If you have the resources and support available to offer internships within your offices, that’s something you can advertise through your student program too.
As part of your student program, or as a stand-alone offering, you might want to consider bringing student ambassadors onboard. A good way to spread the word about your products and tools, student ambassador programs encourage those who already know about your company and products to become pioneers at their university.
Applications are best handled through a specific landing page. As well as the basic information, don’t forget to find out their skill level and specific development interests. It’s also wise to think about the additional benefits ambassadors might receive such as hardware, events, digital and physical rewards (digital badges/swag) and mentoring.