Inside the mind of a geek – Is the geek, a key talent for digital transformation, a threat to companies?

Inside the mind of a geek

Is the geek, a key talent for digital transformation, a threat to companies?


The geeks: everybody talks about them, but who are they really? They are critical to success in the digital revolution, but attracting, onboarding, and gaining their loyalty is a major challenge for companies.

Profiling “the geeks” and offering a clear portrait of this group is the ambition of this new study carried out by BCG Platinion, The Boston Consulting Group’s entity dedicated to digital and innovation, and ViaVoice, with 732 people worldwide working in the IT and digital sectors.

The geeks, whom we identify with precise functions*, are employees with highly marked personality traits: less attached than others to the relationship with their  work hierarchy, they value more the interest factor of the assignment allocated to them and their compensation; they prefer permanent contracts like all employees, but they are more likely than others to work as freelancers; they put innovation and creativity at the heart of their professional life; they do not hesitate to challenge management when they perceive decisions or actions as illegitimate and inadequate.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, they also share many common characteristics with other employee profiles. Finally, the geek is a mutant, who questions the traditional functioning of the company.


Paris, November 7, 2018 –


Successful digital transformation relies notably on a company’s capacity to attract and develop the right digital talent. Integrating into the company employee talent who codes, develops, analyzes data, and more largely use new technologies, strongly impacts organizations and their functioning. Who are these “geeks” as they are commonly called? What are their expectations vis-à-vis the company and their manager? This new study seeks to draw their identikit.


Both similar to and different from his/her colleagues, the geek is a mutant, who threatens traditional corporate functioning


Contrary to some stereotypes, the geek looks, in many aspects, like other company employees. However, he/she differs from the rest of the population through his/her own relationship with the company and his/her expectations of it.


  • The geek likes businesses: 86 % of the geeks surveyed have a good image of the company for which they work. In France, they are 81 % versus 74 % in the rest of the population;
  • Against all odds, the geek wants a permanent contract like everyone else. However, he/she is less attached to this status (-20 points as compared to French people) and remains more likely to be a freelancer than others (in 2nd position vs. 4th for the rest of the population);
  • In his/her work, relationships with his/her colleagues are essential, but unlike the rest of the population, the geek gives much more importance to the interest of the assignment and the leveraging of his/her skills;
  • Conscious of his/her value in the market, the geek gives significant priority to compensation (in 4th position vs. 8th for the rest of the population);
  • In terms of values, while the geek shares with the rest of the population the value of ‘freedom’, he/she also has his/her own values, such as ‘creativity’, ‘responsibility’, while all French people value ‘justice’ and ‘security’;
  • Lastly, the geek is overall more pessimistic than the rest of the population regarding the world’s future.


Our study uncovers the existence of a distinct professional community, with its own codes and expectations vis-à-vis the company. The geek is a scarce resource, who evolves in a transparent market, accessible to all. He/she is thus in a position of power vis-à-vis the companies that try to recruit him/her to succeed in their digital transformation,” explains Norbert Faure, Managing Director of BCG Platinion France. “Yet, contrary to the conventional wisdom, the geeks are attached to the traditional company, and more prone to work there than in a start-up or a GAFAM.”


The geek questions corporate speech


The geek does not expect the company to give meaning to his/her work: only 24 % of people surveyed consider lack of meaning as one of the main constraints in the business world versus 58 % of French people. Unreceptive to corporate speech when it is unfounded, the geek first of all wishes to achieve his/her assignment and develop his/her skills.


Innovation is a fundamental value for the geek, who wants to continue learning, and forces management to reinvent itself


Today, the geeks considers inadequate and illegitimate management (47 %) and process & reporting weight (38%) as important constraints. Companies should thus rebuild their managerial system and rethink the role of managers. In order to increase the flexibility and agility of the organization, they should become facilitators, by providing the geeks with autonomy while favoring their alignment. More precisely, the geeks expect their managers to listen to their ideas (50 %) and to be able to set clear objectives (34 %).


With digital, skill obsolescence has strongly increased over the last years. Today, a developer should renew his/her skills every 18 months. We also know that a third of the skills expected from employees in 2020 do not exist today. The geeks are aware of this. This is why companies should offer them the means to continue learning, be it through contact with their peers or through interesting assignments. Those that will be able to meet this expectation, notably through new formats, far from the old training model, will succeed in making the geeks loyal,” explains Vinciane Beauchene, a BCG Partner and Managing Director. “This is the key so that the geeks see the company as a field to experiment and develop their skills.”

This capacity to foster loyalty in these new talents who develop and use new technologies is a significant component for company success: this is what makes and will make the difference between the winners and losers in the digital revolution.



  • This study has been carried out by BCG, BCG Platinion with Viavoice
  • Online interviews from September 4 to October 2, 2018 with a sample for 732 people worldwide
    • Definition of the geek: person who works in the IT an digital sectors
    • Functions fulfilled: IT Architect, Back-end developer, Software engineer, IT project manager, Agile coach, CTO, UX Designer, Data engineer, Data scientist, Design Strategist, IT coordinator, digital manager, Lead agile Evangelist, Machine Learning Engineer, Analytics Architect, Product owner, Developer engineer, Innovation manager, etc.


About BCG Platinion


BCG Platinion is BCG’s entity dedicated to digital and technological innovation. Our teams of developers, coders, and IT experts intervene daily with the largest companies to help them accelerate their digital transformation. We intervene at the heart of our clients’ IT teams to create value through quick implementation of technological innovations. Created in 2000, BCG Platinion is a private company present in Europe, North America, South America, and Asia. For more information


Inside the mind of a geek (pdf)

Leave your comment