Enterprise developers are the unsung innovators of the software economy. (Click here to tweet.)

Some client meetings and presentations this week brought this to the forefront of my mind. It’s so easy for all of us to visualize developers as young lads in a hackathon-style environment, “mashing up” and building the next Valley press darling. But most developers don’t fit that description, and — here’s the important point — this stereotype represents only a relative handful of developers.

Most developers work for established companies. While every business is a software business in today’s world, the companies most developers work for aren’t what you’d first describe as a software company. They may work for a retail chain, a healthcare company or even in manufacturing. And if they don’t work for one of those large companies, odds are their company is doing contract work for one of those larger companies. (We have plenty of research from Developer Media and others to back this up if you’re interested.)

In fact, Deloitte’s Josh Bersin says that according to a Deloitte study of software job growth, those three sample industries I named have experienced dramatic job growth. From 2007 to 2012, software developer jobs have grown nearly 100% in retail, about 70% in healthcare, and about 30% in manufacturing.

These enterprise developers find innovative solutions to business problems every day. They are likely working on development projects on their own time, as well, building mobile and web apps to serve a need they’ve seen. They have an eye on new technologies to see what can solve today’s and tomorrow’s problems. They are proficient in multiple development languages and platforms. And the enterprise developer understands the engineering tradeoffs inherent in any development project — and how to set development priorities appropriately.

It’s not just that the ¬†mental picture many of us have of developers is inaccurate — it’s also that it can lead us down the wrong path when we build products and services for developers. It’s important to remember that developers are diverse within their demographic — and that ignoring the enterprise developer is ignoring the iceberg and focusing on the tip instead. Enterprise developers today innovate daily and thereby drive technical and business growth.

Image via¬†NOAA’s National Ocean Service