Getting to senior

Business woman climbing up on hand drawn staircase

You got your first job as a developer. Worked for a couple of years. As time goes by, you start asking yourself “What next?”. I’ve got an answer for you.

If you are a junior or a mid-level developer, then your immediate career goal is to become a Senior Developer. Here is how you do that.

Malcolm Gladwell famously popularised a ten-thousand-hours rule in his book “Outliers”. His book was based on research by Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericsson who studied top performers in different fields. Gladwell wrote that it takes ten thousand of practice to get good at something. Ten thousand is neither a magic number, nor it is exact. It simply means that that it takes a really long time to get good at what you do.

“Senior” in front of a job role name usually by definition means “really good”. Therefore, take your time. Sorry, but there are no shortcuts. You need to put hours and hours, blood sweat and hard job. Eventually, you will get better at your profession, and it will open new opportunities. How long will it take? That’s an interesting question.

“Senior developer” has a different meaning in different companies. Sometimes it just an indication of years in business. Usually, anyone with over 5 years of experience can be called a senior. However, it’s not just years. You are expected to pick up a set of skills on the way, and not all of them are technical. A good senior developer should be able to pick up a task, understand it and deliver with minimal supervision. Which means talking to people, asking the right questions and self-managing herself. That requires communication and time management skills in addition to technical.

Some companies go even further. They consider senior developer a leadership role. By their standards, a senior developer should be able to manage not only herself but also other people.

Therefore there is no clear definition of what a senior developer means. And after all, it’s just a title which may be optional. There is no rule saying that you must have a title of a senior developer to do a senior’s job or even to earn a senior’s salary. While most companies still hitch a career progression and salary increases to titles such as junior or senior developer, in other companies titles are completely optional.

Summary:

  • Getting to a senior level takes time. Most commonly a senior developer should have 5 years of relevant experience.
  • A senior developer is expected to demonstrate not only technical skills but also communication skills, time management and organisational skills too.
  • In some companies, senior roles are leadership roles, although it is less common. If you apply to one of those positions, be ready to demonstrate the relevant leadership experience too.
  • Titles are optional. You don’t need to be officially called “a senior developer” to do a senior’s job or earn a senior’s salary.

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