So, what does it mean to be a senior developer?

I’ve been interviewing quite a lot of folks lately in my company. One of the things we care about is “seniority”.

The problem is that this term is quite tricky to define. I wrote an article explaining who I consider a senior developer to be and I’m curious about your thoughts!

Who’s a senior developer in your opinion?

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I completely agree with everything in your article! Great points! Something I was told recently by my manager I think really lends itself to some points you made:

A senior developer doesn’t always have to fully understand a thing in order to be able to talk about solutions and approaches to that thing.

I had just told him about a conversation I’d had with another developer about a solution to a problem and I didn’t 100% know everything about the problem space but I was still able to talk about their suggested solution. I felt like an imposter at first because how could I tell this other developer what they should be doing in this area I didn’t know a lot about. But as my manager pointed out to me and as I was actually feeling in that situation is, as my experience has grown as a developer I’ve built an intuition about how to solve problems that I can apply fairly generally. I don’t need to know the nitty-gritty details of the code around a given problem in order to suggest a pattern to solving the problem. And I can tell when a suggested solution is not going to be an ideal approach. And others will seek and trust my input even knowing that I don’t know 100% of the code from start to finish.

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Will and I talked about “senior” developers a bit in this podcast:

I think the idea of “senior” is related to what we might call wisdom coupled with the willingness to be available and share knowledge with others.

In my own developer career, I had a senior title relatively quickly (within a year of becoming a professional developer), but it was related to my experience in my previous career as well as a constant strategy of learning and teaching everything I knew.

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This was definitely and eye opening article for me as I still pursuing a career in development. I always used to think that a senior was someone who knew everything about code but I see that’s it definitely more than that.

Thanks for sharing Tomasz!

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Been having this discussion a lot, as well, especially as I help plan out people’s “roadmaps” to promotion. Listened to the podcast with Joel and Will and ended up buying The Elegant System of Management. It’s got some helpful perspective on the topic.

I think it depends on what you’re looking for. I define seniors as developers who are experienced and flexible enough to jump from project to project and still succeed. This means having a certain amount of grit and persistence to learn, admit when you don’t know something and seek the help of others (even if they are more “junior” than you).

I also see them as people who organize other team members at a higher level to accomplish organizational goals, like some sort of Practice or Standardizations group. They should be developers who are actively serving as mentors who teach, give praise and give constructive feedback to others.

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