When Should You Call Yourself a Senior Developer?
Being a senior developer isn’t just about age, or even experience. It’s a title that conveys your ability to not only execute and program, but also plan and develop projects. It’s a sign that you’ve matured in your skills and are ready to take on challenging projects that require a lot of foresight, ingenuity, and knowledge.
Aug 2019 - 3 minutes read
One benefit of picking development as your career is that it’s an extremely egalitarian meritocracy. According to a Stack Overflow survey, 30% of people who use the title ‘Senior Developer’ are still in their 20s. That’s different than fields like medicine or education, which still look at length of experience as the ultimate marker of someone’s abilities. In this field, you don’t need decades of experience to earn the title of Senior Developer. However, it’s always been a hot topic of debate as to when someone has truly earned this title. Some companies choose not to use it at all to avoid controversy. Today, we’re going to explore when we think someone should call themselves a senior developer. We’ll also discuss what qualities developers need in order to reach this meaningful career goal.
What is a Senior Developer?
The most basic definition of a senior developer is someone with enough knowledge and experience to complete advanced development projects. After that, many people are split on what qualifications are necessary for a senior developer. Some people believe that years of experience should be the only qualification. A general consensus within the development community is that after ten years in the field, someone can be considered a senior developer.
Experience is definitely important in the field of development. While some people insist that having 10+ years of experience is the only way to work your way up to a senior developer role, others believe that it’s the quality, not quantity of the experience that matters. Leadership experience was singled out as particularly important. Some people believe that having the leadership skills to manage a team, and mentor developers in more junior roles is the best indication that someone is ready to be promoted to senior developer.
Every hiring manager, company founder, and CEO has their own definition of what makes a senior developer, and has a unique way of using them within their company. There are a lot of average developers out there, but it takes hard work and skill to earn the title of senior developer. Here are some tips for ways that you can work your way up to this coveted title.
Tips for Working Your Way Up to a Senior Developer Role
Keep Your Knowledge Current
In order to be a good developer, you need to master the required skills to be able to write beautiful code, and solve problems within the development process. However, in order to be a senior developer, you’ll need more than this. You don’t need to know everything, but one hallmark of a senior developer is that they’re always thinking ahead. They know what skills they’ll need, and can teach themselves anything they haven’t already mastered.
They also understand the entire development process, and are able to spot potential problems before they become a reality. This foresight and capacity for advanced planning is integral for any senior developer.
Calling yourself a senior developer is a signal that you’re serious about your job, and are planning on being in the field for a long time. If this is the case, you need to be looking forward, and staying on top of current news and trends. If you think of your job as somewhere to pass the hours between 9AM and 5PM, you’ll never be as knowledgeable as someone who genuinely enjoys learning, and spends their spare time reading up on all the latest programming news.
Take an Interest in the Lifecycle of Each Project
If you’re only focused on the minutiae of each project, and aren’t able to see the larger picture, you may not have what it takes to be a senior developer. Senior developers are capable of managing a project from start to finish, and don’t require extra managerial support, even when dealing with troublesome or hard-to-manage clients. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you need to know everything. It just means that you’re able to plan ahead and anticipate problems in every stage of an ongoing project.
One key aspect of becoming a senior developer is learning how to relate to your colleagues. Once you have the necessary skills, a true leader focuses on mentoring others, and making sure that their team is continually learning and growing. Someone who has plenty of programming and development experience is a great asset, but will never attain the title of senior developer if they’re unable or unwilling to use their talents to help others.
How to Become a Senior Developer
As you can see, there are a lot of qualities that are integral for senior developers. Great programming abilities are just the start. Fortunately, there are always ways that you can boost your skills, and learn on your own. You don’t need to have a degree in order to succeed in this field, although it can come in handy. Many workplaces today view it as a bonus, rather than a requirement. The best way that you can set yourself on the senior developer track is to continually be learning and evolving. Technology moves fast, and it’s our job to move with it. Without continual evolution, you’ll be left in the dust.