How to become a senior software engineer

How to become a senior software engineer – Beginner’s Guide

Nowadays IT specialists are one of the most highly paid and required specialists in the market, so it’s no wonder that you’re interested in how to become a senior software engineer.

This article will give you basic information on what qualities senior software developers need, what duties they have, and what steps you should how to become a senior software engineer. The text is meant for nonprofessionals, everybody will be able to understand what it is about.

Let’s get straight to the point!

Who is a senior software engineer?


How to become a senior software engineer

The main question that has to be answered while choosing the career path is who is a senior software engineer?

A senior software engineer is a software engineer who is more experienced (the period of work is 4-10 years on average) or possesses a greater depth of expertise.

In its turn, a software engineer is a professional in computer science who uses the knowledge of engineering principles and programming languages to create software products, run network control systems, develop computer games.

Notice that the main factor that makes people senior software developers is not time but the experience. You can spend a few amounts of years working compared to other professionals, but have much more cases in your background.

At the same time, it is really hard to get enough experience in a limited period, so you hardly can get your dream job in a few years.

How long does it take how to become a senior software engineer?

As it was said before, becoming a senior engineer, will take you from 4 to 10 years. It depends on your present level of IT knowledge, the amount of time you are ready to devote to the professional field, the quality of your educational materials, and of course the amount of effort that you put into the educational process.

How do you become a senior software engineer?

How to become a senior software engineer

There are 3 stages that you go through during your career path as a software engineer: junior, middle (regular), and senior software developer.

Here’s an eloquent description for each stage.

Junior software engineer

A junior software developer is usually a professional with experience starting from 0 and ending with 3 years. A junior developer possesses the basic information and skills in programming: in the application lifecycle, services, and databases.

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It is possible for a professional of this level to write easy scripts, to know particular parts of building applications and software design patterns.

The main feature of junior engineers is the lack of experience. No matter how a person is motivated, hard-working, and smart, he/she can’t get to the next level of career without enough quantity of experience, work with codes and edge cases (edge case means a situation happening at the highest or lowest end of a range of possible values or in extreme situations).

Middle (regular) software engineer

A middle software developer is a worker with 2-4 years of experience who took part in software development projects. A middle developer is good with many or all the stages of the lifecycle including analysis, design, development, testing, implementation, and documentation.

A worker possesses methods of solving problems and skills of basic debugging and code revision.

The level of knowledge also allows him/her to create development environments (these are software applications used to develop software) and to direct junior developers.

Senior software engineer

Senior developers are professionals having 4-10 years of experience.

A senior developer is able to accomplish all the possible functions of software developers: to write complex applications, to work in each area of applications. Senior software engineers have deep expertise in lifecycle, services, and databases.

After a person has mastered all the skills of senior developers, a possibility to take another vacancy appears, for example, a vacancy of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or technical founder of a startup. However, many workers hold the position of senior developer for a long time. This is a great option for those who don’t like to manage.

Lead developer or architect

This is the last stage in a career for software engineers. To achieve it, you have to work 7-10 years.

The difference between a lead developer and an architect is that lead developers relate to mid-level management and architects hold a technical position. The main part of the work of an architect is to create complex systems which are put into practice by software engineers of the other levels.

What Does It Take How To Become a Senior Developer?

Here are a few tips that will help you to become one of the best senior software developers.

Broaden your horizons in the IT-sphere

To manage to achieve the senior position, it is too little to possess computer science fundamentals, 1 programming language, and data structures. You must have a holistic understanding of the mechanisms of software work.

Learn constantly

Moving forward in the field is impossible without a constant process of learning, especially in the world of technologies. You have to do research on diverse topics, not only software theory itself, but all the related topics including management, team building, efficiency, and so on.

Of course, you should learn your main sphere(s) deeper than other topics. Use many different sources: online courses (e.g., Code course), books, blogs (e.g., HackernoonfreeCodeCamp, code burst), articles, podcasts(e.g., Full Stack RadioDeveloper Tea), lectures, events, pair programming, etc.

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In general, you have to have a growth mindset and seek development all the time.

Become an expert

One of the most important factors in getting any job is to get a high enough level of knowledge and skills. What does it mean to become an expert?

The title assumes that you work with fewer bugs and in a fewer time and that you have effective and creative solutions for problems. Moreover, you have success in team management and relations with colleagues.

Interact with team members

Soft skills are extremely important in the work of senior developers. When you gain lots of experience, you start to work as a manager taking over software development projects. For this business activity, it is vitally important to develop communication skills, emotional intelligence.

Without skills in this sphere, you will fail the project. Imagine the situations that can happen. People can be confused about asking you questions and discussing the project, the atmosphere in the team can get negative, there can be quarrels that you are not able to settle. As a result, the entire team system doesn’t work out.

Share your knowledge

There’s an opinion that knowledge sharing is a bad idea: you should keep your knowledge to yourself and not tell anybody the information that you possess so other workers can’t take your position. However, it is a mistake.

Many software developers, and not only them, are active members of society in this field.

They often do educational activities: they give lectures, write articles, run blogs, answer questions on different platforms and events, participate in mentoring programs, and so on.

Moreover, software developers communicate not only with the external community but also with the internal community which is workers in their companies. Great ways to promote interaction between workers is to initiate discussions on the topics of problems in software development projects, conduct code reviews, etc.

Take into account that you not only teach others when you share the information, you learn, too. When we explain something, we rethink and formulate the information, in the process we discover new ideas and deepen our knowledge.

Develop skills of communication with clients

Your company makes a product for customers, so it is a huge part of your work to communicate with them.

Among the skills that you have to develop to manage to get on with any business stakeholder are the ability to listen, the ability to explain complex programming concepts to a nontechnical person, attention to people’s needs and feelings, and so on.

The Three Fundamental Traits

Here’s a list of characteristics that every software engineer with a senior title should have:

  • Possession of big amount of knowledge in the technical sphere
  • High level of communication and teamwork skills
  • Ability to make decisions

Starting a Career as a Software Engineer

As you can guess, you will have to learn a huge amount of information on the technical topic for a long time.

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One thing you have to consider is that first you will work on the very narrow field fixing bugs and deciding specific problems, and after some time passes when you get a basic understanding of how systems are organized, you will begin working with other engineers.

You will get new knowledge thanks to this cooperation with a partner including code reviews and recommendations.

What level of knowledge do senior software engineers have?

A senior software developer has basic knowledge and skills in the tech industry. A professional has to both explore multiple fields and possess deep knowledge of 1 or several chosen topics.

He/she also needs many soft skills for work such as communication and project management skills, problem-solving, and decision-making abilities.

To describe the scheme of knowledge and skills of a senior software developer, it is suitable to use the letter “T”. The horizontal line symbolizes basic knowledge (knowledge breadth) and the vertical one points to deep knowledge (knowledge depth).

Basic knowledge

Basic knowledge includes diverse methods of work and their purpose in the process. Basic knowledge doesn’t assume possessing details of the work.

Deep knowledge

How to become a senior software engineer

Deep knowledge, on the contrary, assumes that a senior developer with deep knowledge of the sphere knows each detail of work with it. The examples of spheres are cybersecurity, a concrete programming language, a programming paradigm, etc.

A professional of this level usually possesses a concrete technology stack fully. The tech stack is a set of tools for putting IT projects into practice. It consists of frameworks, libraries, development tools, programming languages, programming approaches.

It is divided into front-end (client-side) and back-end (server-side). Front-end is the part of the product that a user can see on the screen. The back-end is the part of the product that a user can’t see, but, of course, it provides the correct work of the front-end. It performs the functions of storing and managing the data.


The bottom line

As you see, the work of a senior developer is not limited to writing code at all. Except for possession of a great number of technological knowledge, you have to possess soft skills, among which one of the most important is team management.

Success and enthusiasm come from small steps that you diligently take every day. If you are interested in how to become a financial advisor read here.

We hope the article was helpful and you got all the information you needed about how to become a senior software engineer. Good luck in your career!

One thought on “How to become a senior software engineer – Beginner’s Guide

  1. I just finished the article, and each pointed-out suggestion and tip you mentioned in the writing was easily understandable to me, which makes this writing quite helpful.

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