Time served to be a Senior

With great power comes great responsibility – Stan Lee, Marvel Comics

Can you become a senior or lead based just on talent?

I used to think that you needed to follow a progression over time, moving from one level to the next, spending a considerable period of time at each. Almost like any apprenticeship, you start out shadowing someone more senior, learning off them and being given small tasks. You then progress to being given more responsibility for owning and delivering projects for the company you work for. At some point you are given the chance to lead the way and have people guided by you, you make the decisions, more junior members look to you for help and advice.
Perhaps narrowed minded in my thinking “fast tracking” through the stages never really occurred to me till someone I have worked with mentioned my equivalent at another Manchester agency was in his early 20s and was an outstanding developer.

Do you need experience?

Designing and architecting software can be done using knowledge and talent for principles, patterns and chosen language or framework, however experience gives you the benefit of drawing on past failures. It also allows you to mentor others by providing a wealth of real life examples to back up your theory.

It isn’t a right of passage to achieve seniority

Seniority shouldn’t just be a “time served” reward, clear goals and achievements need to be formed to allow people to know what the company you work requires of you at the next level. Experience, application to your craft, responsibility for your work and team, coupled with a passion to expand your technical knowledge in my mind mean there should be no boundaries to the progression of your career. Working for a company for 10+ years and knowing a couple of legacy systems inside out is not enough for me.

So master your craft, lead your team to quality and innovative solutions and it doesn’t matter how old you are. Oh and maybe admit now and again you were mistaken about something!


  1. Ah the old senior debate.

    You can have all the skills but the work ethic of a mong or you can have someone who knows a good level but performs above and beyond.

    People get hung up too much on job titles in my experience. I also think some people have the wrong job title whether it be based on skills or mentality.

    My advice has always been, put all you can into a role. It will likely go unnoticed by many but keep at it. Eventually, either you are noticed by someone that matters or you learn you’ll not progress and fuck off elsewhere where you are appreciated.

    I’m all about giving people a chance but they have to earn it. Plus it’s not a case of getting comfy in a senior role. You have to still work at it otherwise you’ll be one that is found out.

  2. Great post.

    I could not agree more that ‘time-served’ should not be a pre-requisite of a senior developer,

    I do think that, unfortunately, there is a perception issue to contend with. For some people, being ‘led’ by a younger developer (whatever that person’s level of talent) may make them feel insecure about their own ability.

    I think that an environment where promotion is entirely based on ability and attitude, rather than time in the industry, would be excellent. There are other human factors to overcome in making that happen though.

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