Still stuck in a junior developer role?
Are you trying to get rid of it? or You've accepted your fate as a junior.
Transitioning from a junior to a senior developer is more than gaining technical skills.
Once you graduate and join as a software developer, taking the next step in your career is deemed fairly difficult.
You can go to a senior position either through internal promotion or a job switch.
Usually, it takes a lot longer to get away with the “junior” tag.
A lot of candidates who reach out to us are junior software developers with an experience of around 4 to 5 years still stuck in the role.
“I have been working in a Frontend role for the past 5 years and want to shift my job to a more senior role.”
“Currently working as a software engineer and want to shift to senior roles in product-based companies.”
“For the last 6.5 years working in the same company. I am looking for either a senior developer role.”
Some of the challenges they face include,
✸ Stuck in the junior mindset
✸ Impostor syndrome
✸ Lack of guidance
✸ Don't know how to expand their knowledge
You can find a lot of articles, videos, and courses on how to become a junior software developer.
But what about the after?
The after is usually more daunting and challenging.
When will you stop being a junior? It may seem like a mystery but trust us it's not. Once the road map is clear it is easy to walk on it.
For all the developers out there who want to level up and even those who are just starting, this article is for you.
Let's see what it takes to transition from a junior software developer to a senior developer.👇
Difference between junior and senior developers
There can be some people who become senior developers within a span of 2 to 3 years and some who never make it even after years of experience.
No one is stuck in one position forever.
Stagnancy hits only if you let it. There is no dearth of learning.
The difference between both positions is not rigid.
It mainly lies between experience and skills.
Both roles are set up with a certain level of expectations.
How long have you been working as a software developer?
Along with skills, a lot of companies also look at the number of years they have put in the domain.
As a general rule of thumb, a junior developer is someone with 1-2 years of experience.
Mid-level developers have an experience of around 2 to 5 years and senior software developers have an experience of more than 5 years.
Someone who has worked both in the backend and front end is also deemed eligible to be considered for a senior dev position.
Aside from experience, a person's skill is what sets them apart.
The most significant difference between junior and senior developers is the outlook.
Not only technical but soft skills also play an important role. Junior developers take more time to solve a problem and their vision is narrow.
While senior developers know more than just one programming language or framework.
They will look at the broader problem and understand customer requirements from different angles.
They are not limited to just one idea. They come up with multiple solutions and implement the one that fits the scenario best.
These are the two main differences that define job responsibilities and pay disparity.
How to level up and become a senior developer?🤔
A senior developer is not like those stereotypical programmers with multiple screens and flashing lights sitting in a basement with sunglasses reminding you of the typical Hollywood hackers.
They are talented individuals who strive to be better at their job. They are someone who,
✅ Think from a broader perspective
✅ Can visualise long-term goals
✅ Have good communication skills
✅ Can motivate and guide others
✅ Provides valuable results with maximum efficiency
✅ Understands customers' requirements
What's in a title you may ask?
Frankly, we cannot get rid of the set hierarchies. But only those developers who deliver results with minimum wastage of resources can be considered senior.
So how do you become a senior developer?
It’s a no-brainer but somehow most developers fail to get better at them.
Learning and accumulating skills and applying them in real life is what you need to level up into a senior position.
Let's look at some of the points on how you can improve yourself as a junior developer.
1. Improve your coding skills
This role can be a dead end for those who are not working on practising their coding skills.
Hey, I am not saying that you need to know everything. That's not possible.
But invest in yourself.
Long and complex codes are not what defines a good developer.
As a senior developer, you should be able to write code that is readable and neat.
How do you learn that?
By following the best practices of coding structures and patterns.
- Learn current syntax
- Learn how to compose software
- Learn functional programming basics
- Learn to work with objects
- Learn about the standard developers' tools
- Learn about mind mapping to understand how things are connected
- Build projects to showcase what you’ve learned
Look out for great resources to help you level up your skills and keep you updated about industry trends.
2. Understand the "Why"
Smart work and hard work both go hand and hand. And with senior developers, the former is usually dominant.
Don't get me wrong! You need to have both but if you understand the "why" more than the "how" behind the problems, the chances are you can solve them rather quickly.
In simple terms, see the bigger picture and understand the context.
Although technologies keep on changing, the basic principles and fundamentals remain the same.
Ask questions and understand the connection between the problem at hand and what you are trying to accomplish.
Evaluating the problem and understanding its pros and cons will give you much-needed insight to solve it.
3. Review your code
Learn from the past.
Take a look at your previous written codes. Is there any scope to improve it?
- Are they readable?
- Can you break it down?
- Can the structure be improved?
Senior developers create codes that are easy to understand and read.
One of the main responsibilities of senior developers includes reviewing their peers' codes.
To get good at reviewing the code, you have to get good at writing.
Look for ways to improve.
Regularly request feedback from your peers or mentors.
Surround yourself with people who believe in sharing and helping others without creating knowledge silos.
4. Be a good leader
Being a leader means the ability to guide and motivate others.
Getting along with your teammates and being willing to help them are the qualities of a good leader.
Part of being a senior developer is not thinking of yourself as superior. When you lead a team you have to inspire others to do their best.
This provides great value to the organisation.
Sharing is caring! Share your knowledge.
Even if you are in the early stage of a career there will always be someone who can use a helping hand.
5. Understand user requirements
Customers are what makes or breaks a company.
When you shift from a junior to a senior developer, you will communicate with the clients directly.
Can you understand the client's perspective?
Can you suggest solutions and make them understand?
People's skills are a weapon for senior developers.
The trick is to understand that both parties will gain from this interaction.
The clients you will interact with may not even belong to the technical domain. You need layman's language to explain the concepts and solutions.
Can you do that? Breaking down complex concepts.
If yes, you are already far ahead in your journey.💫
6. Brush up your communication skills
There are certain skills that you can afford to not be good at. But communication is not a part of it.
Learn to write and speak well. You know the solution but if you can't explain it to your peers or clients, how can one trust your credibility?
Communication is a skill that even top officials can get better at. The scope for improvement will always be there.
The VP of Shopify, Farhan Thawar says that he is still improving at his level and to at least be a “6/10 in your communication skills.”
7. Be productive, and take up more responsibilities
The reason junior developers get stuck in their roles is not taking challenges.
Getting comfortable in your role will only take you so far.
You have to be willing to learn.
Don't get stuck at writing codes that are handed to you. Go beyond coding. Take advantage of the resources available.
Keep challenging yourself and set the bar a little higher each time. With time you will notice how far you have come.
Go back to the things that you previously struggled with. See if you can solve it now independently.
8. Have a growth mindset
Own up to your inefficiencies and learn.
“When you go from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, a new world of possibilities open up.”
~ Keller Williams Reatty
At times you can suffer from impostor syndrome and hesitate to take up challenges.
Aim to remove the junior from your profile, not from your mind. Have a junior mindset where you strive to keep learning and find solutions.
Don't nod along and play pretend even if you don't understand the matter. Ask your doubts right away. If not now, then when?
9. Find a mentor
The easiest way to grow in your career is with the right guidance. A mentor can help you with the right resources to avoid mistakes.
But how do you find the mentor that fits your criteria?
It is hard to simply walk to a close peer or a senior and ask them to be your mentor.
Preplaced is a great place to start. Find a senior developer and that too from your desired company.
To give you a quick review, a mentor can help you with
✅ Setting up goals for your preparation
✅ Giving constructive feedback
✅ Resources to help you learn
✅ Clarifying the responsibilities
✅ Motivating and challenging you
Mentors are someone who takes the time out of their day to provide constructive feedback. They care about your progress.
So don’t wait for the right person to come knocking at your door.
Instead, reach out to the right person with Preplaced.
10. Start thinking like a senior, a decision maker 😎
Visualise your goal and start preparing.
Don't wait for the right opportunity.
“Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity”
~ H. Jackson Brown Jr.
No matter how difficult the problem is, senior developers always succeed in finding a solution.
The journey from junior to senior will not be a path adorned with flowers. It will also have its fair share of thorns. It's up to you to embrace both and move forward in your pursuit.
Do not rush when making crucial decisions.
Senior developers know that their decisions will be impacting the business directly.
So before making a decision gather relevant information and list the possible solutions. Weigh the reliability and then take action.
How to prepare for the senior developer's interview?
You can become a senior developer either through internal promotion or a job switch. You have to display both your technical and soft skills. These interviews test your,
- Coding abilities
- Team/managerial skills
- Cultural and collaborative skills
Since senior developers' hiring requires a lot of time investment from the company, you have to justify this with your skills and CV.
Another key thing here is that different companies have different definitions for these senior positions.
An SDE II is at Level 5 at Amazon and at level 3 at Google. The scope and responsibilities also vary depending from company to company.
Get an understanding of the different levels and an aggregate salary comparison.
☑️ Applying for the job 👨💻
A resume is a sheet of paper that takes you to the interview doorway. That's it. So don't spend days perfecting it, spend that time practising your skills.
Some quick tips,
- Keep it short and simple, no fluff
- List down the keywords for job descriptions and make sure to add those to your resume
- Personalise it
Follow these suggestions and avoid any resume mistakes.
2. Research like there's no tomorrow
You are just one in many sending out their resumes to the recruiters. Don't be boring. Just like your resume, personalise your cover letter. This will spark a genuine interest in the recruiter.
- Research about the company and their goals
- Research about how it came to exist, and what was the inspiration
- Research about what kind of person they're looking to hire
3. Create a strong LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is the new resume. Nowadays, it is a common practice for recruiters to check a candidate's LinkedIn profile.
To get opportunities from LinkedIn,
- Use your profile status feature to display that you're open to work
- Update your skills
- Include links to your projects or portfolio
You can also message recruiters on LinkedIn to enquire about any open positions. Don't be in their face. Don't start asking for a job right away.
Create a connection and follow up. Networking is a great way to reach out to reputed professionals in your domain.
☑️ Preparing for the technical rounds 👨💻
A quick Google search will give you a list of all the questions asked in a senior developer’s interview. But, how to clear those are the real deal.
The three rounds for almost all the senior software developer interviews are,
- Initial screening
- Technical rounds and
- Behavioural rounds
Those performing at an optimal level on all three rounds are selected.
1. Coding rounds
Java and python are commonly used. In any case, do not go for those languages which are not mainstream and low level like ‘Go’.
You will be getting questions based on data structures and algorithms.
I would recommend watching our collection of data structures and algorithms interviews conducted by real-life interviewers.
Take the help of online resources such as Cracking the Coding Interview, Grokking Algorithms, Rob Conery's book, etc. and have a good grasp on,
- Primitive Types
- Linked Lists
- Binary Trees
- Binary Search Trees
- Dynamic Programming
Solve questions on platforms like LeetCode and HackerRank to prepare for the rounds.
Set a time frame for each of these questions as you would be given a window of 45-60 minutes for each question.
I would recommend starting with fairly easy questions and then moving forward to the difficult ones. Also, read our tips to help crack the coding interview rounds.
2. System Designs Round
Junior developers are required to solve low-level designs (LLD) in their system designs interview. The performance bar is low for them. They are required to do well in the coding rounds.
But for senior developers, a high-level system design is required that is structured and scalable.
For this round, you will be given a broad prompt like “Design Twitter.” Study your favourite apps or services and think about how you would have designed them.
To begin with, try to design,
- Twitter Search
- Tik Tok
- Or Your Favourite Service
A lot of candidates fail to prioritise the system design rounds. For a senior developer position, you cannot neglect this round. Some helpful resources are System Design Primer and Designing Data-Intensive Applications.
The best approach to complete this round would be,
- Asking clarifying questions to understand the requirements
- Designing the system and then going down into the details
- Finally, summarising the solution and highlighting the areas of improvement if any
☑️ Prepare with Mock Interviews
A mock interview makes a great difference in the Interview preparation strategy. An experienced interviewer can help you prepare for system designs more than you.
(Watch our Software Developer at Google Mock Interview)
It's difficult to find the right connections for expert feedback.
The good news is that Preplaced has already created a platform that will help you get connected with mentors from top tech companies.
☑️ Behavioural rounds
You will be asked standard behaviour questions like,
“Tell me about yourself” or
“Why *insert company name*?”
Check out Glassdoor to get the list of company-wise behavioural questions.
Senior developer positions will also include leadership questions to assess your potential to lead and guide.
There will be questions based on different circumstances.
The best way to get through the behavioural round is to understand the core values of the company you are applying to. And what they are looking for in a candidate.
Structure your answers using the STAR method.
For example, Amazon evaluates candidates through its 16 leadership principles.
Google has a Googleyness round to see if you are a cultural fit. For Facebook/Meta, it is the “getting-to-know-you” interview that focuses on its 5 core values.
Wrapping it up
Congratulations on reaching the end!
We know, a lot of information to wrap your head around. But at least now you know how you can transition into a senior position.
There is no right way to become a senior software developer.
Demonstrate your skills in your work regularly or create a strong portfolio for a job switch.
Remove that junior developer tag from your LinkedIn and resume as quickly as possible.
Instead of that mundane routine, take up challenges, code independently, and develop strategic solutions.
Be wise about your time. With mentorship programs, the road to becoming a senior developer is easy to reach.
Get ready to level up today! 🏆