By Joe Davies, Principal Consultant leading the Front End Recruitment space at Orbis.
The contrast between a Junior and Senior Developer is blurry, but there are identifiable differences between them.
When I’m asked about the distinction, the phrase ‘How long is a piece of string’ comes to mind!
I’ve been specialising in front-end dev recruitment for a thousand years (6 years) and I speak to a lot of developers. Some people feel that job titles aren’t relevant anymore, and some care about them a lot.
We all want to better ourselves and move up the career ladder, it’s just knowing how to get to the next step.
‘Junior’, ‘Mid-level’ and ‘Senior’ are labels
Every company labels these roles differently. The number of years you have under your belt doesn’t necessarily define your seniority. These levels between developers are subjective to everyone, but there are dividing factors which separate their amount of ability and skill.
Identifying your skills as a developer
Junior Developers will often find that programming straightforward code is difficult. Whereas a Senior developer's code is minimal, straightforward and simple. They keep maintainability and scalability in mind.
Junior Developers tend to focus on code for computers, while Seniors think about the people who will have to work with the code in the future.
Expertise – There will always be progressional steps up the career ladder
Advanced developers will have a broad amount of knowledge in design patterns, architecture, security, performance and automation testing. Understanding these factors and how software development is done is crucial, but it doesn’t define everything.
Stakeholder/client management is also important for many roles, any exposure to this early on in your career could be very beneficial.
Coding – Advancing your coding skills will form a solid foundation
A good programmer, whatever their ‘level’, will be able to write code that can be easily maintained and adjusted by others. Code needs to be eligible for other developers to work with it later, they should be able to navigate around it for adding new features and bug fixes.
It’s not just about coding, improving other key business skills will get you one step further, too
There are skills that can be developed purely from working within a business environment, these can’t necessarily be learnt at university or in an unprofessional setting.
For instance, learning how to manage and prioritise your workload, managing stakeholder expectations and generally being commercially aware are all incredibly valuable.
Getting to the next level
These are the key factors you can improve upon to start closing the gap:
- Go through the entire software development life cycle as much as you can, and ask to be shown or shadow senior developers in this process to get a better understanding.
- Learn how to write simple code and stay aware of your predecessors – make it easier for them to understand your work.
- Learn as much as you can about architecture, performance and security.
- Senior developers master their tech stack, so get to know all the tools and applications that are being used within the business that you work for.
Sometimes it’s all about the long game
Computer science degrees are beneficial and companies/hiring managers would be looking for them as they give a better understanding of core programming principles.
If you are lacking education and certifications in this space you can check out various crash courses that are available, my pick of the bunch would be;