5 ways to identify a senior developer

It is that time of the year again, performance reviews!. For team leads this is usually a stressful time especially if in your work environment you have different tiers of developers and even worse the tiers are attached different hourly rates. Think Junior, Intermediate, Senior with hourly of 25,35,60.

In this environment a good number of developers will want to rise up the ranks, how do you know who is deserving? What I present here are some behavior changes that are bound to happen as developers mature in their craft. Watch out for them and reward the deserving.

Under promise, over deliver

The mark of a new developer is enthusiasm. Don’t dare kill that energy, it is what the dev will need to survive the perils of learning programming.

When you ask them if they can do it, the answer will always be a solid YES and of course it can be done in a week, it’s just a payment module right? For Project Managers out there you know it never takes a week.

As they mature you will begin to note a tendency for more careful evaluation. The developer will scarcely commit to features or schedules without first doing some research. Even then, what they will commit to will rather be tame. Yet you know they will deliver. What actually happens is that they more than deliver, they delight.

No longer gurus

While the junior developers know that esoteric language feature, they will not likely understand the basics of a programming paradigm other than the one they live in.

The senior likely knew of that feature a long time ago but years of disuse may have pushed it to the edge of the mind or even forgotten. Their code uses common features arranged in simple ways. They have understanding of trade-offs they are making by working with their current paradigm.

No superheroes here

It takes a special kind of person to wrestle with the machine hour after hour chasing down bugs and solving hard problems late into the night. The skills of the junior are just what is needed to do just that. The junior will boast of the number of commits made and their 365 day streak on github.

It is natural to expect that the senior will have now mastered how to even double the time spent on this coding marathons. Yet what you find is that the seniors are actually, for a lack of a better word, boring. They may not even seem to be working that hard!

Yet results come in steady.

Beyond the keyboard

The junior is actually proud of their poor social skills. They will brag of being the smartest kid in the room. Their super human typing skill is the hallmark of their achievement.

A senior on the other hand will have a rich tapestry of skills extending from coding, user experience, design, project management and mostly important people skills.

Ian Landsman goes so far as to proclaim code is only 5% of the business 10 tips for moving from programmer to entrepreneur


I will be done when am done if there is ever a defining quality of a junior developer, that is it! The mindset of the junior is grounded on big revelations. They will work tirelessly and at the end unveil this great product which everyone will love and they will be the king of the world.

When working with seniors, you will quickly realize they hold no such delusions of grandeur. They understand for most part that the way to build a great product is to discover what that great product is. You will have great visibility as the project goes on and even better opportunities to provide feedback.

Obviously this is not a comprehensive view of what makes a great senior developer, how has the experience been in your own organization? Get in touch with me on the comment section below or on my twitter [@jchex](https://twitter.com/jchex)


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Software Project Manager