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Senior Developer Mindset

The Harsh Reality Of Being A Senior Developer (That Very Few Dare To Talk About)

I always talk about how awesome life is when you are a Senior Developer on this blog

That’s because I genuinely believe every coder should at least reach the Senior Developer level before considering other career choices (like technical leadership or freelancing).

But I must warn you that being a Senior Developer is not all roses.

In most cases, the challenges you face as a Senior are much harder than those Junior Developers have to deal with.

Life can be very hard sometimes as a Senior Dev. In those moments, you might find yourself contemplating about becoming a farmer.

What changes is that your ability to face challenges as a Senior Developer is much higher. Because of your skills and experience.

Here are seven hard truths about being a Senior Developer that nobody wants to talk about:

1. Being a Senior Developer does not make you immune to layoffs.

Like many Senior developers working at FAANGs in 2023 and 2024 saw, you can still get laid off at the drop of a hat. Even if you have 10+ years of experience.

Indeed, Senior Developers are not first on the list when layoffs happen.

If needed again, they are expensive to rehire, so companies prefer to move them to other departments rather than get rid of them.

But still, many layoffs are completely arbitrary.

Yes, as a Senior Developer, you are still prone to layoffs.

Regardless of how Senior you are, the only security you have as a software developer is your employability. How fast can you find a new job if you get laid off tomorrow? 

Employability comes down to 2 things.

First, what you can do for people, your technical skills. Second, who knows about you. Your visibility, your network, the quality of your CV & LinkedIn profile. 

Those are your technical skills, visibility, and ability to pass the technical interview. Even if you are at the Senior level, you should still care about all of those things. 

2. Technical Interviews are still going to be extremely hard.

You might think that because your current company sees you as a Senior Developer, others will follow. But the truth is, every company you want to work for will put that Seniority to the test. 

Every company has a different idea of what a Senior Developer is. 

When you interview with them, it is not about being a Senior developer in general. It is about being a Senior by their standards.

Technical Interview v.s. The Actual Job meme still applies, regardless of how Senior you are.

For example, some companies think a Senior Frontend Developer should be a CSS and Accessibility expert. 

Others think mastering a JavaScript framework and learning how to take it to production is enough for a Senior. Others will want you to know some backend development as well.

So keep in mind that no matter how Senior you are, you will go through the same technical interview process everyone else goes through. Sometimes, it's even harder.

And the more Senior you are, the worse it gets as the developers interviewing you might see you as a potential competitor.

Be ready for some very hard technical interviews!

🚀 Ready to level up as a JavaScript Developer? Take this FREE Technical Assessment to find out your technical gaps to Senior. 🚀

3. Salary negotiations are harder for Senior Developers

Most Junior developers are happy with whatever offer they get, as long as someone gives them a chance. 

As a Senior developer, you want to get paid well for your work. And if you don’t, you should! You’ve invested dozens of hours of your precious time to get where you are. 

Asking for more money means pushing companies to show what they have in their pockets.

You will have to go through a long negotiation process.

This is the last thing you want to do after a series of 5 to 7 interviews, but that’s how life is at the Senior level.

For example, as a Junior Developer, you probably never hear that “you’ve reached the upper salary band” of what they can offer or that you “maxed out the budget” for that position. But as a Senior Developer, your email inbox will be full of such excuses.

Funny, but true. Senior Developers are pulling most of the work in many companies.

On the other hand, most companies that want a Senior Developer can’t afford one.

You are an iPhone in a market where most can only afford an Android. 

First, you will have to reject about half of the companies approaching you. Unless you want to work for less than what you are worth. 

Unfortunately, this is the case for many Senior developers I know.

They either don’t believe they deserve more, especially in this insane job market, or they get comfortable in a place and are too lazy to interview someone else.

The result? They settle for a mediocre salary. 

Well, that’s a pity. Let them miss out on the good stuff!

Real Senior Developers know that life is too short to work for less than you are worth.A high salary will increase your self-esteem and your standard of living.

Senior Developers know they will have their salary expectations questioned. They know that when you finally get an offer, if you want a good salary, you will have to negotiate.

My advice?

Make it a policy to always negotiate your salary. And never settle for less. 

4. You are NOT a Senior Developer forever

Once they get to Senior, many developers are tempted to take it easy. They go back to binge-watching Netflix and playing video games.

They stop improving their skills.

Then suddenly, their company gets in trouble. They get laid off. So they go back to the market and are surprised to see their skills are out of date.

The reality is nothing stays with you forever, including your Senior title.

The world doesn’t stay still. Technology changes.

For example, you might be great at JavaScript and considered a Senior Frontend developer, but as time passes, companies want you to go deeper into Web Performance and Accessibility. 

Or learn more full-stack skills, like backend and infrastructure.

Regardless of how Senior you are, you will still have to constantly be improving your skills.

This is why, part of being a Senior Developer is to constantly be sharpening your axe of knowledge. Always behave like you would be unemployed. 

As the saying goes, if you are easy on yourself, life will be hard on you. If you are hard on yourself, life will be easy.

🚀 Ready to level up as a JavaScript Developer? Take this FREE Technical Assessment to find out your technical gaps to Senior. 🚀

5. Senior Developer for one company does not mean Senior Developer forever

As I mentioned above, different companies have different definitions of Senior Developer. What a Senior Developer is at a FAANG company will be very different from what a Senior is for a small startup.

This is why you should not get too hung up on job titles and should care more about what Seniority level the market assigns you as a whole. 

Senior Dev Tip: If you are not sure what your seniority is, because some companies don’t want to put labels, look at your salary. For a Senior Developer, your salary should be at least 30% higher than the average. If a company is paying that kind of money, it is because you are worth it. 

6. Junior Developers will still challenge you (and piss you off just a bit)

Yes, regardless of your title, you will still have to earn the respect of your team, especially Junior Developers. Believe me when I say that Junior developers will question your knowledge. 

For example, you might propose one technical solution, and they might ask ChatGPT to see if it is the right one. And they will still try other solutions, regardless of your recommendations. Ohh, those stubborn Junior devs can make your life hell. 

The best way to deal with this is to appeal to influence instead of authority. 

If you want a Junior developer’s respect, you must earn their admiration first.

You can do that by using your expertise. When a technical decision is being made, show that you know not only what is being decided but also why.

The best kind of influence is knowledge. 

Everyone respects knowledge because everyone respects hard work. 

Part of influencing Junior Developers is helping them manage the product manager’s expectations.

Show Junior Devs that you know what you are talking about. Help them when you can. You will gain their respect without ever having to appeal to your Senior title. 

Oh, and by the way, it is not only Junior Developers who will keep on challenging you, which gets us to the next point. 

7. Actually, everyone will challenge you (from time to time)

Yes, they will. Product managers will be skeptical about your estimates, and management will question your technical choice, even if they are not qualified to do so. 

Don’t forget the HR departments who will question your salary. The duration of your holidays and your learning budget. 

As a Senior Developer, you will feel like people constantly want things from you.

Dealing with stakeholders who assume estimates are deadlines is part of the job of a Senior Developer.

They want your opinion on some technical decisions. Then they want your feedback on estimates or they want you to onboard that new Junior Developer.

Get used to not being able to please everybody!

On the other side, office politics will get a bit more tricky when you get to Senior Developer. 

You will interact with high-level stakeholders more often, which can lead to political hell. As someone who’s experienced that, my advice is to stay away from office politics as much as you can. 

A few last words… 

Despite all the challenges mentioned above, getting to Senior Developer is still very much worth it. 

The level of everything you do will increase. 

You will work on more interesting projects with other very smart Senior Devs. Your work-life balance will increase because you will be more productive. Your salary and your options when it comes to who to work for will also increase. 

So keep improving your skills and cherish these new challenges, as they will push you to become the best version of yourself. 

I will see you in the next one! 

Take care, 

Dragos

🚀 Ready to level up as a JavaScript Developer? Take this FREE Technical Assessment to find out your technical gaps to Senior. 🚀

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