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Senior Developer Mindset

What Is Really A Senior Developer: Core Principles

Ever wondered what is missing?

You’ve done hundreds of online courses, built dozens of side projects and watched countless software development videos on YouTube. 

But, you still struggle.

Stuck at the same level and not making any real progress. You know you have the talent and you are putting in the work, yet something is missing. 

You see other developers less talented than you doing better. You have friends who started to code at the same time as you did. But now have better jobs and earn more. 

So you start doubting yourself.

Should you be a software developer after all? Or have you made the wrong career choice?

Chill down. Before you throw your new mechanical keyboard in the garbage, let me tell you this. 

You are not alone.

Thousands of developers struggle daily just as you do. Most don’t want to talk about it, because it would make them vulnerable.

But, they suffer in silence.

At the same time, there is way too much advice online about what you should do. 

Yet, despite the millions of articles claiming to have the magic pill, most developers I talk to still don’t have a clear idea on how to progress.

What’s worse, many convinced themselves that they don’t have what it takes to become a Senior developer. So it might be better to quit and so something else than writing code

They lack a clear understanding of what it takes to become a Senior developer.

In this article I will show you exactly what a Senior developer is, how they behave and how they think. I will do so by sharing timeless principles Senior developers adhere to. Not tips, nor tricks. 

But, there’s a catch. 

Technical knowledge changes and it is very specific to your tech stack.

So we will focus on the things that don’t change. We will focus on the traits a Software Developer should master in order for them to deliver at the Senior level and beyond.

If you learn these Senior Developer traits, everything will get easier. You will progress faster, feel confident in your skills, make more money and work less. 

Here they are in no specific order:  

A Senior Developer Has Mastered “The Fundamentals'': The most important trait of a Senior Developer is they have mastered the core concepts behind their tech stack. They understand things way beyond the surface. For example, if you are a JavaScript Developer, this means knowing the JavaScript language, and its syntax. From Closures to Asynchronous Programming and Prototype Inheritance. It also means mastering at least one major JavaScript framework. Whether it is React, Angular, or Vue, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you don’t only understand how to work with it, but also why it has been designed that way. The patterns behind it, and why its creators made those technical choices when creating it. This will allow you to stand out and be able to influence other developers via your expertise. When you are able to explain why things happen, and why you made a certain technical decision, other developers will look up to you. One of the quickest ways to stand out as a Senior. 

A Senior Developer Knows How To Balance Best Practices With Delivery: Senior Developers go beyond “making it work”. They avoid hacking things, and they avoid shortcuts. When they take a shortcut, it is because there is no other choice. They know which shortcuts they can take, and which ones they don’t. They know technical debt is very dangerous. Messy code over a long period of time can even bankrupt companies. They also know it can be easily avoided by building great habits into your software. Is not that they don’t want to go fast. They want to go as fast as they can without ruining the application. In the words of the scouts, Senior Developers always leave the camp better than they found it.

🚨P.S. Are you looking to fast-track to the Senior Developer with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy. 🚨

A Senior Developer Knows How To Set Boundaries: Senior Developers know how to push back when people cross the line. When stakeholders become too demanding, asking for unreasonable features and deadlines, a Senior Developer knows how to say NO. They also know how to make stakeholders aware of the cost of their demands. And they know how to offer alternatives. And if nothing works, they don’t give it, and hold on to their guns. They don’t agree with an implementation if they know it doesn't make sense. They prefer to make a few people angry at the beginning, instead of losing face at the end, when the project fails. Or worse, damaging the whole development team by promising something they can’t deliver on. 

A Senior Developer Knows The Value Of Focus: It is not that they don’t keep an eye on the newest and shiniest JavaScript framework out there. Or the latest AI tool. They put effort into staying up to date. But, they don't let the noise distract them from the main thing. Senior Developers prefer quality and quantity. They limit the number of “gurus” they follow and the newsletters they read. They know the only way to achieve more is by doing less. This is why they get their priorities straight. They narrow down on one goal before starting the other. 

A Senior Developer Has Mastered End-To-End Delivery: This is why everyone wants to have Senior Developers on their teams. They deliver value from day one. They can make sense out of messy codebases, unclear requirements, difficult stakeholders and somehow deliver anyway. They can drive a feature, from the design phase to coding, testing, and deployment. Senior Developers are familiar with all the different tools involved in taking their code to production. 

A Senior Developer Has Mastered The Technical Interview: Senior Developers are not afraid about losing their job because they know they can get another one fast. Because they mastered the art of doing technical interviews. I am calling it an art and not a science because, in technical interviews, even if you do everything right, you can still fail. If they start looking for a new developer job, they might need some time to get used to interviewing, to warm up. But, they have most of the skills necessary to clear all the interview processes. 

A Senior Developer Knows The Market: Being a starving artist doesn’t pay. A Senior Developer knows having great technical skills is not enough. You need to know who can hire you, and what they can pay for you. Even if they are happily employed, Senior devs, keep an eye on the market at all times. Recessions and layoffs are more and more common and no matter how much of a good job you make, you never know what will happen.

🚨P.S. Are you looking to fast-track to the Senior Developer with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy. 🚨

A Senior Developer Knows How To Negotiate: Part of being a Senior Developer is knowing your worth and advocating for it. It means not being afraid to walk away when they don’t give you what you want, but at the same time always looking for win-win situations with the people and companies you choose to work with. Senior devs also know that the best negotiation trick 

A Senior Developer Has Mentors: The Senior Developer knows that no matter how smart and knowledgeable they are, they can’t know everything. More importantly, they don’t know what they don’t know. Senior developers y are always looking for people that can help them in their journey. This can be people that are a bit ahead in their journey with respect to them, like their Tech Lead or their CTO. Or it can be people from other domains with certain expertise (leadership, accountability, mindset etc.). Software development is a very complex field and knowledge from the right source can make it a lot easier to navigate. 

A Senior Developer Mentors Others: I haven’t yet met a great Senior Developer who doesn’t mentor others. This can be a Junior developer at their job, but not always. It can be their 9-year-old nephew who is starting coding. Or their 15-year-old sister is building her first web application. Whoever is willing to learn, the Senior developer will be willing to teach. Mentoring others allows you, no matter how Senior you are, to refine your own knowledge. But also to give back some of that passion to the new generation of developers.

A Senior Developer Takes Care Of Himself: You can’t fill up someone else's cup, if yours is empty. Software Development is a very challenging job. Sometimes it will take the best of you. You will have to work long hours, you will have to go through stressful moments and have little time for yourself. On top of that, staring at a computer for 50 hrs per week is very bad for your health. Senior Developers intentionally make time for themselves—time for introspection and learning. They try to eat right, exercise at least a few times a week and take time off. No release is worth your health. This goes hand in hand with setting boundaries.

A Senior Developer Is Well Networked: Most Software Engineers are very analytical.  They are obsessed with the “real value” of things. But the truth is, not matter how good you are, if you don’t know how to sell yourself, you will struggle to pay rent. This is even more real at Senior level, when office politics get more and more important. That’s when it is not only about what you know, but about who knows about you. This is why Senior developers are well networked. They know people in their team, in their company and in the software ecosystem overall. This allows them to influence technical decisions. It also allows them to bounce ideas off, whether that is about a specific Software Architecture, JavaScript Framework or a job position. A good network will add tremendous value to your skills. If Senior is what you want, make sure you pay attention to your network and the communities you join.

A Senior Developer Creates Value: Senior Developers know that with great power, comes great responsibility. They use their skills for the good. Everywhere they go, they look for ways to improve things. To create value. Senior Developers fix problems, projects and teams. They look for the win-win. Sometimes they will do this for money. Other times they will do this out of curiosity and passion. Even when there is nothing to build, they add value by sharing their passion and their knowledge. This is part of who they are and part of their legacy. Because when all is gone, it is the lives they touched through their creations that matter. 

This is not a fixed list, and I will add more Senior Developer Principles to it as I discover them.

This is also not the only way for you to get to Senior. But, they are great guidelines to keep you focused in the right direction. 

Apply them in your developer career and see how the level of everything you do will go up. 

I will see you in the next one, 

Dragos

🚨P.S. Are you looking to fast-track to the Senior Developer with quality resources, feedback, and accountability? Click here to join our Free Community - The Senior Dev Academy. 🚨

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