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What to know to become a senior developer

Friday, November 24th, 2017 by Servage

developer-codeA senior developer is a higher position granted to experienced developers. Developers start as juniors when they join their first company and are eventually promoted to senior developers. What makes a developer a senior, what skills are required to become one and what are some common characteristics that differentiate a senior from juniors?

Skills to Master

Let’s start with something concrete that you as a developer can learn. Before qualifying as a senior developer, one of the things you should master is the art of debugging. Debugging gives you the ability to inspect your code at runtime. When you receive a bug report and have some kind of idea where the bug appears, you can use a debugger to quickly find out what causes the bug.

Debugging can also be used while developing new features. When you are working on something new and it’s not working as intended, your debugger can tell you that a wrong value stored in a variable is causing your code to execute a wrong switch case, leading to undesired results.

Another important aspect to know as a senior developer is testing and writing test cases. Software testing is a massive topic and you don’t have to master all of the areas, such as unit, functional, acceptance and smoke testing. However, you should know what type of tests are the most helpful in your situation and how to write such tests and execute them automatically. For instance, before shipping a new product version, you might want to execute a couple of smoke tests to verify that there are no critical bugs in the release version.

Both debugging and testing help you write more reliable and bug-free code, which is something you want to do as a senior. Next, let’s approach the requirements of a senior from a different perspective.

Characteristics to Have

In addition to coding skills, there are things seniors tend to do regularly: help and encourage younger, less experienced developers. In many companies, new employees are assigned a mentor who is usually a senior developer. Their task is to help new developers when they get stuck, give them feedback on their work and tell how they can improve in what they are doing. This can be done in a form of code reviews, weekly meetings or other irregular meetups.

A second characteristic is communicating with your colleagues and keeping yourself up-to-date. Technologies and best practices are always changing, and keeping up with everything can be challenging even for experienced developers. To avoid having to constantly research something new alone, senior developers tend to research a new topic and discuss it with other seniors, and why not juniors too. This can be done in a form of a presentation every Friday or as an informal conversation whenever your schedule allows. Doing so is simple: research a new trending topic, such as a framework and tell your colleagues about it. If you and the others like it, you can even try to make it part of your technology stack. It is just as important to keep up your knowledge as it was to learn new things to become a senior developer.

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Categories: Tips & Tricks


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