Moving from a junior to a senior position in tech requires more than just technical skills. It’s about understanding how to make meaningful contributions to your team and company. Based on my experiences and insights from the book “Junior to Senior” here’s a straightforward, yet opinionated guide to help you on this path.

Adding Value as an Engineer

To become a senior developer, focus on areas where you can add the most value:

  • Minimize Distractions: Create a focused work environment for yourself to thrive.
  • One Task at a Time: Tackle tasks individually for better focus on quality and efficiency.
  • Use a To-Do List: Keep track of your tasks and priorities.
  • Plan Before Implementing: Planning helps avoid rework and ensures smoother execution.
  • Seek Clarifications: Asking questions early on helps understand requirements better. It’s so important that it deserves its own section 👇

Ask for Clarifications

Asking pointed questions like, “Should the name field be split to capture first and last names separately?” or “How should we handle email validation?” can uncover nuances in requirements that may otherwise be overlooked. Diving deep into the requirements by asking the right questions can illuminate paths that lead to innovative solutions. Consider the following aspects:

  • Inputs and Outputs: What does the system take in, and what should it spit out?
  • Error Handling: How should the system gracefully handle unexpected inputs or situations?
  • Business Logic: What are the rules that govern the system’s operation?
  • Mental Models: Mental Models: Build a clear mental model of how the system works. No model is perfect, some are useful. Understand where it breaks. Make it stronger.

Asking for Help

Seeking help is about getting guidance. When you ask, explain what you’ve tried and your thought process. This approach respects your colleagues’ time and fosters teamwork. It’s also a great way to learn from others and build relationships.

Processes: The Backbone of Efficiency

Senior engineers know that well-defined processes are the scaffolding on which efficient teams are built. Whether it’s improving onboarding experiences, enhancing local setup and deployment procedures, or refining user story acceptance criteria, your contributions can significantly impact your team’s productivity and morale. Here’s how you can be proactive:

  • Automate Routine Tasks: Identify tasks that can be automated and work on scripts or tools to streamline them. Maybe support constantly asks for the same routine slug change, because there’s no field in the CMS. Create a task for it. Build it if it takes you less than a day.
  • Engage with the process in place: prepare for team meetings to be able to contribute to discussions effectively.
  • Raise Concerns: If you experience or notice inefficiencies or bottlenecks, speak up even if you don’t have a solution. Your observations can spark discussions that lead to improvements.

Write Things Down

A note-taking system can transform fleeting ideas into deep knowledge. Whether it’s an ideal world solution discussed in a meeting or an interesting bug fix, documenting these moments can enrich your understanding and serve as a valuable reference down the line.

Documentation: Your Legacy in the Making

Documentation is not just about keeping records; it’s about building a knowledge base that empowers your team and future hires. From detailing the rationale behind decisions to updating onboarding guides, your efforts in documentation ensure that valuable insights and know-how are preserved and accessible.

Effective Communication with Your Manager

Asking the right questions can significantly enhance your growth. Show your thought process and what you’ve tried, rather than just presenting problems. This approach demonstrates initiative and makes it easier for your manager to provide useful guidance.

A Blueprint for Growth

Becoming a senior engineer is about deliberate efforts, planning, and reflection. Look for ways to contribute beyond your immediate tasks, set clear goals, and regularly reflect on your progress and areas for improvement. This mindset will not only enhance your technical skills but also your ability to make a significant impact within your team and company.

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