Becoming Senior: how to get from where you are to better

It takes time, you may or may not get there depending on all sorts of things. Build lots of projects and stuff.


Thanks for coming!

So who the heck am I?

and who the heck are you?

13 Junior devs
24 Senior Devs*

* 1 Wise Guy

If you were transported back to the 1800s what would you be instead of a developer?

Dead: 4
maker: 7
Hard Science: 4
A cowboy, Duh: 2


Dead: 0
maker: 4*
Hard Science: 6


* 1 Time Traveler turned textile maker

Now to the real question

What is the difference between a Senior Dev and a Junior Dev in your mind?

50% junior devs mentioned Experience.

30% of Senior devs did too

50% junior devs said knowledge.

26% of Senior devs did too

25% junior devs talked about mentoring.

21 % of Senior devs did too

For a junior dev, the work is done as soon as "it works." For a senior dev, the work continues until it works, it is tested, and it is documented.

The junior devs think about themselves and how they can make themselves more successful. Senior devs think about how to make other developers more successful through the work they do.

—Steven Foote

Senior can tie, untie, design complicated knots and calculate consequences vs junior less complicated knots and less ability to calculate consequences

—Shawn Meredith

Junior devs need hand-holding or oversight to accomplish their own tasks. They love the new shiny. Senior devs are interested in new things but are aware that there is no silver bullet, and that the benefit of a shiny new platform/tool/tech comes with a cost which is sometimes not worth paying.

—Jamison Dance

1) Experience
2) Knowledge

4) Level of Craft


Senior: 8 yrs
Junior: 3.4 yrs

years paid

Senior: 5
Junior: 3.8

Senior: 5.7
Junior: 4.7

familiar with

written apps in

Build things. Build lots of things. Ask questions. Break stuff. Read other peoples experiences.


As My woodworking horizons slowly expanded, I designed each new project around whatever technique I wanted to learn next. My goal was to become a proficient craftsmen; design was a secondary consideration.


—Peter Korn


Without using the googles... what is a linked list?

Senior: 70%
Junior: 77%


Also without the googles... what is a set?

Senior: 78%
Junior: 62%

That was close.

what about education though?

Junior: 77%
Senior: 66%

Junior: 77%
Senior: 38%

Computer Related

1 junior respondent had a sociology degree. BUt they were pursuing a CS degree currently.

13% of senior engineers with computer related degrees had graduate degrees

some thoughts as someone without a CS degree

This looks like a sea change.

When the point of education becomes the production of credentials rather than the cultivation of knowledge, it forfeits the motive recognized by Aristotle: "All human beings by nature desire to know."

— Matthew B. Crawford

education is not about getting a degree. it is about gaining knowledge. A degree is one tool for getting their, but not the only tool.

If you are in school... stay there.

No matter what you need a plan.

As My woodworking horizons slowly expanded, I designed each new project around whatever technique I wanted to learn next. My goal was to become a proficient craftsmen; design was a secondary consideration.


—Peter Korn

Specializing isn't enough, You need broad experience.

mentoring & leadership

A junior dev needs more hands on guidance when given a problem, such as walking through the program and find out where to put the fix in and such. ...

—Julia Gao

The focus of a Senior Dev is to make others better, the focus of a junior dev is to make themselves better.

—James Black

Surround yourself with people better and smarter then you. Ask them for feedback and help.

level of craft

progression of an engineer

1) It works
2) it is well tested
3) It is elegant

Job's father had once taught him that a drive for perfection meant caring about the craftsmanship even of the parts unseen. Jobs applied that to the layout of the circuit board inside the Apple II. He rejected the initial design because the lines were not straight enough.

–Walter Isaacson

Hold yourself to high standards. Even on small projects. It tunes your senses to quality craftsmanship.

Therefore what?

Be intentional in your career

Learn constantly

Specializing isn't enough.

Demand excellence of yourself

Surround yourself with people who make you push you

SChool. Stay there, or be intentional in your study.

fearlessly and ruthlessly eliminate ego.

Huge thanks to everyone who took the survey! Quotes and thoughts came from them, with their permission, as well as:

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work by Matthew Crawford

Why We Make Things and Why it Matters: The Education of a Craftsman by Peter Korn

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcom Gladwell

Daniel Sellers


Becoming a craftsperson

By Daniel Sellers

Becoming a craftsperson

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