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How to Become a Senior Software Engineer

March 21, 2019 No Comments

Featured article by Calvin Paige, Independent Technology Author

If you’re a software engineer developer, coder or programmer with some years of experience behind you and you’re trying to take your career to the next level, you can’t sit around and wait for someone to present you with an opportunity. Software development and engineering is a competitive and fast-moving industry and to be seen as ‘senior,’ you need to put in the effort to stand out from the crowd. There is a huge amount to learn in the field of computer science and programming, and it’s impossible to know everything all the time, but there are key areas you can focus on to ensure your skills stay sharp and you develop the soft skills needed to progress in your career.

What is a Senior Software Engineer?

A senior software engineer is not defined by the number of programming languages they are familiar with or the depth of their technical knowledge in a specific area. A senior engineer is not only technically advanced but also has the ability to lead and motivate others, to adapt their skills, to communicate a strategic vision and to bring real tangible value to a business. A senior software engineer can offer unique value to a company and work on their own initiative.

How to Become a Senior Software Engineer

It’s not enough to focus all your learning and expertise in one area. Technology is continually changing, and you need to be able to adapt and grow continuously across a range of transferable skills. There are seven key skill areas you need to develop in order to be viewed (and paid) as a senior software engineer.

1. Technical Skills

It should go without saying, but technical knowledge is a must. It doesn’t mean you need to be an expert in everything, but you should be able to identify and analyze each technology and systems for its advantages and disadvantages. With this kind of knowledge, you can select the best tools to solve a specific problem or to aid in a project. A senior engineer can look at a system, ask how it could be improved and what technologies could be combined to produce the best solution.

Ideally, you will already have a computer science degree as you will need to be familiar with algorithms, applied statistics, and other computer science topics. This is because even though technologies change, the fundamental principles of computer science are mostly constant. Even if you do have a degree in computer science, you may want to further your technical knowledge with an applied statistics Masters degree or data science qualification.

2. Teamwork Skills

In addition to your technical skills, you need to be able to work with others successfully. The best senior engineers are able to communicate effectively and maintain a positive atmosphere in their team. Can you encourage and support others to achieve their best? Are you confident enough in your abilities that you don’t need to show off or chase the limelight, but humble enough to admit when you don’t know everything? You should make the lives of colleagues, managers, and directors easier through your presence in the company.

3. UX (User Experience) Skills

UX or user experience is a crucial skill for software developers to master so they can put themselves in the user or client’s position and understand the problems they are facing. If you can listen and understand their needs, you can offer advice on how to reach a solution. There’s a key balance between getting the best resolution to a problem while not forcing opinions on the client. You’ll also need to be able to translate complicated programming into language and concepts which are easy for the average person to understand.

4. Continued Learning

Senior engineers and developers realize that their learning is never finished and will continuously ask questions and try to gain new skills. It’s not possible to learn everything, but you should be able to select the topics and technologies which are the most important. It’s crucial to acknowledge the industry’s past technologies and programs as the building blocks on which their career is built, even if they’ve since been superseded by more advanced technology.

5. Excellent Communication Skills

You can have all the skills mentioned here, but if you aren’t able to sell yourself to managers or prospective employers, you may never get the chance to prove yourself. Your employer needs to be confident in your abilities and see the value you can add to the business. You need to believe in yourself and put yourself forward for promotions and opportunities. If you aren’t sure of yourself, how does your employer know that you will be able to handle difficult problems or perform under pressure? There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, but when it comes to getting a promotion or a senior role it certainly pays to be bold.

6. Community

Software developers and engineers have built a bustling online community, and senior members are regular contributors. This could be by running webinars, writing articles or speaking at industry events, but they will add to the community in some way. By getting out in the industry and meeting other experts in the field, you can broaden your knowledge and share expertise.

7. Self-motivation

The best software engineers and developers genuinely enjoy their work. They thrive on challenges and problem solving and get real satisfaction from finding the best possible solution for both users and the client or company. They want to enable others to progress, and they are always trying to learn more so they can help them to do so. If you don’t have this inner motivation, you won’t be able to sustain the continued learning and development needed to stay relevant in the constantly changing world of technology. However, if you want to make a tangible difference to a company and have the technical expertise and the right personal qualities, it could be the time to take a leap in your career.



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