How to Become a Senior Software Developer


We all have a vision of where we want our careers to go. What you might want your career to look like will vary from individual to individual. If you have already learned what it takes to be a successful software developer and have been in the field for a long time, the next logical step is becoming a senior software developer. In this article, we will go through what it means to be a software developer, the desired qualities of software developers, and how you can become one.

Who Is a Senior Software Developer?

Typically, software developers go from being junior developers to middle developers and then become senior developers. Usually, senior software developers have a lot of experience working on different types of projects and have several years of software development experience. However, the seniority levels in software development vary between companies and even between regions.

While superior skills and lots of experience are prerequisites to becoming a senior software developer, you need other qualities before you can be considered a senior software developer. These include a good understanding of the business side of things, an ability to mentor and teach junior and middle developers, and stellar soft skills.

All of these things combine to make senior developers adept at understanding and managing full software development cycles, ensuring those below them perform to expected levels, and communicating with stakeholders and other developers clearly and efficiently.

Senior software developers are also judged on the value they bring to a business or organisation. Senior software developer is not just a fancy title for experienced and highly-skilled developers but rather people who use their skills and experiences to bring immense value to the businesses and organisations they work for.

Becoming a Senior Software Developer: The Basics

Software developers take charge of whole software development cycles and, for this, they have to understand how the whole process works. They have to understand the IT environment they will be working in, who they will be working with, algorithms and data structures and all other elements that help transform business ideas and requirements into viable software products.

The common academic background for software developers is a degree in computer science. If you follow this traditional path, then advancing your skills and knowledge by completing a master’s degree should also be in your sights. A university like Wilfrid Laurier University has a masters in computer science program tailored for those who want to gain the skills required to climb to the highest echelons of computer science.

If you want to take a non-traditional path, you can get into software development without a traditional degree. While this can save you money, it is not always the best option as there is always the chance of having knowledge and skill gaps once you are done with the learning process. You also have to earn additional certifications to gain the skills required for senior software development.

Just remember that no matter the path you take, you need an in-depth understanding of how the world of computers works.

Continuous Learning and Having a Career Path

Continuous learning is required for any job but it is especially important in technology jobs where things change all the time. It is crucial that software developers, no matter their level, continue learning. Senior software developers, especially, have to understand how important continuous learning is and why they should be up-to-date on the most important changes in computer science and software development. They must understand not only the why, but also the how of these changes. Depending on the type of projects they work on as well as personal interests, senior software developers must also be able to explore various topics deeper than most people would.

Learning is difficult and is something developers must learn. However, continuous learning is highly rewarding as it makes a developer’s job easier and opens up new opportunities for growth. Learning can take various forms including taking online courses, attending an online university, podcasts and videos, attending workshops and conferences, and many others.

Most senior developers also understand that they need to further their skills in other areas outside programming. These can include process and workflow streamlining, working methodologies, and productivity improvements.

Becoming an Expert

Many senior developers are in the positions they are because the companies and organisations they work for have identified them to be outstanding developers. It takes gradual improvement and a lot of work to stand out. Senior developers know how to work better and faster, producing fewer bugs and ensuring they take advantage of the smartest ways to complete the tasks assigned to them.

Being a Team Player

Senior software developers are required to collaborate with other people in their team or in other teams. In their capacity, they also have to fully or partially manage other developers as well as all projects they are handling. Emotional intelligence, social and communication skills come in handy here.

Software developers are problem solvers who are expected to also be encouraging, empathetic, and cooperative. Having all these qualities helps them facilitate problem-solving and coming up with creative solutions to software development problems and challenges.

Understanding Business Logic

Many software developers only want to write code and produce the best software products they can. However, senior software developers have to communicate with clients, business stakeholders, or even business partners. To ensure productive communication, they must understand the business as well as its goals and objectives. This is the only way they can ensure they and their team produce the right products that fit with what the company needs.

Such soft skills are often neglected but they are very important for senior software developers who have to interact with, connect and share with business people or senior management. As senior software developers progress into their careers, their roles shift to trying to balance the business and technical aspects of their jobs.

Senior software development career paths vary a lot, but there are various similarities between all paths no matter the path you take. Although the steps outlined above are for those looking to get into senior positions, they also work great for those who want to advance their tech careers.