You’re not a lead developer

There has been quite an interesting discussion blossomed from a recent article about the Senior Developer role and what it really means. I basically agree with everything Mark says, but I’d like to go even a bit further down the road of defining what is what in the software industry. At least, for the part I am familiar with.

First of all I think that a really important distinction needs to be made between what you are and what you do. In this industry, it’s very easy to change what you do (I gave up counting), while — as also a matter of personal and professional achievement– it should not be easy to change what you are. If you work as a lead developer (that’s your role), then this is what you do: you lead the developers of your team on the foundations of your deep experience on technologies and implementations. You know what works and what very probably won’t. You know where to invest more time and when and where time is getting wasted.

But teams change, teams often are cross-functional or simply dismantled, and so can change what you do. Today you lead, tomorrow you’ll follow. Don’t get too attached to your role, because it can change often.

What’s the constant then, what is that you need to preserve, fight for or try to improve as much as possible? It’s your job qualification or, if you wish, your seniority level. You cannot lead if you’re not senior and — I dare to say– vice-versa. Besides the soft skills a leadership role should have (and you might not have), if you’re a senior developer you should be able to have strong opinions based on facts, because you tried that thing, and it does work! (Or not).

I think I share the same point of view with Matt, when he says:

If you do not have at least one senior developer in a leadership role on your team, your project is doomed to fail.

Another point I’d like to make clear is how much I don’t like adding a specificity to the qualification; I really believe that it’s pointless. You’re a Senior Developer, not a Senior JavaScript Developer. If you want to build a house, you don’t want to hire a series of Senior Hammer Carpenters and Senior Nail Carpenters that will work together to finish the job. If you only know how to handle a hammer (as your role is bafflingly stating), no matter how much good you are, you are not “Senior” to me. Sorry.

Languages are tools, and so are hammers and nails. You want a senior specialist who’s able to hire the best people and lead them to build the best possible website/house you can have.

Is it possible — you ask– to have more than one seniority level on certain areas of expertise? Yes, of course, but at that point you’ll have an hard time finding a job and putting yourself on the market. It’s still not a good way to define what you are.

We all love simplicity and we all love to know what we are or what we want to become, aren’t we? How simple and positive is to be able to say “I am a senior developer, who can lead”? No further question asked.

You can follow me on Twitter (@caludio).

Written on June 10, 2015 by Claudio Cicali.

Originally published on Medium