Here's an idea that can take the pressure off your career: Yes, you can stay a senior software engineer forever. But how?
Fellow reader Sharvari sends this question in response to What I learned from Staff Engineer by Will Larson:
I'd love to know what you've seen in the industry as far as senior engineers who STAY senior engineers. Are they usually forced to hop between companies to keep the same title for longer? Or are companies generally fine with them staying at the senior level forever?
They were feeling stressed about having to move up and loved the callout that Staying senior forever is the norm.
Fear not my friend, Senior Engineer is a terminal title. The equivalent to full doctor for software engineers. You can be counted upon to do good work, drive projects, make decisions, raise flags early, and get shit done.
Here's a good thread on how that works from Charity Majors.
A few more notes on levels, while we're at it. (maybe we should publish the honeycomb levels doc 🤔 it's adapted from facebook's, which descends from google's)— Charity Majors (@mipsytipsy) September 8, 2020
* Each level after senior (e5) gets ~an order of magnitude harder to achieve, and ~an order of magnitude fewer hold it.
* e5 is considered a "terminal level". less terrifying than it sounds; just means you do not *have* to advance beyond senior engineer— Charity Majors (@mipsytipsy) September 8, 2020
* whereas if you do not advance from e3->e4 within 2 years, and e4->e5 within 3 years, you are automatically put on a PiP (FB rule, not HC rule)
Senior can be a nice and cozy place in your career.
You get to solve interesting problems, write code, feel a constant sense of progress, have clear priorities, and force multiply your team when opportunity strikes. Fantastic.
Going beyond senior can be a confusing mess by comparison: You have to deal with planning, finding the right thing to work on, and coding stops being your most valuable contribution.
Companies don't expect you to advance beyond senior. They'll appreciate if you show a senior mindset, have ownership, and bring value beyond the code. The more you do, the more freedom you'll get.
But you might get bored [name|]. That's what I've noticed in myself and wrote about in How to grow as a senior engineer.
That's where the job hopping comes from. Looking for bigger better opportunities and more interesting problems to solve.
Yeah, you can stay senior at company A forever. But company B has brand new challenges, faster growth, and 10x more users. And they pay more because they make more 🤩
That's how you grow your career by staying senior – bigger better challenges for more money. You can only build the same checkout form so many times.
PS: the Senior Engineer Mindset book is 40% off this long weekend
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Have a burning question that you think I can answer? Hit me up on twitter and I'll do my best.
Who am I and who do I help? I'm Swizec Teller and I turn coders into engineers with "Raw and honest from the heart!" writing. No bullshit. Real insights into the career and skills of a modern software engineer.
Want to become a true senior engineer? Take ownership, have autonomy, and be a force multiplier on your team. The Senior Engineer Mindset ebook can help 👉 swizec.com/senior-mindset. These are the shifts in mindset that unlocked my career.
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