Wayne Beaton is employed by The Eclipse Foundation where he works as an evangelist, spreading the word and helping folks adopt Eclipse technologies. Wayne has extensive experience in object-oriented software development and is a strong proponent of refactoring, unit testing, and agile development methodologies. He is also the editor-in-chief of Eclipse Corner, PMC Lead for the Technology Project, Project Lead for the Examples Project, and an advisor for osbootcamp. In 1982, he received the prestigious Chief Scouts Award from then-Governor General Edward Schreyer. In 1984 his team was selected to represent beautiful British Columbia in the Kinsmen Voyageur Relay. In his spare time, he writes down meaningless accomplishments from his youth in a lame attempt to impress the reader. Wayne is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 77 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Two Years of Experience Doesn’t make you “Senior”

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Two years of experience doesn’t make you “senior”. Except maybe in high school. I don’t mean this in a negative sort of way. I mean it in a trying-to-help-you-out sort of way.

I’ve worked for a relatively small number of companies in my twenty-plus years of professional life. Small by the software industry’s standards, anyway. I’ve been involved in the hiring process in every job I’ve had. In most cases, I’ve been involved in the full process: assembling the job description, pruning through cover letters and resumes, interviewing, and making recommendations to hire.

In my opinion, pruning through cover letters and resumes is the hardest part. There have been times when I’ve literally received more than a thousand applications for a single job posting. In general, the first step is prune that list down to a manageable number (say a dozen or so) of people that you can talk to on the phone. From that list, you hope to narrow it down to a short list (e.g. four or five) of people that you can bring in for a face-to-face interview. You can’t really get to know somebody from a resume and cover letter; they’re used by an employer to sort out who they want to get to know. Winnowing a thousand applications into a dozen or so requires some tricks.

I tend to look for two things in an applicant: do they have the skills, and do they pay attention to detail. I don’t care if a resume is printed on cobalt blue paper. I don’t care if it uses a fancy font (though I do care if the selected font makes it difficult to read). I don’t care if it’s presented in some neat-o origami. I don’t care if you won an Olympic gold medal. Actually, I do care about the Olympic gold medal: that’s pretty cool, but it’s still not enough to get you to the next round.

The cover letter and resume must highlight relevant skills. I expect that an application for a job lists at least most of the skills required to do that job.

The cover letter and resume should be grammatically correct and all words should be spelled correctly. I can read in both correct and American English. Pick one.

On the topic of detail, let me return to the title of this post: Two Years of Experience Doesn’t make you “Senior”. Do not tell me that you graduated from college or university two years ago and have been working as a “senior” anything in the field. With two years of experience and a little luck, you may wind up as a “lead” developer; but you’re not senior. You need a few more years of real industry experience before you can call yourself senior.

If you’re a young person just starting out in this business, I give you this advice: don’t oversell yourself, represent yourself honestly, pay attention to the details, and do a little research on the companies you’re applying to. The software industry values potential.

Published at DZone with permission of Wayne Beaton, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Mark Unknown replied on Fri, 2012/06/29 - 8:44am

20 years doesn't make you "Senior" either.

Mario León replied on Fri, 2012/06/29 - 12:07pm

Seniority is overrated.

I have been in the software development industry for around 12 years, and I do not consider myself a senior yet, I mean, not a SE senior.

As a maximum, may be I can call my self senior regarding some specific tools and frameworks, but in my opinion, I prefer the word "seasoned", years of working experience may get you seasoned about some stuff, even, you may become a reference person within a company/organization regarding some limited set of skill/tools.

But "senior", well, in my opinion, apart from time, you need diversity, you cannot call yourself senior unless you have heavily worked with (lets say a magic number) 5 different, non-related technologies (and I'm not talking about JSF, Struts and Wicket, those are just different flavors of the same technology).

Have you worked, long enough to master, in a variety of languages with different paradigms? let's say, some python/perl, PHP, .NET, Java, erlang, etc....? have you already tried different data sources approaches (SQL, NO-SQL)?, been involved in the whole SDLC? managed groups of people? created your own app/framework (even if it was just for trying out new things)? do you manage concepts about planning/management? Are you fine either with agile/non-agile methodologies? all this combined with at least 5 to 7 year of doing most of the things I'm saying (not just 5 or 7 years in Java or an specific technology) .

Well, in my opinion, that would make you a senior, and I know very few of them, even when I have been considered senior (just for the sake of hierarchy/organizational/economical benefits, not because I consider myself one).


Anyway, my two cents, thoughts?

sd giant replied on Fri, 2012/06/29 - 3:55pm

Senior is a common industry term.  It's attached to a title by companies as recognition of effort or skill, usual with a raise.  Also, if the individual is contracting or consulting, common in our industry, the title is generally connected to a higher rate at which the individual is hired out.

While I understand your take in terms of hiring, consider this:  If someone has been working at a position with the title "Senior", another party considers them to be worthy of the moniker.  If they are a contractor or consultant, yet another company has agreed to pay a higher rate to obtain their services.

You may not agree with the other companies usage of the title, but they chose to bestow it on the individual. Perhaps the usage of the title was abitrary, or doesn't fit your own standards.  Perhaps it was earned.  It's not impossible... I worked with an 18 year old kid who blew past every developer at the company within 2 years by sheer merit.  It happens.

Either way, by discarding them during your hiring process, you make assumptions.  That is your choice, but I'll just throw out there that someone in their past disagrees with your assessment.  Proceed as you will.

Stephane Vaucher replied on Fri, 2012/06/29 - 9:02pm

Senior or not, the important thing is can you get the job done. Having more years experience indicates that you've been exposed to multiple situations where you had to get things done. You might have learned from past failures or not, one does not necessarily lead to the other.

I personally don't care much for titles, but I work in a very specialized field where (non-specialized) years of experience tend to be uncorrelated to skill-level.

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