How did you get to “senior” status in your job?

I talk to many junior level developers and junior level people who are just out of school. It is literally driving me nuts not being able to help them out. These are smart and seemingly motivated people, seeing as how they are applying for jobs or finding me and asking me about jobs – which is more than I can say about some of your senior level people…

I have been thinking about this for a while and talking to people who want to help solve the problem. I even proposed an idea that could help. Frankly, I don’t care if you take this idea and make it your own. Just get out there and do something! I also just today found out about InternMatch, which looks very promising for getting started (it is NOT your full solution… keep reading)

My background

I graduated college with a CS and an IT degree, thinking that would help me get a job. Two degrees man! Yeah, not so much. These were great to have on a piece of paper, but they were not the differentiator on any jobs that I have had.

What did make the difference? I managed to talk my way into a job while I was a Sophomore. I worked at a local startup who had a big web system and needed smaller sites built frequently. It was a great learning experience because I was able to take on any projects that I wanted and eventually redesigned their main system. Some time after I left, they made it on the Inc., 500 list of fastest growing companies when they topped out at $10MM per year. This job got me to graduation, which was great. However, it didn’t work out for me to continue working there. So, I went looking for something new.

I ended up finding work at a contract dev shop as a mid level developer.  This job helped me to learn more about my skills, because we were delivering web properties to clients and it had to be PERFECT. Every. Single. Time.  I got my ass kicked, which is what I needed. I came from the worlds of academia (theory) and startup (get it done yesterday). I learned about front-end-pixel-perfection because I worked 30ft from our designer and I learned more about business logic and optimization because my boss was a developer who demanded that every time you worked on something, that it was better than last time. We didn’t ship unless it worked and the guys above me had approved it. We also had weekly meetings that allowed me to learn about what the other projects were doing, give thoughts, get shot down, and learn about why. It was great, because there was feedback. (even though sometimes it was a little rough, but always with a smile).

All along the way, I would build things in my spare time. I thought I was building “businesses” but what I realize now about what I was doing was that I was learning my craft. I was trying to do things that I envisioned in my head and that were well outside what I thought were my abilities. I built databases that were way too big with queries that took too long, so I learned about optimizing and indexing (better than I did in school). I had to figure out how to compare lists of 100’s of thousands of people together and implement an algorithm from code that I didn’t write. That taught me how to use someone else’s code, notes, and instructions as well as think outside the box. Then I read the code so I could figure out what it did and how.

This was my start. Learning. Doing.

If you are being told you are too Junior, then it is a problem that YOU have to solve for yourself. Get your fingers dancing on your keyboard and figure this out. I did it and I was anxious and depressed half the time I was doing it – long story, involved meds, but I still practiced, made mistakes, and I learned.  I also earned some awesome jobs as a result.

If I hear a Junior person complain or groan about not being able to get a job, I am going to send them to this article or tell this story or just say, “This is a problem that you have to solve, because no one else will do it for you”.

Go and do it. Right now.


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