You’re not a Senior Front-end developer

I’ve always wanted to write a click bait title, I’m glad it worked!

Hello, I’m Sam, a Front-end Developer by day, a coffee loving sport fanatic by night.

As part of my New Years resolution to give back to Open Source, I wanted to start writing some blog posts on my musings. So I’ll keep these short as I write them on my daily commute from South to North London.

Anyways, back to the click bait. So this is something I’ve been thinking quite a lot about recently. As the team continues to grow at Quiqup, it’s been my responsibility to find suitable front-end candidates. Interviewing isn’t new to me, and I tend to go through a simple process to find The One.

“The One” — someone from The Matrix, I haven’t seen it in a long time, so I’m going to gamble and say Morpheus said it first.

However, there’s always one thing that confuses and sometimes angers me; it’s not recruiters and their astronomical fees (close second) or the insane fonts used in some CVs, but the candidates current job title. When I see “Senior Developer”, “Lead Developer”, or even the holy grail that is the synergy of the two “Lead Senior Developer”, I get excited, and 9/10 we don’t go on to hire them.

So why is that? What’s in a name? There’s 3 things that happened recently that’s contributed to me writing this post:

1. What’s my title?

Late last year Quiqup went through a rebranding process to produce a consistent look and feel, this included our job titles too. We all received an email from our CTO as an exercise to see what title we would give ourselves, which reflects what we do on a daily basis. Having contemplated multiple superheroes and replacing “man” with “Sam”, my first attempt was “Front-end Developer”, send… nope. Why? Because that didn’t give my position enough credit, we have a few junior/mid level developers too, how do we differentiate? I wish I gave it more thought at the time but reluctantly put “Senior Front-end Developer”. Send.

2. How do I become a senior developer?

Titles have never bothered me in my career, my aim is to be in an environment where I contribute, mentor and most importantly continue to learn and challenge myself. I do understand they are important to some, a badge or trophy to indicate they’re progressing in their career.

During a meeting with a Junior Developer, they wanted to discuss a path on how to become a Senior Developer, a totally acceptable question, and important for career growth. I had to pause for a moment and gather my thoughts, this is what I came up with:

  1. The technical parts (in reflection I might argue against some of these points now):
  • Self sufficient; be able to code with less input from seniors (this ones not entirely true, we always encourage pair programming and discussions/kick offs, this is more aimed at writing code)
  • Understand the impact your code makes on the project ecosystem
  • Understand the impact your code makes on the company, and feedback to project management when you identify risks or potential improvements
  • Mentor others and seek to improve processes

2. My philosophical take:

  • Don’t put pressure on yourself to climb the ladder, your colleagues should be aware of your business value and what you contribute. If this is overlooked, this isn’t your fault but the companies.
  • There is no “checklist” to becoming a senior, a company might issue you goals to achieve throughout the year, and assess you on the outcome, but reflection of how you’ve grown in the past year is a better indication you’re on the right path, in the right company.
  • Challenge your peers, having your own opinion and sharing that with a team is hugely beneficial, it shows that you understand a problem and capable of providing a solution, right or wrong it more often than not leads to better solutions, and the team learns and grows together.

3. “What do you think a Senior Front-end Developer is?”

This for me was the “ah ha” moment, during an interview the candidate asked me “what responsibilities would you expect of me”, I thought this was a good time to test the waters, so I turned the tables and asked them what they thought a Senior Developers role entails, low and behold we had two completely different opinions.

Conclusion

So what did I learn:

  1. The term “Front-end developer” covers a lot of disciplines, and its unreasonable to think people should be experienced in each area, particularly in the world of JavaScript where we have a high turnover of libraries and frameworks.
  2. “Senior” is contextual, its given to describe your position in your current hierarchy, your skill set is relative to your peers which may differ from company to company.
  3. Think about dropping “Junior”, “Mid” and “Senior” and attempt to create new titles which more accurately describe the strengths of what you’re primarily looking for, e.g. if you’re looking for someone who loves design, accessibility and self harming with Internet Explorer perhaps “Front-end Design Engineer”, or someone who enjoys architecting applications “Front-end Architect”, this will attract the right people in the first place, any other skills are a bonus or can be taught.
  4. This is the big one; take more time to personalise your job requirements and expectations. We like most tend to use cookie cutter listing descriptions, then throw the line out and hope for the right catch. Take the time to understand what your team needs, what your new hire will do day to day, and where they can help push your team forward, bullet point those answers and make them part of your listing.

We’re actively hiring at Quiqup, so check out our listings (they haven’t been updated yet to reflect this article) and get in touch, or drop me a line.

Oh and if you’re wondering, I went with “Front-end Wizard” in the end.

- Tutts -