What are the possible career paths if you’re a senior software developer?
When searching for a senior developer, every company is looking for something different. What we can all agree to is that a senior developer is a person who’s worked on many projects, has solved many problems, and has the experience to solve complex challenges.
Unlike juniors who’ll most likely wander before solving the problem.
If you’ve recognized yourself in this description, you’ve probably come a long way into your career and have started thinking about what’s next. You’ve been advancing pretty fast, constantly learning new technologies, teaching younger colleagues, getting promotions, and you’ve started understanding the “customer side” of the projects. But, there has to be something more than this. You probably can’t imagine yourself still typing code in 20 years.
There’s a pattern in many Tech companies that successful senior programmers when reaching a certain stage in their careers, go to the business side of the company. Junior programmers usually start as part of the team, and as they learn more, they get more important tasks, eventually becoming team leads. Here, they start communicating with clients and become aware of how this business side looks like. It seems like this is just a pre-phase of going business, where coding won’t be your main task anymore.
However, this doesn’t always have to be the case. Not everyone wants to be a manager. In fact, it’s pretty different than being a software developer.
So, what are the options?
Go freelance and enjoy the comfort of your home
We all know what being a freelancer means. If you’re tired of constantly being in the office and you want to take control over your own time, maybe this is the option for you.
Taking a few years to enjoy the comfort of your home has many pros and cons. Some developers believe that this way you lose the practice of working in a team and it’s hard to get back on track after a while. We, on the other hand, believe that it could be good for your mental health, especially if you’re coping with a lot of stress at work. Who knows, maybe you’ll like it better than working in an office?
Start up a company
This is a career path where you’ll need your understanding of business quite a lot. During your many years in software development, you must have had tons of ideas about new apps or software. Now, with all the experience you’ve gained, it might be time to make them real.
If you choose this direction, the crucial thing you need to understand that you’ll have to continue learning. A LOT. Even more than before. Even though you won’t be doing all these things all the time, you’ll still have to know some marketing, accounting, law, or other programming languages that weren’t your specialty. Eventually, if your startup grows, you’ll have people doing this for you. But in the beginning, you’ll have to manage to do everything with a small team.
When you’re a programmer, you’re focused on details and you rarely see the big picture. Your work is just a part of the final product and you’re mostly in the back of happenings.
Going business means understanding the big picture. This will be nothing like what you did before, and it might be even harder because you’ll be new at it. Now you’ll get to see how hard it is to organize all the employees, pay their salaries, calculate costs, keep the revenue going, etc. The most important thing you’ll learn is to join the work of both technical and non-technical teams and create a final product of it. In the end, you’re all on the same team — your client’s.
This might seem very hard for people who used to spend all of their working hours of coding, but it can also bring great benefits. These professionals are usually very rare, and that’s why they’re very valuable. A person who knows the technical part of a project and has the ability to lead it, understands clients, and communicates with them at the same time, is a real jewel for any company.
The nature of business jobs is totally different than being a developer. As part of the business team, you’ll have communication with clients as your main task, making sure everything goes smooth. You might not even get to code anymore. If that’s not your thing, it’s okay. If you can imagine yourself coding after 20 years, you can still remain a developer. A kick-ass senior ninja, solving sh*t others can’t.
(Please note that the description of these positions differs from company to company.)
This is the person who makes the technical decisions within the company, like platforms, tools, and coding standards. You can become a software architect after making sure you’re highly-skilled in solving complex problems and have experience across many aspects of software developing. Most software architects have come to this position with over ten years of experience in software developing.
This role will also require mentoring younger colleagues and staying up-to-date with the newest advancements in the industry. Moreover, you also need to have some business understanding, since your decisions will directly affect customer satisfaction.
The road taking to software architecture doesn’t really lead to full-time code writing. However, you should always have some coding time so you don’t get rusty.
This person communicates with non-technical teams and translates their requirements to a technical language. Usually, they cooperate a lot with the marketing and sales teams of the company, who collect customer data. Their job is to delegate tasks and evaluate developers.
This person is part of the senior management team of the company and is also responsible for making business decisions. We could say this position is more business than technical since the CTO doesn’t spend a lot of time typing code. In smaller companies, this position is the same as lead developer.
Senior project manager.
Not too many companies have this position. This person is the leader of project managers, making sure their budgets, plans, resources, and timelines are on track. Some companies refer to it as a technical project manager — the person who helps other project managers with the technical parts of their projects. Senior project managers also don’t spend much time typing code. Their role is to supervise other project managers.
Bonus: No matter what you choose, one career path you should definitely follow is helping the community. Many developers love reserving a lot of their free time to contribute to the open-source community, teach programming courses, etc.
Organizing hackathons, lectures, seminars, or simply dedicating some time to your younger colleagues can make a significant difference in their career paths. Remember when you started? How much did you want to have a good mentor that could show you how things really work? Be the mentor you wanted to have.
No matter what you want to do, as a senior software developer, you don’t have to stagnate in your career. There will be a lot of new technologies to learn and a lot of new milestones to conquer.
Laika is the first platform where Tech professionals can get job offers from Tech companies in Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Croatia, staying anonymous until they get an offer they like. Sign up, start exploring.