7 Key Steps to Becoming a Senior Software Developer

Becoming a senior software developer is easier than it seems, but many people struggle with the transition. This applies particularly to those who have been working in junior-level positions for years. Many of these people feel that they are ready to take on more responsibility but don’t have a clue on how to proceed or who they should talk to for guidance.

How do you make that leap from a junior developer to a senior software engineer? And what primary skills and experience do you need to be considered a senior developer? We’ve put together five steps to get from one level to the next. Whether you’re an experienced programmer or trying to find a course of direction, these five steps will help guide your path towards success in the industry.

Who is a Senior Developer?

To begin with, what’s your understanding of a senior software developer? Is it someone who can code in 10 different languages for hours? Do you need to have built a life-changing software to become one? A senior developer isn’t any of those, but it’s someone who incrementally brings lots of perks to the table.

A senior developer is a programmer who others can look up to, has a long-term vision, consistently produces business value, and delivers objectives. It’s not just about knowing all the cool programming languages and techniques. You need to communicate well and have a clear focus on producing results to meet customers’ expectations. 

In short, what rates you as a senior developer is your experience, leadership, mentorship, and technical capabilities.

Steps To Becoming a Senior Developer

Now that you’ve got it if you didn’t, how do you get there? How do you progressively grow to become the programmer others look upon for guidance and achieving objectives?

0.     Choose a path, excel in it!

Most programmers probably know two or three software development specialties and are probably wondering how many more they need to know to attain the rank of a senior developer. As mentioned earlier, becoming a senior developer isn’t about knowing it all. Choose one specialty, be it web development, DevOps, mobile apps, or whichever direction you’re interested in.

Next, pick a programming stack that will go with your specialty. If you want to venture into web development, you need to choose from stacks such as Django (Python), MEAN (JavaScript), Spring (Java), Ruby on Rails, among others.

If your preference is on mobile apps, the most common stacks you’ll have to consider is either iOS or Android. For those who want to specialize in building desktop apps for Windows, you have many options to consider, from Visual Basic, C#, Java, C++, and others.

After choosing a path, stick to it, perfect it! But that doesn’t mean you should disregard anything else you’re not dealing with. A good developer knows their industry; even if it’s something they don’t specialize in, at least they have an idea about it.


1.     Build the foundations

The foundation in your area of specialty is about knowing the best practices. In programming, the difference comes in the syntax of a language, but the principles are always the same. You can read books that guide programmers into becoming a better version of themselves, such as The Pragmatic Programmer.

2.     Develop a mastery of programming language and frameworks

Any developer understands that programming may require using many different languages depending on their technical stacks. However, the main coding will be happening in one language. For instance, if you go with NodeJS or AngularJS, you’ll be coding in JavaScript. Coding in Ruby on Rails mainly uses Ruby. For iOS developers, you’ll need to master Swift, while Android can either use Java or Kotlin. 

3.     Build your Version Control habits

Version control is the most critical aspect of coding. It allows you to move back and forth without losing your code. When choosing a code editor or an IDE, make sure you consider how it implements version control.

One of the most used version controllers is Git. Build your understanding of it and master the expertise.

4.     Mold your habits

Another key aspect of becoming a senior developer is recognizing patterns and learning from them. Say, for instance, you come across an error when dealing with webpack or compatibility issues. Whether you google a solution or learn from someone else, you need to keep the answer stuck in your mind so that next time such an issue pops up, you won’t have to google it again.

It’s also crucial that you acknowledge when you don’t know something. That’s the one critical step to refining your skills. When you’re always ready to learn a new trick, your fellow teammates will always be willing to share what they know, and that’s how you build your expertise.

5.     Become a leader

A senior developer is a leader. It doesn’t necessarily mean being the team leader of a project and that your say is final. It means you have an innate drive in you that pushes the project forward, regardless of your rank.  Assume the duties of a leader, take responsibility and ownership when necessary.

6.     Mentor the less experienced

Teaching and guiding others as a developer comes naturally. You’ll need to continually build an idea of where the project is going and how various stories fit together to accomplish the bigger picture. That way, you’ll be better positioned to mentor less experienced developers into becoming better developers.