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Software Development / Tech Culture

What It Takes to Become a Senior Engineer

Author Swizec Teller and's Shawn Wang describe the mindset and other attributes required to become a senior engineer.
Oct 21st, 2021 12:40pm by and
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It takes more than just years of experience to become a senior software engineer — among the prerequisites are having a good marketing sense, interviewing skills and other personal qualities required to become one as well.

In this The New Stack Makers podcast, guests Swizec Teller, author and a senior software engineer for healthcare company Tia, and Shawn Wang, head of developer experience for microservices orchestration platform provider, describe the mindset and other attributes required to become a senior engineer.

Darryl Taft, TNS news editor, hosted the podcast.

What It Takes to Become a Senior Engineer

Building your resume counts a lot when attempting to land your next promotion or a new job with opportunities. The resume “is really just a marketing tool — and it’s about showing that a big part of a good resume is thinking about it as a marketing tool, and then positioning it so that it talks to the type of company where you want to be and the type of role that you want to do,” Teller said.

What many engineers might fail to realize is that they must also communicate and find ways to document what they have done. Wang said engineers who are reluctant to demonstrate what they have done — in the belief the work should speak for itself — are hurting their careers, despite their good intentions.

“Engineers are often too shy when telling people about what they’ve done… you can view it as the y-axis is building and the x-axis is telling people about it,” Wang said. “And you have to do both to have the largest possible luck surface area for things to happen to you.”

To progress in your career as an engineer, it is not about only how talented a software engineer or coder you are, but what your value is for your employers. And that value is measured — or at least it should be since some employers might lack the acumen to perceive your value to them.


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“An easy way to stand out is just being somebody who thinks about the business impact of what they’re doing, rather than somebody who just focuses on the code and codes away,” Teller said.

In today’s world of corporate mergers and acquisitions where entire departments can be made redundant at a brutal pace, many software engineers might feel their careers lack advancement opportunities. In other words, they have plateaued but might feel divided between company loyalty pitted against what is best for their careers.

In these cases, it is time to move on, according to Teller.

“If you feel like you’re plateauing, you’ve probably started plateauing way before you realize that. And especially in this market, just change jobs, because — especially once you have those few years of experience under your belt — I think right now and probably for the next few years, it’s very easy to change jobs,” Teller said. “Everybody is looking for those people who are like, three, three to five or more, maybe more years into their career, and are just ready for bigger, better challenges.”

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TNS owner Insight Partners is an investor in: The New Stack.
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