Master, you enlighten me with so little

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What a “Senior profile” means? On many of the job offers around LinkedIn and similar, when the recruiters are hiring, we can see the word “Senior” coming close to some sentences like “+5 years of experience on Java”, “+12 years of experience on Windows IIS”, “+7 years as Office Manager in a multicultural company”, “+10 years of experience on System Administrator”, “+2 months peeling potatoes” or even other unbelievable ones.

From Twitter

From that kind of job posts, we could infer that for “the market”, a Senior candidate is the one which spent, at least, some defined period of time working in a certain area. Is this the definition for a Senior profile?. Hence, if you have been working on something for many years you are “at another level” of experience.

Senior, adjetive. – high in rank or status; higher in rank or status than others

Definition from Oxford dictionary

If we focus the conversation into the technology field, does this definition of Senior fit enough with what the companies really want or need?. Engage!.

To introduce the discussion, an example could help. If a company looks for a Senior Software Developer on C# and the job post asks for at least 10 years of experience (for example) most probably the company will find a candidate which has that experience and enough motivated for moving to new challenges. Eventually, this candidate will become into an employee of the company and she/he will start working on the first project, developing on C# (new and legacy, for sure), all day with the Visual Studio and committing the code to some Git-based platform, and the performance of the new employee most probably will be great, all day coding and generating value to the company, and already passed some months. The performance of this new employee is excellent, a great win not only for the HR department but also for the Engineering department that was part of the hiring panel.

Somebody said once that “everything changes and nothing remains still” and this is even more real in the technology field on which, in the current era, one day there is a phone that is not fixed anymore but you can use the first handheld cellular mobile phone, or when you go to buy a new car and the seller tells you that you could buy a self-driving car just for “some thousands of dollars”. Coming back to our Senior developer case, we could find that at some point the company needs the employee to do something else, a part of coding C#, like creating a Dockerfile, to speed up the development process, or define some Kubernetes resources to deploy that C# application on some cloud provider.

On big companies, such as Facebook, Redhat or Amazon, they might have some precise role definition and they provide DevOps teams that are able to work very align and very close to every development team, so that means that our C# developer will never take care of something that is not strictly C# programming. When this is true, it’s also true that not all companies can provide that efficiency level and well-defined roles, and all of them have to pass through evolution for getting there. In this last case, startup companies fit on this, for example, where our high-performance C# developer can reach a situation of “this is not what I signed up for” because the percentage of time to develop on C# is not even close to 100% anymore, as the developer expected when came into the company as a Senior Software Engineer, so the HR and Engineering departments are failing because there is an employee within the company that is not satisfied.

It’s important to mention that this frustration feeling is more than normal and fair because, in the end, it’s all about setting expectations.

What if…?

Gandalf picture - Creative Commons

There might exist another definition of Senior profile. What if a Senior profile for a job is defined by the way a person handles complicated, taught, difficult or critical situations with good knowledge about the tasks that person will drive, getting things done, embracing the continuous change and he/she is energized with the ability to motivate and guide a potential group of people. Yes, that’s more difficult to address in a job interview and moreover in a job offer to be published on the LinkedIn job post, right?.

Maybe, as a company or HR/Engineering department, that would be the gal/guy which you might want to have when things come bad and also when an amazing project comes in for giving the company a huge competitive impulse to shine between its competitors.

This definition might fit with the person that you want to see on the first light of the fifth day, at dawn looking to the east.

To finish this article, it is important to remark the fact that there is not one single definition of Senior profile, which maybe is good, and each company, driven by its HR/Engineering department, should look for the candidate which is really needed. Therefore, maybe a Senior candidate should not be pursued by the number of years invested in a certain set of technologies, even though it’s important, but by the requirements that the company needs to satisfy.