The 5 Existential Crises of a Senior Developer

6fd16b1b6a307ca583526e2ec4dab52d?s=47 tehviking
September 18, 2018

The 5 Existential Crises of a Senior Developer

Have you ever felt like you are in the passenger seat of your career? By simply looking around and seeing how few 20+ year veterans you work with, you're actually staring our industry's sustainability problem right in the face. But the software industry needs you still contributing 20 years from now! Fret not, we can start fixing these problems, right now, in your own job.

Using in-depth research across companies of all sizes, you'll come away with a plan to start designing a sustainable career track to help you grow in skill, influence, and income now and long into the future.



September 18, 2018


  1. 2.
  2. 3.
  3. 7.
  4. 8.

    Co-founder/CEO (quit) Software developer (meh) Marketer (failed) Network Engineer (failed)

    Video editor (failed) Graphic designer (failed) Manager (TBD)
  5. 11.
  6. 15.
  7. 18.
  8. 21.
  9. 24.
  10. 29.

    New job, new shiny stuff! Stressful, but learning! Learning slows

    down Leave, find a new job No learning, just stress :(
  11. 36.

    No 20-30 year veteran role models I only have 10-15

    years, I better learn fast The new folks are getting good faster than me I don’t have a place here, I’ll take that manager job I have kids now, I can’t keep up with OSS anymore
  12. 40.
  13. 41.

    If becoming a parent wrecks someone’s ability to perform “heroic”

    feats of technology, we have failed to properly define the term.
  14. 47.
  15. 49.

    We need folks that know which 9 of 10 problems

    don’t need to be solved in the first place.
  16. 50.
  17. 52.
  18. 60.

    Allen Wirfs-Brock Created early Smalltalk implementation Wrote the ES2015 (ES6)

    Language Spec 45 years of sustained, industry-shaping work Cool guy
  19. 61.

    “For the first 15 years, I was just learning how

    to be an engineer” “The next 15 years, I learned how to apply what I’d learned” “The next 15 years, I tried to learn to have industry-scale impact” 15 30 45
  20. 67.
  21. 68.

    Keynote Speaker Chief Architect Principal Engineer Evangelist Author/ Speaker Junior

    Contributor Team Lead Product Manager Freelancer Solopreneur Startup Founder Small Business CEO Founder, 3rd company Chairperson of the Board Director of Product Engineering/ Dept. Lead VP of Product VP Eng CTO contributor Manager Entrepreneur Founder, 2nd company Senior Dev Mid-level Dev
  22. 69.
  23. 76.
  24. 78.
  25. 82.

    Curiosity Junior: Just enough to Mid: Deep exploration of 1

    toolset Senior: 2+ toolsets Beyond: Synthesis advances state of the art
  26. 84.

    Rigor & Discipline (for instance, documenting their work) Junior: Very

    bad or no documentation Mid: “Good enough” documentation Senior: Great documentation & feedback Beyond: Redefines approach to documenting
  27. 86.

    Fearlessness Junior: “Isn’t there a framework for this?” Mid: “Imma

    write a framework LEEEROY JENKINS” Senior: “Let’s not write a framework” Beyond: “I can fix the framework we already have”
  28. 87.
  29. 88.
  30. 89.

    Fearlessness Junior: “Isn’t there a framework for this?” Mid: “Imma

    write a framework LEEEROY JENKINS” Senior: “Let’s not write a framework” Beyond: “Let’s fix the framework we already have”
  31. 91.

    Propensity to ship Junior: Nothing to show just yet Mid:

    A graveyard of abandoned projects Senior: Maintains a few long-running projects Beyond: Has projects with industry-wide usage
  32. 93.

    Owner's mindset Junior: The technical problem is plenty, thanks Mid:

    Can explain the business impact of their work Senior: Sacrifices preferences for biz impact Beyond: Started/run/failed/succeeded in business
  33. 95.

    Communication & Persuasion Junior: “Communication is prolly good lol” Mid:

    Adapts communication to situations Senior: Defuses, turns around tough situations Beyond: LOL thought leadership
  34. 97.

    Purpose Junior: Happy to be on the team Mid: Acts

    on extrinsic purpose Senior: Acts on intrinsic purpose Beyond: Compelling vision & followers
  35. 98.
  36. 99.

    Purpose Junior: Happy to be on the team Mid: Acts

    on extrinsic purpose Senior: Acts on intrinsic purpose Beyond: Compelling vision & followers
  37. 101.

    “Next right thing” focus Junior: Needs lots of help breaking

    down work Mid: Unintimidated by blank codebase/page Senior: Unintimidated by big refactors/editing Beyond: “How the hell do you get so much done?”
  38. 103.

    Community-orientedness Junior: Little/no community involvement Mid: Meetup talks and/or blogs

    Senior: Conference talks, organizing events Beyond: Industry-impacting community work
  39. 105.

    Mentorship Junior: Looking to be mentored Mid: A couple folks

    call them a mentor Senior: Several owe their careers to them Beyond: Large-scale influence on devs’ growth
  40. 107.

    Empathetic work Junior: Gets that users & teammates are people

    Mid: User-centered development Senior: Also coworker-oriented Beyond: Large-scale impact on the way we work
  41. 109.

    Courageous honesty Junior: Overly polite Mid: Needlessly blunt Senior: Life/business-impacting

    critical conversations Beyond: Sees patterns & establishes processes
  42. 111.
  43. 112.

    Community-orientedness Mentorship Empathetic work Courageous Honesty Curiosity Rigor & Discipline

    Fearlessness Propensity to ship Owner's mindset Communication & Persuasion Purpose "Next right thing" Junior Mid Senior Beyond Connectedness Technical Capability Leadership
  44. 116.
  45. 126.
  46. 134.
  47. 135.
  48. 136.
  49. 138.
  50. 139.
  51. 140.
  52. 141.
  53. 142.
  54. 143.
  55. 144.
  56. 145.
  57. 149.
  58. 151.

    image credits Lego Duplo by Arto Alanenpää Minifigure by

    clement127 Ouchi by Pascal Do You Remember … The Future? by JD Hancock Lego Brick in Sand by vpickering Windmill Blueprint by Mark Bridge Kool-Aid Man breaks through the wall by Anna Creech Official Old Ben by Thunderchild7 the gymnast from Team GB by julochka LEGO Manitoba Marathon 2012 by Salvador Maniquiz "I ain't crying!" by true_brick lego warhol by john gordy github shower by @stepchowfun foolish lego by dwaas lego computer programmer (nerd?) (series 7) by julochka Murmeli - Groundhog by Eero Okkonen Sugarcane Farmer by Jared Gewichtheber by kosmolaut Strong enough? by clement127 Wood-stone buffer-stop by Karwik Scared Minifig by z Q [ExoSuit}- On Mars by clement127