What is a Senior Software Engineer?

Phillip Ciske
Software Engineering Manager
Programmer specialist sitting on big computer screen and working
September 21, 2022

What makes a software engineer a senior software engineer? Ask ten companies and you may get ten, often widely varied, answers. Ask ten software engineers and you may get ten different opinions, usually based on each engineer’s experience, industry niche, or language/framework of choice. Some gain the title of “senior software engineer” through their tenure at a company. For others, the title is granted as a marker of the knowledge they’ve gained and shared, languages and lessons they’ve learned, problems they’ve solved, and projects they have released. For others still, seniority is an indicator of their level of responsibility within a company or team.

At Teaching Strategies, senior software engineers are a bit of all the above. Senior members of the Teaching Strategies engineering team are:

1. Problem solvers who do not shy away from a tough issue.

There’s no problem too small, no issue too thorny. Whether it is debugging a simple error or solving an in-depth production issue, senior software engineers use their knowledge and experience to cut through the fog to determine the “what, when, where, why, and how” of problems. A critical trait of a good problem solver is comfort with challenging assumptions. This trait enables senior software engineers to ask the right questions and drive to the core of a problem. A senior software engineer’s capacity to recognize which issues can be safely ignored and to discern critical information from volumes of data is often developed through the long practice of paying close attention to detail and through hard-won experience.

2. Thinkers who are comfortable understanding a business or product and using their skills to create working solutions.

Senior software engineers communicate with colleagues who have varying levels of technical expertise, whether that’s a project manager who is most comfortable in Excel or the tech guru writing a better linter. Translating a concept into technical reality often takes a team. Senior software engineers learn the ins and outs of a business or product, enabling them to work with the team in designing and implementing outcome-based solutions.

3. Decision makers who stay current in the field so that they can make pragmatic and informed decisions.

The technical landscape is constantly changing, and keeping up with the changes is part of growing as a software engineer. Senior software engineers not only keep a finger on the pulse of what’s new, but they also use the lens of their experience and pragmatism to decide if, how, or when new information may be used in their current and future work. They apply their knowledge to determine if the “latest and greatest” may or may not be a good fit for a particular problem facing their team’s products.

4. Mentors who willingly provide guidance to others in their areas of expertise.

Being a mentor to less-senior members of a team is a tall order, but it is also an important means of creating a culture of empowered teams. Senior software engineers are frequently called upon to do critical or important tasks because others know they can perform them quickly and efficiently. When senior software engineers use these situations as teaching opportunities, they help the whole team learn and grow. Acting as a technical subject matter expert not only helps others, but it also helps senior software engineers solidify their own hard-won knowledge.

The engineering team at Teaching Strategies values experience, knowledge, and battle scars. We highly value software engineers who are comfortable learning new technology and technical approaches—while maintaining mastery of previously won expertise—and then applying that knowledge to build better products and experiences for the early childhood education community. Do you have scars from past tech battles? Do you love finding solutions to problems? Are you ready to be a team champion? Come join us.

About the Author

Phillip Ciske
Phillip Ciske | Software Engineering Manager

Phillip’s time in the tech world is measured in decades, during which time he has worn enough hats to please Bartholomew Cubbins. By day, he manages a team of amazing developers. By night, he immerses himself in the study of history, languages (not just digital), and his homestead and family.

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