From Junior Developer to Senior Management: How to Climb the Corporate Ladder

Written By Jonathan Aisiki

Just started your career and want to know all the steps you would need to successfully make it up the career ladder? Worried if you are on the right track? This complete guide has the answers.

This article highlights the journey from junior developer to senior manager. It breaks down the qualities required at each step (junior developer, middle manager, and senior manager) and how you can check if you possess these qualities.

Being a Junior Developer

What Does A Junior Developer Do?

Being a Junior Developer can be a rewarding and financially fulfilling job. A Junior Developer is a Software Developer at the entry-level position who assists the development team in all aspects of coding and software design. The primary role includes:

  • Writing basic code
  • Fixing bugs
  • Learning the codebase
  • Attending design meetings
  • Assisting the development manager in all design-related tasks

The Skills That You Will Need

As a junior software engineer, your employer does not expect you to have the same level of expertise as a mid or senior level developer or programmer. You likely possess some crucial qualities, most of which are soft skills.

This does not mean that you can not improve and perform beyond your job description.

For instance you can access an open-source community of security experts from around the globe through OSWAP to help you understand the vulnerabilities, threats, and attacks you should be aware of and how to counter them.

Soft Skills are non-technical skills that are unrelated to your particular area of expertise. They are, however, related to how you work. For instance, how you engage in problem-solving, how you connect to your colleagues, and how you manage your work. Soft skills make it easy to work with you full-time.

The skills you should aim to develop include:

  • Analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Being a team player
  • Being competent
  • Ability to learn
  • Time management skills
  • Being hardworking
  • Have communication skills
  • Being professional
  • Paying attention to details
  • Ability to visualize the bigger picture

On the flip side, hard skills are the intellectual abilities or know-how or technical skills you get through practice, repetition, and education. You are expected to be competent in software development, computer programming and codes, and object-oriented design (OOD) for junior developers.

Are You Ready To Climb The Corporate Ladder?

You are considering climbing the corporate pole, but you are unsure if you are ready. Below is a checklist to aid you in determining if you are prepared.

  1. You should consider the challenge of having extra responsibility. You can determine this by evaluating whether you enjoy taking on work outside of your current duties. Do you view responsibility as a burden or as an opportunity?
  2. Do you have strong organizational skills? As you move up the career ladder, bear in mind that you will likely be dealing with more reports and budgets.
  3. How do others respond to your leadership? If you are approached for solutions or advice, that is positive. It means that you stand out as someone reliable or an expert. It would help observe how colleagues or clients respond when you take charge.
  4. Are you prepared to travel or relocate? Holding a managerial position may sometimes require you to travel, or you may need to move to another city where your company's head office is located.
  5. Do you have a confidant or mentor, or have you studied the career path of others who inspire you to provide a guide? Having someone with first-hand experience can help you figure out where you want to go.

You Are Ready. Here Is What You Should Do:

You have checked all the points above, and you are confident that you are ready to rise through the ranks. How do you go about that?

Firstly, it is essential to make a plan. Just like with goal setting, you must outline a roadmap on how you will achieve your next career goal. You can start with a short-term strategy or establish a long-term plan; either way, it is vital to be clear on how you envision this rise.

Secondly, make sure you are networking. Getting to know people is crucial to your career. Interacting with people online and in-person is essential when you have a job. This makes it easy to reach mentors and connections when you need your career path to shift.

Thirdly, you should be prepared to go above and beyond at work. You must be ready to do more than just the bare minimum. You need to ensure that you contribute more and set yourself up as the go-to person. It is also crucial that you work smart just as much as you work hard.

Fourthly, look beyond your job description. Wherever possible, look for opportunities to help; however and whenever you can.

Lastly, establish yourself as an asset to your company. Study and follow industry leaders in software development. Constantly try to build upon your skills and learn new things. Marketing for customers is a skill that you can develop, as it helps you understand what your clients are interested in.

Middle Management

What Does a Middle-Level Developer Do?

The top management positions are expected to focus on the company's overall strategy and long-term planning. Mid-level developers concentrate on interactions with employers and the day-to-day functioning of a development team. You will be expected to ensure that your team is equipped with all the tools they need for Unit Testing and API testing.

Middle managers deal with day-to-day problems in a particular workplace or a particular department within the company. Some typical duties and responsibilities of middle-level managers include:

  • Writing and maintain a code
  • Analyzing and implement best coding practices into the project code
  • Analyzing technical requirements of the project and adapt the code in line with them
  • Identifying and developing areas for revisions in current projects
  • Executing and implementing software tests, through the use of service virtualization tools
  • Good grasp on programming languages
  • Developing quality assurance procedures for software projects
  • Analyzing the needs of users and designers, QA testers, and other software development team members
  • Developing quality assurance procedures
  • Coordinating the efforts and cooperating with other developers, designers, system and business analysts
  • Documenting all parts of the development process for further work and maintenance

The Skills That You Need:

An excellent middle manager requires the following soft skills:

  • Transparency
  • Excellent listening skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Being consistent and reliable
  • Being trustworthy
  • Empathetic and sensitive
  • Being rewarding and recognizing the efforts made by subordinates
  • Being willing to change for the better
  • Being empowering and motivating your team
  • Having conflict resolution skills
  • Decision-making skills
  • Having the drive to set goals

A mid-level developer has around 2-4 years of prior experience and is expected to be a fully-functional programmer who can write their code while helping the senior members out. You require little to no supervision and are expected to write most of the codebase. The skill set that is expected include:

  • Having at least 2-3 years as a Java developer
  • Having solid knowledge of the frameworks for building web projects (Maven, Gradle), frameworks for enterprise projects (Spring, Hibernate, Spring Boot), and tools for unit testing (JUnit, Mockito). They act as front-end developers.
  • Coming up with new approaches and implement new technologies.
  • Knowing how to program high-volume and low-latency systems meant for extensive scaling.
  • Ability to clearly and concisely communicate with both technical and non-technical customers.

To best deliver what is expected of you, it is essential that you hold knowledge on components such as The Motor Industry Software Reliability Association (MISRA), which refers to the widely adopted and legendary coding standard for C and C++ languages.

Are You Ready To Climb The Ladder?

  1. Do you have an adequate level of influence within your organization? If you want to become a senior manager, you must exhibit influence without looking arrogant.
  2. Do you have an interest in personal development? It would be best to build your brand by encouraging yourself and those around you to constantly improve and learn more about their job, the industry, competitors, and emerging trends.
  3. Have you established a working relationship with your subordinates and colleagues? You must be a people person; your team members should consider you an empathetic and understanding team member. You should be promoting and acknowledging individual contributors on your team.
  4. What kind of feedback do your subordinates provide? You must understand if those who have worked under your guidance have any positive or negative things to share. This can help you improve.
  5. Do those around you view you as a leader? You can verify this by examining whether people come to you for advice. Are you the person to go to when making decisions?

The Transition From Middle Management to Upper Management

Below are a few ways to ensure that you transition smoothly from middle to the next level – senior software engineer.

First, you must understand the new position and what is expected of you in the new role. You should not limit yourself to the part you held before Examine what the new responsibilities are and how they differ from those of a middle manager. It would be best if you also had a plan of action derived from understanding the goals you are expected to achieve.

Second, shift your focus from short-term goals to long-term endeavors. As a senior developer, the day-to-day running is no longer your responsibility; instead, you are expected to make decisions that have long-lasting effects on the company. You are also expected to engage the entire company at this level. You are no longer looking at a single team but the whole collection, so it is crucial to consider the larger picture.

Third, commit to self-improvement. The advisable way to lead others is to be competent yourself. Therefore, it is very important that you are always open to learning and improving yourself. Always research emerging trends in the industry to help you keep your company ahead.

Fourth, it is crucial that you can trust yourself. Trust yourself to make the right calls and engage with mentors and colleagues to come to a sound decision. Sometimes it is challenging to have confidence in a new position, but remember there is a reason you have successfully attained that position.

Finally, It is critical that you are able to maintain old relationships. Keep up cordial and professional relations because networks help you better navigate your new job. This new position does not mean that you have to distance yourself from your colleagues or subordinates.

Senior Developer

What Does an Upper Level Manager Do?

Senior level developers, such as CTOs (Chief Technology Officers), plan and direct a group of people within a department. The role of a senior manager is to supervise those individuals to ensure that business operations are running efficiently and that each individual's performance meets company and industry standards. A senior developer acts as a project manager or team leader.

The Skills That You Need

The soft skills that you will need as a senior manager are:

  • Senior leadership skills
  • Good decision-making skills
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Motivating your team
  • Excellent communication and presentation skills
  • Delegating tasks

Nurturing and identifying talent is critical for any tech company to grow. The hard skills expected of a senior manager are: It is vital that you can adequately engage in employee development. It would be best if you were an expert, for instance, as an engineering manager, with years of experience and educational background (computer science). Finally, have a good grasp of changing management skills.

I've Reached the Mountain. What Now?

Different companies have different job descriptions for the senior management title, meaning you have varying responsibilities depending on the company. Is the company a startup or a large established company like Microsoft? However, you have gotten to where you wanted to be and now you’re wondering what next.

It is critical to make sure that you have left your mark in your field, as you rise in the corporate ladder, engage other developers and build up talent. What milestones would you like to have achieved? You can establish yourself as a mentor for those behind you, offering them advice based on your experience. This is also a chance to build your company and be innovative, introduce new ideas and improve older systems to make them more effective.

Start Climbing

To successfully move along the corporate ladder, it is crucial that you have developed your soft skills (non-technical skills) and hard skills (technical skills). As a developer this means you will need interpersonal skills as well as a good grasp on software development. Ensure that you meet the checklists outlined above — and that you are ready for the additional responsibility that comes with advancing in your career.

If the signs listed above ring true for you, you must start believing in yourself and push for that promotion. No matter what level of your career you are at or what career goals you have, it is always important to remember that you can rise the corporate ladder.