By John Sonmez January 12, 2017

Senior Developers: How To Deal With Them?

Senior Developers… How can they possibly exist and be so useless? In today's video, I've received a question from a reader that was bragging me about senior developer.

Basically, he said that senior developers are only seniors because of their time on the field and nothing more. And man, it shouldn't be this way, c'mon! He asked me how could he possibly deal with them. They are trying to implement new pieces of technology and these senior developers are making it hard. This new piece of technology is so good, how can they cannot see how amazing it is?

If you're interested in how you can make this shock of technology less painful for your whole team and how to extract the most out of senior developers, watch this video and find out!

Transcript Of The Video

John Sonmez: Hey, what's up? John Sonmez from simpleprogrammer.com. I got a question today that—it's more of a rant. It's not really a question, but you know what? I'm going to answer it anyway. I'm going to address it. This question or this rant says that, “Seniors that are not seniors.” I'll read a couple of excerpts from it, but, essentially, the asker or the ranter goes on to say, “I've been at a company for a couple years now and I'm only starting to realize that senior developers seem to only be seniors by the amount of time they have been there. They always fall back on wanting to do the old (decade old) or custom ways they are used to doing things when there are much more modern practices.”

So he goes on to give some examples of like using dependency injection and then he goes on to say that—an additional info, more ranting. He says that, “For me, it goes without saying that to be a senior developer, you should be participating in personal growth of your development skills. Otherwise, how do you do mentor your team?” So he's feeling hamstrung because he's got all these new ideas and he's studying, and he doesn’t necessarily have as much experience as some of the senior developers, but he wants to do some of the modern practices he talked about, hexagonal architecture, DDD, domain driven development, all this kind of things.

Here's the thing. You're going to deal with this in the software development world. You're going to deal with this in any world, but you're going to have seniority, especially in larger companies, older companies, where seniority is going to be by experience, by a number of years being there. You've probably heard people say that you can be a developer with 10 years experience or you can be a developer with one year's worth of experience 10 times. That's very true. It's going to be true in just about any profession.

I did this video that some people got really upset about where I said that I could basically learn anything in 3 months. You can check that out and I talked about how that I could basically get myself to the skill level of someone that might even have 10 years experience in doing something in just 3 months' time simple because most people, what they end up doing is they get one year of experience 10 times. This is just the default that you're going to have to realize.

You got to, first of all, think in your head that this is just how it's going to be and expect that. Now, that doesn’t mean that—see, there's something that you should always try to do which is you should have expectations for you. You should have your standards to be very high, but your standards and expectations on other people to be very low because you can't control other people, but you can control you. So when you come in to a situation thinking of that, you hold yourself accountable and to a higher standard. You as a senior developer or you as a developer, you expect to have personal growth. You expect to increase your development skills. You expect to learn the newest and latest technologies and to apply them as you can, but you don’t expect from other people that same level of commitment because it's just not going to be there and you're going to be disappointed most of the time.

I also did a video that you might find useful. I can't remember what I called this, but you can check it out here. It's basically about the dark side of software development. It's about how—it's always going to be—it's never going to be the environment that you want it to be. I'll try to find the video if we can here.

Anyway, here's my advice in this situation. Like I said, first of all, hold your standards high, like I said already, but, in addition to that, what you need to do is not come from a place of thinking that you know it all because there is another side to this coin which is that we have a lot of fads that appear in the software development industry and sometimes some of the new stuff that you think is the best stuff, it's not robust. It hasn't been time tested. It may fade away and next week there's a new fad.

Even though you're on the cutting edge, that doesn’t mean that there's not some wisdom from some of the developers that have been around a long time. It also doesn’t mean that they're not just lazy and that they are not developing their skills. You got to balance that out. Don't come from the position of thinking that you know it all and that they're just dumb and you're just smarter and all this. Instead, come from a more humble position where you're holding yourself to high standards and you're trying to do the best job that you can and you're applying what you've learned and what you know and lead by example. Even developer that are more senior than you do things that are good, don’t preach to them and see how it works. As you start introducing these things and they're valuable, hopefully people will pay attention but you can only control what you can control. Do the best job that you can and you just might have to deal with it. It's just the environment.

But at the same time also recognize that some of these senior developers that may appear to be dumb to you, try to get some understanding. Ask them some questions and say, “Well, why do you do it that way?” Say, “Well, you know, I heard of this thing. It's called domain driven development and here's kind of the ideas about it. What do you think about this? I know that you've been here for a while and you have a lot more experience than I do, so I'm curious about this. What do you think about this concept?”

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."