As a senior software engineer at a fast-growing Nearshore Software Outsourcing company in the U.S. and Mexico, We are privileged to interview many other software engineers. We've evaluated about 6500 Engineers for positions ranging from mid-level to senior software engineers and engineering managers within the last five years.
The experience has given us time to reflect on the qualities and skill sets that our U.S. clients value in other senior software engineers. As a result, we try to craft the interview questions to hopefully give a glimpse into these attributes during the brief time we have with each candidate.
Listing the characteristics we look for in a senior software engineer.
Effective communication with technical and non-technical people
It can be considered crucial for two reasons. In this role, the first thing you'll do is act as a mentor for junior and mid-level software engineers.
It is essential to explain technical concepts to other engineers in simple terms. A piece of code is not ideal in the way it is written now, and how it can be improved must be explained clearly when giving code review feedback.
The second is that senior software engineers typically lead indirectly. Although you are not directly managing anyone, you will need to be able to spread your ideas throughout the company and rally people to join you in your quest for cleaner code and higher engineering standards. It will be challenging to convince others that your thoughts are worth their time if you cannot effectively communicate your ideas.
Attention to detail
It may manifest itself in numerous ways. When looking at other people's code, you'll often see engineering's code and their code reviews.
When engineers pay attention to detail, they double-check and recheck their work before reviewing it. They love writing clean code.
Software engineers are not infallible, so it's essential to keep this in mind. They still make mistakes. Their key is to catch their own mistakes so that others do not have to.
During code reviews, senior software engineers apply their practices and habits to work with other engineers, helping them write a cleaner code.
A mature and emotionally intelligent team leads to better software.
Senior software engineers need to understand that they are not their code. Any argument or discussion will be more effective if you keep your ego out of it. Keep in mind that criticizing the code is not the same as attacking the person.
When it comes to managing expectations regarding project timelines, senior software engineers need to have hard conversations with other people.
Additionally, software engineers must be aware of the effect their words and actions have on others. You need to be mindful of yourself and those around you if you have emotional intelligence. Engineers, especially senior ones, should be aware of how to offer constructive feedback in an uplifted and inspiring manner, rather than degrading and demoralizing.
Senior software engineers do not know everything. Nor should they! The engineering field is far too massive for anyone to master it all.
Sound software engineers understand this and are comfortable with it. If you don't know something, you should know how to recognize it, when to ask for help, and where to look for the answer on your own.
Humility comes from this understanding. In the software engineering world, ego has no place. Your job duties should never make you feel like you are the only one who can handle them effectively. If and when you move on, the company and team will continue without you.
High standards for engineering excellence
Senior software engineers set a high standard for both themselves and those with whom they work. To enforce standards and coding styles, they use tools such as code formatters and linters. Tested code is not allowed to be merged into the main branch because they understand the importance of testing. A CI/CD pipeline automates the tedious process of code reviews and ensures that the main branch can always be accessed.
Programming for a large corporation is not merely a job but a craft. They are proud of their work.
Expert in their domain
Senior software engineers have reached this level because they are good at their job. You need to know more than the bare minimum about the tech stack or language. Their expertise is structured in a T shape, with a few specialized areas and a wide range of knowledge elsewhere.
The experts in this field gain their expertise by solving complex problems, taking part in challenging projects, accepting stretch assignments, and learning from others.
The experts read classic programming books such as Clean Code, Refactoring, The Pragmatic Programmer, or Design Patterns to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge. Therefore, they learn by vicariously experiencing the knowledge that domain experts have accumulated throughout decades of experience.
Motivation to learn
They are passionate about what they do. They're interested in new things. In addition to reading articles, watching videos, creating proof of concept apps, and producing content, they continuously explore new ideas.
Their career isn't stagnant, and it shows.
To succeed, software engineers must possess hard skills. Their field of expertise or at least a few key areas are expected.
In my experience, soft skills are just as necessary, if not more so, than hard skills.
In summary, here are the qualities we seek in senior software developers:
- Ability to communicate clearly with technical and non-technical people
- Attention to detail
- Emotional intelligence and maturity
- High standards for engineering excellence
- Expert in their domain
- Passion for learning