John Allspaw writes “On Being a Senior Engineer“.
In my long career, I’ve met lots of people with the title “senior engineer”. We’d joke and call them “señior engineer” because it was all too often thrown around as some title of arrogance or tenure, but was about as meaningful as a “perfect attendance” award — sure it’s great that you showed up and have been here a while, but that didn’t mean you knew anything.
Or were mature enough.
So with that, I’ve often cast off the title because it’s tended to be meaningless, maybe useful for business cards or at most on your résumé. But John’s article gives a perspective that the title is meaningful, if applied to someone who actually fits the role.
Of course for it to truly be meaningful, the title needs to be properly applied over the course of a career, not just because you’re the lone coder at some startup you and your other 20-something-year-old friends put together over beers one evening fresh out of college.
In the end, it’s just a title. It doesn’t really matter. But the merits and qualities of a senior engineer, as John lays out, are what really matters and what are worth striving to be.