Career trajectories, seniority, and when it’s (not) time to move on

Adrienne Domingus
6 min readMay 4, 2019

I realized recently that three years into my professional software career, I’m comfortably out of the “brand-new career” phase, and started wondering what it means to make good choices to continue growing in my career, in the ways that are important to me (in an individual contributor capacity, at least for now). At a high level, the main things I’ve been thinking about are:

  • How long is too long to stay at a dev job, particularly your first?
  • What does it mean to be a senior engineer? How long does it take to become one?

These are subjective questions, of course, and so, so contextual. There is no one right answer. That’s what makes them so hard to answer, even for myself. And as someone who changed careers into tech from a more “traditional” career (I was working for a school district immediately before attending Turing — talk about bureaucracy and well defined ladders and pay scales!), this stuff becomes particularly baffling.

So I asked Twitter for help, and my Twitter community came through for me.

I had some wonderful conversations with people I have a lot of respect for. People from various backgrounds, length of tenure in tech, and perspectives. Most of the questions I asked were specific to the questions I’m mulling over in my own career, but I think the answers may be applicable to other folks also entering a more mid-level phase of their career and wondering what that means. This is my attempt to synthesize the high-level takeaways from those conversations, in hopes that they will be useful to others as well.

Seniority depends on context

I asked my manager recently what it would take to be promoted to a senior engineer. The answer I got surprised me — that I’m performing at a senior level in many ways already, and am likely to be promoted within a year. To reiterate: I’ve been a software engineer, professionally, for three years, with about one additional year before…