The Tree From Which Senior Developers Grow

Web development, from the time of its very inception has always portrayed itself as pure meritocracy. Developers, both young and old, have eschewed the same beliefs that our profession is one that is, if not free, then certainly subject to less of the political and sociological challenges that face other professions. We are also routinely told how the development “game” is one where technical proficiency, allied with a certain level of workability with others is the key metric which defines the success of one.

I do not live in a technological backwater. On the contrary, London is regularly heralded as a city for the 21st century, replete with a burgeoning tech sector where there is a demand for programmers unlike any other industry. Imagine my shock, when as a developer with albeit limited experience but a desire to push myself (as evidenced by a sprawling number of Github commits, illustrating self driven progression), an 80 hour a week work ethic and reasonable social skills, it has been a war to even get interviews with any company. A brief perusal through the jobs board find thousands upon thousands of postings looking for Senior developers for £80,000 a year, or better yet contract postings for upwards of £400 a day.

One would presume upon surveying this scene that there is a system built for the production of these senior developers. One might even venture so far as to suppose that perhaps it might be referred to as the “Junior” developer market. But the Junior developer market by and large does not exist to anything like the same extent. Dozens of jobs which claim to be Junior level demand commercial experience which is attainable from where? This sadly is not even a question of money. Jobs at any level demand commercial experience. I fear that perhaps the technology sector which has for so long eschewed the rhetoric I have mentioned above is going the way of so many other industries in demanding unpaid internships merely to qualify one for the most junior of roles.

However I can tell that the reader probably thinks that this is coming from someone who is just not that good, or perhaps who is an asshole in interviews and thus is unemployable. I have no idea whether the reader would consider me a good programmer or not but I can only go off the interviews I have had. I have in all but one been asked to contact the company again in a few short months when I have the required “commercial” experience.

To have a job is not a right enshrined in any kind of law, nor is it an expectation. I am a firm libertarian and I believe that you should always have to fight to get a job and to keep one, since that is what capitalism is all about. What I find rather more difficult to reconcile myself with is that no matter the number of hours you are prepared to put in, no matter the work you are prepared to put in in your spare time, it seems as though companies are simply not interested until you have “commercial experience”, which seems to mean literally anything at all.

I understand the economics of hiring seniors, and the costs associated with training juniors and I realise that not every company can do this. But I am forced to sit back and wonder if the companies that exclusively hire senior developers realise that surely at some point some new juniors are going to have to be trained if the cycle is to continue.

Please feel free to comment below.

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Written by Andrew Scott on 18 June 2015