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The Difference Between Junior, Middle, and Senior Developers

Introduction

It isn’t all about years of experience a software developer has, but their mindset, the skills they developed, and the knowledge accumulated along the way. Obviously, senior developers possess far better coding skills and more knowledge than junior and mid-level developers, but even the most inexperienced junior can sometimes provide your software development project with something a senior won’t be able to.

One of the biggest skill and knowledge gaps between junior and senior developers comes from how they approach writing their code. A senior developer writes simple, straightforward code with maintainability and scalability in mind. They think about the long-term impact of their code on the further development of your software and the people who will have to work with it. Junior developers, on the other hand, just want to make the code work. Their code is usually overly complex due to the lack of understanding of the whole picture behind the project.

Another significant difference between junior, mid-level, and senior developers is the mistakes they make. Senior and mid-level developers have been through the entire software development cycle many times and have probably made a lot of mistakes that they learned from and won’t ever repeat again. At the same time, juniors are only starting their journey of trial and error. Thus, they are very likely to let a mistake slip here and there.

Junior developers, in general, are assigned the most simple, low-impact tasks. Middle developers perform tasks of different complexity and with much less supervision. And, senior specialists, in addition to completing the most complex tasks, can also be involved in the architectural design for the project or participate in high-level decision making. They feel comfortable in any project management practices, are not afraid of working in various environments, and know how to ask the right questions and how to follow up on the information they get. That is why at QArea, we assign a senior developer to each junior and middle specialist to mentor them and help them succeed with challenging tasks.

There’s one important trait, however, a junior specialist might offer over an experienced senior developer confident in their skill—the curiosity about learning new things. Fresh developers have a strong focus on learning, experimenting, and honing their skills. They have the motivation and positive attitude that fuel their creativity and can provide your project with many new, interesting, unconventional ideas and solutions.

It is safe to say that the best option for your software development project would be to hire both experienced (senior and mid-level) developers and fresh, junior specialists. Such a diverse team will effectively complement each other’s mindsets, skills, and knowledge.

Team Lead

Rarely a part of a small development team, this role is very common in mid-sized and large projects where software developers are broken down into teams for higher team efficiency. In such cases, the team lead is usually a senior engineer responsible for a small number of developers. They have an overall understanding of the product goals, technical aspects, and business logic and serve as a mentor, guiding their team. They ensure better coordination between individual team members and that the tasks are performed accordingly. 

Team leads take instructions and report to the delivery manager or project manager. Team lead responsibilities may include:

  • reviewing code and giving honest feedback
  • coaching team members on delivering results and encouraging their professional development
  • facilitating the daily sprint initiatives and eliminating blockers affecting project progress
  • protecting team members from distractions and any external interferences

Deployment and Maintenance

QA Lead

This mainly depends on the complexity of your project and how tight your budget is, but involving a QA expert early on as a part of the process will definitely help maintain the quality of your software solution at a high level in the long run. Even though they really shouldn’t, a lot of projects today rely on coders to do the testing in the course of development. This is mostly due to budget limitations. Some, however, truly believe that QA will only slow down the delivery process and leave it for last. They are wrong.

What they don’t understand is that quality assurance and testing requires a whole different set of skills than development. Not only do developers risk failing deadlines and losing their focus on the project development itself when testing, but they also won’t be able to build a proper test plan or maintain test cases necessary to assure the quality of the product in development. This is what makes the role of a QA lead and their loyal testing troops so pivotal.

The QA lead is in charge of supervising the team of quality assurance engineers and controlling the software testing processes on the project. They are responsible for the test strategy, resource planning, internal team communication, testing process estimation, and quality control on the project. Along with the delivery manager and project manager, they maintain direct communication with the client.

The list of QA lead responsibilities includes:

  • setting QA goals and objectives, establishing and supervising QA processes using industry best practices
  • defining quality standards, metrics, and milestones for the project, ensuring they are reviewed and agreed upon
  • acting as the key point of contact for all internal and external QA aspects of the project
  • sending status reports on all the escalations related to QA and testing to higher management
  • controlling risks and creating backup plans
  • collaborating with the development team to ensure software testability
  • measuring the performance of each individual team member

The main deliverables you get from your quality assurance team are:

  • Test strategy that serves as the outline of the testing approach, the guiding principles for test design, and a systematic approach to processes
  • Test plan and estimation that documents the scope, timelines, and methods for the software testing objectives on the project
  • Test scenarios and cases that include test steps, test data, and sets of actions needed to verify the quality of separate features and your software solution as a whole
  • Defect reports that contain details about bugs, errors, unexpected outputs, and other things found in your software that don’t work properly

Manual QA Engineer

As a part of the QA team, manual testers make sure that your software solution is free from bugs and errors and meets all the technical and business requirements. They use various bug tracking and test management tools like Jira, ReQtest, and LoadRunner to explore your code, check through your interfaces, and report on any issues that affect the performance, usability, compatibility, configuration, security, and many other quality aspects of your software. 

QA engineers write test documentation, create test cases, assess the quality of your codebase, and identify development bottlenecks to help establish best development practices on your project. In the long run, hiring QA engineers saves you from a lot of trouble such as tech debt and unnecessary rework.

QA Automation Engineer

While manual testers are mainly focused on assessing the quality of freshly built features and verifying elements that require human judgment, a QA automation engineer’s job is to make sure these new code and functionality don’t break anything in the previously implemented features. A QA automation engineer applies their strong programming skills and tools such as Selenium, Appium, or TestComplete to write various scripts that run in the background, continuously checking your code for bugs and errors. They create entire automation environments for repeated tests.

Whether due to tedious repetitiveness or excessive complexity, some types of tests are simply not worth your manual testing resources. It would be a lot faster, more reliable, and cost-efficient to automate these QA processes and save your manual testers for tasks that require human attention. The best candidates for automation are unit, regression, performance, smoke, and integration tests.

DevOps Engineer

Quite literally as the name suggests, your DevOps engineers serve as a cross-functional team responsible for the support of your software solution’s development and operation through various tools, environments, and Agile practices.  

“When a client comes to us with a project we think will take longer than 6 months to implement, we always suggest setting up a CI/CD pipeline and hiring a DevOps engineer to ensure scalability, release frequency, and cost-efficient maintenance of their project.”

Bruce Mason, Delivery Director at QArea

A DevOps engineer is responsible for managing tools, development and testing environments, solving infrastructural issues, and underpinning good development processes—implementation of CI/CD practices and standards, system automation, version control, etc. They can spot architectural, infrastructure, and development process deficiencies on your project and suggest solutions to eliminate or optimize them.

You may think of DevOps as an unnecessary budget line, but the reality is that this long-term solution saves you from overspending in the future. DevOps enables you to improve the stability of your operating environments, update your solution and deliver new features faster, and easily scale your infrastructure up and down depending on your needs.

Additional Software Development Roles That Can Be Outsourced

Chief Technology Officer

While the aforementioned roles and their corresponding responsibilities essentially help you build the specific software product or service you requested, a CTO serves as the technical visionary for your entire business. They need to be both well-versed in technology and have a strong business acumen to build efficient strategies and provide sound technical leadership in all aspects of your business.

The CTO participates in business development meetings. They work closely with stakeholders, business analysts, and software architects to discover and implement new technologies, brainstorm innovative product or service solutions, and inform necessary technological improvements/adjustments that would align perfectly with the company’s business goals. They assess the technological performance of your business, monitor the KPIs, control IT budgets, and supervise tech teams to ensure business efficiency through the use of technology.

Having an experienced, well-versed CTO is especially important for young startups, technology, and SaaS companies that want to yield a competitive advantage. Well…who doesn’t? Right? Whether such a crucial role should be outsourced, however, is a very debatable question.

The main argument in favor of CTO outsourcing is pretty obvious—the experience and a proven track record. Of course, if you’re an early-stage startup with a small team, you could give this role to a more or less experienced and ambitious software developer on your project. But would their technical background and business knowledge be enough to give your young business a clear tech direction? The less obvious CTO role outsourcing advantages are the flexibility and cost. For companies that just need a temporary boost or can’t afford to hire an in-house CTO yet, outsourcing might be the right way to go.

Some argue, however, that there’s just too much responsibility and risk associated with the CTO role to fill it with an external hire. And while commitment and loyalty are truly important factors to consider when hiring a CTO, whether they deliver the expected results has nothing to do with the way you engage with them. It all depends on the vendor you choose for the job and the attention you pay to the experience and past achievements of the offered candidate.

A CTO can be hired at any stage of your project development. But it’s always better to involve one early on so you can analyze the technologies on the market and find new opportunities before you’re deep into the delivery phase.

Chief Information Officer

Simply put, the biggest distinction between a CTO and a CIO is that the latter uses technology with a focus on improving business processes and building a healthy IT environment within the organization rather than driving technological innovation and business growth. You won’t see a CIO building new products and services to provide the organization with competitive advantages. But you can be certain they will excel at tackling the company’s unique needs, goals, and objectives through tech integration and data migration projects.

CIOs are typically hired by companies rather detached from software development. These businesses don’t deal in software products or services, neither do they need a person in charge of building that stuff. What they are looking for is someone who would help them simplify workflows, optimize supply chain management, and improve the overall efficiency of their internal and external operations.

Whereas CTO outsourcing is a rather complicated topic, you can never go wrong with outsourced CIO services. It is a very cost-effective and flexible option for organizations that aren’t looking to build and maintain their own, in-house IT team. 

In the form of a consultant or full-on strategic partner to the company, your trusted vendor can provide you with an experienced professional who: 

  • reviews your IT environment and business processes
  • plans the implementation of the technology and systems to improve your operations and business objectives
  • sees the project through to completion, monitors changes, and suggests action when necessary

Product Manager

A product manager, also known as a product owner in Scrum, is a person responsible for the why, when, and what product or service your software development team is supposed to build. Directly responsible for the quality and success of the product, they are the key decision-maker using their knowledge of user needs and business goals to frame problems, set priorities, and guide the product development process from conceptualization and all the way through to launch. So what does a product manager do exactly?

A product manager’s main role on the project is to provide cross-functional leadership, inform continuous improvement based on stakeholders’ feedback, and make central product decisions such as: 

  • laying out a strong product vision and strategy
  • coordinating the process of developing and conveying ideas
  • translating project goals into concise and clear requirements
  • setting the roadmap and defining features

“A Product Manager can add to the part of the team that decides what to build and constantly keeps an eye both on the market and on what gets built. It’s a critical role to the overall success of a venture as it’s important both to find a right direction and constantly adjust based on what customers say, market events, technical feasibility, and the company strategy.”

Alex Gostev, Agile Coach at QArea

It’s truly hard to imagine a company without a product manager. Even in the smallest startups, this crucial strategic role is covered by either a business analyst or a CTO. And even though your vendor will most definitely be able to provide you with a product manager or at least a proxy in the form of a business analyst, the ideal scenario is that the product manager is always provided by the client. This is primarily because the role requires extensive, one could even say intimate, knowledge of your company, business processes and future plans, objectives and goals, partners, and customers. Who knows all this stuff better if not the business owner themselves?

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