Differences in working with juniors and seniors in Engineering Management

Jack Aureliano De Santis
3 min readApr 1, 2019
Alina Cucu “Junior devs are like toddlers”

As I wrote before, Pavarotti or Eminem? A lesson on Engineering Management, there is no universal approach with people, no magic button that works with everyone, and one particular aspect I would like to write about is working with Junior Developers vs Senior Developers.

It’s essential as an Engineering Manager to understand the differences between Juniors and Seniors, outside of course of technical knowledge, their needs differ, their fears differ, their needs differ, their priorities differ.

And while I really don’t like to generalise about people, and stand behind the Pavarotti or Eminem article that no two people are the same, there are still some patterns I have come to observe over the years.

Juniors
Juniors tend to generally be either super scared about not knowing enough (mostly women) or super confident that they know everything (mostly men). And as such might require more regular feedback, 1 on 1 work, coaching, and importantly encouragement for the good things they do.
Building a close relationship with your junior devs as a manager is crucial, they need to know you are there for them.
I have seen junior devs feeling too insecure to hand in their code challenge at the end of their internship because they didn’t have the support required from their manager and team, and losing the job as consequence, and the company a great promising developer.
I promised to myself to never let this happen under my watch.

On the positive side, I have seen juniors being particularly enthusiastic and eager to learn, unlike some seniors who might have settled into what they like and lost some of the initial enthusiasm.

Seniors
The most common complaint I hear from senior devs is they are not getting to work on the technology they like, and this is also one of the most common reasons I see senior devs leave jobs.
And while sometimes boring work has to be done, it’s key to find a balance between the developer and the engineering manager, at the end no company wants to lose senior devs to boredom.
Day to day management wise senior devs (I’m talking about developers with 10 or more years of experience) tend to be more autonomous, have already seen things, and might not need so much confidence building or close feedback as juniors. Tho you should never, never completely neglect them or not pay attention.

One negative thing I have seen come up with very senior people is they might be quite stubborn when it comes to technologies.

Now take everything above as just a guidance and starting point, as I said before, no two people are the same, and you might come across devs who are completely different from the above, but my experience has thought me this is a good general starting point.

So pay more close attention and give more feedback to juniors then you normally would, and try as much as possible to keep seniors interested and engaged.

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