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How to Become a Senior Software Engineer — 5 Must-Have Qualities

Posted on 
November 29, 2021
|
by 
Team Interview Kickstart

Are you wondering how to become a senior software engineer and land high-paying jobs at top tech companies? What does it take to grow as a software engineer? How much does a senior software engineer make? There are so many questions that come to mind when you think about advancing your career path as a software developer. If you want to know how to become a senior software engineer at a FAANG+ company, this article is everything you’re looking for.

If you’re a software engineer, coding engineer, software developer, engineering manager, or tech lead preparing for tech interviews, check out our technical interview checklist, interview questions page, and salary negotiation e-book to get interview-ready! 

Having trained over 9,000 software engineers, we know what it takes to crack the most challenging tech interviews. Since 2014, Interview Kickstart alums have landed lucrative offers from FAANG and Tier-1 tech companies, with an average salary hike of 49%. The highest-ever offer received by an IK alum is a whopping $933,000!

At IK, you get the unique opportunity to learn from expert instructors who are hiring managers and tech leads at Google, Facebook, Apple, and other top Silicon Valley tech companies.  Our reviews will tell you how we’ve shaped the careers of thousands of professionals aspiring to take their careers to new heights. 

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This is what we’ll cover in the article on how to become a senior software engineer:

  • Who Is a Senior Software Engineer?
  • The Career Path to Becoming a Senior Software Engineer
  • What Does It Take to Become a Senior Software Engineer?
  • How Much Does a Senior Software Engineer Make?
  • FAQs on How to Become a Senior Software Engineer

Who Is a Senior Software Engineer?

A senior software engineer is someone who has 6+ years of experience in any field of software engineering. Different companies have different ways of classifying software developers as seniors based on their years of experience. For instance, to become a senior software engineer at Google, you must have at least 6 years of experience in software. As such, one of the first ingredients to become a senior software engineer is to be an excellent problem solver.

Before answering the question — how to become a senior software engineer — let us first look at some core characteristics and responsibilities of senior software engineers at FAANG+ companies:

  • They are extremely good at building the software architecture for software projects
  • They’re excellent in providing high-level scalable design solutions
  • They’re excellent at problem-solving and providing solutions to real-world problems
  • They’re good team players and are effective in communicating within and across teams

Career Path to Becoming a Senior Software Engineer

Wondering how to become a senior software engineer? If you want to know how to grow as a software engineer and unlock FAANG+ offers, the first step is to understand the career path of a senior software engineer.

In this section, we’ll look at how to grow as a software engineer.

Junior Software Developer

When you set out in the world of programming, the first role that you’re likely to land is that of a junior software developer/engineer. 

Junior software developers have 0-3 years of experience and aren’t expected to develop high-level solutions to problems. They’re mainly involved with writing simple scripts and understanding application lifecycles and databases.

As a junior developer, you’ll be actively writing code for software projects. You’ll also learn the architectural and design aspects associated with software projects.

Mid-level Software Developer

Your next step in growing as a software engineer and landing a senior role is treading the mid-level software developer path.

Mid-level engineers usually have 3+ years of experience and get more deeply involved in projects than junior developers. They are generally expected to be competent in several areas, including design, analysis, architecture, testing, and documentation.

Junior developers also actively participate in code reviews, debugging, and solving problems.

Senior Software Developers

Senior software developers are the uncrowned champions of any software development team. They have multiple responsibilities and are sometimes required to put in additional hours of work to ensure the completion of software projects.

If you’re wondering how many years of experience it takes to become a senior software engineer, well, the answer is 6-10 years, also dependent on the company you’re working for. To become a senior software developer at a FAANG+ company, you should have at least 7 years of experience in your field.

Senior software developers get involved with software projects from start to end. They also coordinate with various team members to understand individual progress made while getting involved with the design, architectural concerns, project risks, debugging, code review, testing, documentation, and problem-solving.

If you want to learn about software engineering levels at FAANG+ companies, read this article to get a better understanding.

What Does It Take to Become a Senior Software Developer?

Now, we come to the part where we talk about “how to become a senior software engineer at a FAANG+ company.”

One of the ways is to interview for the position. Another way is to spend a good 5-6 years at your company and get a promotion. If you’re looking to tread the promotion path, the answer is pretty straightforward - give your best every day, do additional courses in your field, and get involved with challenging projects.

If you want to become a senior software engineer by cracking an interview at a top company, these tips mentioned below are everything you’re looking for.

These five tips will help answer the critical question — how to become a senior software engineer by cracking interviews.

Become an Excellent Problem Solver

Focus on becoming an excellent problem-solver. As a senior software engineer, you're expected to have excellent problem-solving skills. The best way to build your problem-solving skills is to apply power patterns while solving coding problems. Identify the patterns in a problem and apply similar patterns to solve new problems. This method has proven to be the most effective way to boost your problem-solving skills.

Master Distributed Systems Design

Your knowledge of distributed systems design is key to executing your responsibilities as a senior software engineer. Moreover, improving your design skills is key to growing as a software engineer and getting involved with challenging projects in the future. 

Interviews for senior software engineers typically have 1-2 design rounds. FAANG+ companies usually conduct these design rounds during the on-site interview. While interviewing for senior software engineering jobs, design rounds hold more weight than coding rounds. So even if your coding round doesn’t go very well, you must ace the design round to stay in contention for the role.

Practice for Behavioral Interviews by Improving Your Interpersonal Skills

If you’re a mid-level software developer with enough experience to interview for a senior developer position, you must prepare judiciously for the behavioral and leadership interviews. These interviews test your behavioral and psychological traits to see if you’re the right fit for the role. 

Many candidates are unaware that failing to prepare for behavioral interviews can cost them an offer. So, if you want to grow as a software engineer, make sure you meticulously prepare for behavioral interviews. Read 10 Key Behavioral Skills Required to Land a $500k Tech Job to learn more.

Practice Mock Interviews With Industry Experts

The answer to “how to become a senior software engineer” is incomplete without including mock interviews in your prep strategy.

Mock interviews are crucial in helping you fine-tune your interviewing skills, strengthen your weak areas, overcome interview anxiety, and become more confident.

While mocks should be a crucial part of your strategy, practicing with experts in the field is supremely important. At Interview Kickstart, you can practice mock interviews with hiring managers from FAANG+ companies. Interview Kickstart’s instructors are closely associated with the interview process at top tech companies and know what it takes to nail tough senior software engineer interviews.

Don’t wait! Crack senior software engineer interviews by practicing mock interviews with industry experts

Create a Solid Portfolio

A good portfolio that neatly lists your accomplishments and projects goes a long way in influencing interview success. While creating your project portfolio, make sure to list your projects in the STAR format. STAR stands for - Situation, Task, Action, and Result. By following the STAR format, you can give recruiters a clear idea of the events around each project and your role in driving the success of projects.

How Much Does a Senior Software Engineer Make?

Are you wondering how much senior software engineers make at the biggest tech companies? Senior software engineers at top companies are typically paid anywhere between $200,000 to $350,000. Facebook pays the highest salaries to senior software developers, with compensations stretching as high as $365,000.

If you’re wondering how to grow as a software engineer and land a high-paying job as a senior software engineer at a FAANG+ company, the first step is to gain some experience and then dedicatedly prepare for technical interviews at FAANG companies.  

Salary negotiation is a crucial skill required to unlock big offers. Here are some Salary Negotiation Tips you can follow to hone your negotiation skills.

FAQs on How to Become a Senior Software Engineer

 Q1. How many years does it take to become a senior software engineer?

It usually takes at least 5-6 years of experience in a relevant software engineering field to become a senior software engineer.

Q2. What areas are evaluated in senior software engineering interviews at FAANG+ companies?

At FAANG+ interviews for senior software engineers, the fundamentally evaluated areas include coding, distributed systems design, behavioral psychology, and leadership. For domain-specific roles, an additional domain round will consider your expertise in the corresponding domain.

Q3. How many years does it take to become a senior software engineer if you stay at the same company?

Suppose you want to scale up your career by landing a senior software engineering role at the same company you’re at. In that case, it should take you anywhere between 5-7 years of experience as a mid-level developer.

Q4. What is the most important skill to become a senior software engineer?

Hands down, the essential skill is analytical problem-solving. Senior software engineers are expected to be excellent problem solvers as they’re required to provide solutions to real-world problems. That said, expertise in distributed systems and engineering design are also key to succeeding in the role.

Q5. How much does a senior software engineer make in the US?

Senior software engineers in the US typically make anywhere between $150,000 and $350,000. Facebook pays the highest salaries to senior software engineers among FAANG companies, offering compensation as high as $365,000.

Q6. How to grow as a software engineer in the US?

The best way to grow as a software engineer is to strengthen your programming fundamentals and become an excellent problem-solver. This will enable you to nail technical interviews at top tech companies and help you land lucrative offers. 

Gear Up for Your Next Technical Interview

If you’re looking to get started with your technical interview preparation, we offer a one-of-its-kind Masterclass course that’s tailor-made for software engineers to crack tough technical interviews at the biggest companies. 

We’ve trained over 9,000 engineers to land dream offers at top companies, including Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft, among others. Our reviews will tell you how we’ve transformed the careers of thousands of professionals aspiring to take their careers to greater heights. 

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