How I became a senior engineer
I've seen a few posts like these from other developers recently, so I thought it could be a good idea to do a write-up about how my career has gotten up to this point, it might be useful for prospective recruiters as well as aspiring developers interested in knowing about career progression.
I graduated from high school in 2007 and started university in 2008, I majored in computer science, for a brief period I considered majoring in History. Many of my peers in university had some experience programming, I had only done a simple HTML course at age 11-12 that gave me the knowledge to build simple static websites hosted on FTP servers.
During university I also participated as a research assistant in a project about DSLs for code generation with UML diagrams, most of my work consisted in doing some learning to catch up to the project goals, the project was cut short when the professor responsible for it left as he got an offer to join Google.
Still during university I needed more extracurriculars to graduate, so I got an internship in the department of Mechanical Engineering as a PHP developer, my job consisted mostly of updating the website uploading students' dissertation files and schedules, there was no CMS for the staff to do so, I left just before graduating, there wasn't much of an interview here.
#Stint in entrepreneurship
I graduated in 2012 with little experience and a not very promising job market and economy, a group of university colleagues were starting a company and I joined them and we formed a group of 5 computer science students. We discussed several projects and decided to work on our idea of a travel-focused social network to help connect fellow travelers and help people book their vacation needs.
I pushed us to utilize Ruby on Rails to develop our project as it seemed interesting technology geared towards productivity, none of us had much experience with it or anything else for that matter. Besides me everyone else was still studying and a couple of them had internships as well. We applied to FUMSOFT's incubation partnership with our university and got in with what was then called the Logbook project, we stayed at the program for about a year before terminating the venture and we each parted on our separate ways.
The incubator was nice that it provided us with several learnings and courses from partnerships and lots of networking opportunities. It was also fun having to prepare a proper startup pitch.
My first 'real' job was in a company that made software for the government agencies, I joined after being referred by a university colleague and former co-founder, there wasn't much of an interview and it was soft skills only. They made mostly CRM-style applications with a modified version of SmartGWT, which itself is a custom version of GWT which is a toolkit for AJAX in Java that lost in popularity to jQuery.
This was not one of the best places to work and our tools were very custom and offered me little else in terms of technology to put on my CV, we were a new office created that would usually fix or deliver the projects that were delayed by a third party. I worked in several projects both big and small.
Notably, one of the projects I worked on was the company's only non-Java project, it was a C#/.NET project outsourced to a contractor who didn't deliver, at first there were several of us to fulfill a deadline, after the first delivery it was mostly just me working alone with some off and on help by others, I stayed there 9 months before I got a job offer somewhere else.
#First job change
I was reached out of the blue by someone who found my résumé online, I did a quick chat with them then they sent me to their outsourced partner for a more technical interview, I accepted their offer.
It was a group of 4 people who each owned their separate business and was starting a new venture with a web application despite having little to no technical knowledge, initially they were outsourcing development to an agency and I was their first hire to start in-house development. The app was a Ruby on Rails app which was a platform to enable entrepreneurs to apply for grants destined to charity projects and similar things, that they could then create reports to display their projects execution and allow citizens to verify it.
As their first developer I first joined the agency for a month for some training and hand off, after which I went back to their main office where I worked by myself, there was also an intern who was in charge of mostly office tasks such as paying bills.
I struggled a lot working by myself and had little besides StackOverflow to fall back to as a junior developer, and I ultimately fell short of their expectations, eventually they brought in a more experienced developer who joined as CTO and partner, after which I was let go after roughly 7 months at the company.
This was the last time I was between jobs, I sent my CV around town and had a few interviews, I didn't get very promising results. One of them was a startup that did systems for school student management and instead of an interview they gave me a freelance job to integrate their node.js server to the C# turnstile system of a prospective client, I delivered the project and waited for feedback, they were satisfied and offered me a job which I turned down due to other offers, the deal with the customer fell through and they never paid me.
I also had another offer in a startup that created children's interactive books on iPad, they had their own editor on top of QT Creator which allowed for designers to create books without code, a large mining company approached them wanting to use the software to create interactive employee training apps, instead of joining they offered me a one-month paid contractor job which in the end they would evaluate to offer me a full time position, most of the code was in Java.
Midway through the one-month period I received a promising offer from another startup and informed them, they didn't negotiate but were considering to put an offer. Since I wouldn't stay long I stayed out of their main projects and tried helping out with a forgotten project of allowing non-developers to publish the books created with their software as apps in the Apple app store, I didn't know about tooling like Fastlane back then, I did a POC using Jenkins running on Mac Hardware to be able to sign and provision apps to submit them to the App Store.
#Working in a growing startup
I applied for a junior rails developer job at a content marketing startup
I joined as a junior rails developer a growing startup with roughly 70 people at the time, despite this many people we were a small team of 5 developers only as most people were either in sales or operations, the company grew fast but our department didn't grow at the same speed, we developed a Ruby on Rails app which was a platform to link their customers with freelance content writers amongst other services.
Throughout my time there as the company grew we added several features, including content idea planning, a full scheduling system, freelance idea suggestion systems, I refactored the entire freelance payout system, I was eventually promoted to mid-level, by the time I left the team had double in size and the company almost tripled, by then I was already one of the oldest members of the team and contributed widely in onboarding new hires on our codebase.
This was a great place to work, not only did we grew fast and learned from each other, they advocated for content marketing and incentivized their employees to learn about it, it motivated me on one of my first stints in writing and I learned a lot about things not just related to software development, I left after 1.5 years as I got a great opportunity abroad.
I was later contacted by a recruiter from an European startup about interviewing, I took the chance, since my interviews never tested technical knowledge much I didn't know what to expect, I was given an assignment to do a task on a Rails/MongoDB app, I had never touched MongoDB until then, I bombed that interview so badly that the interviewers were awkward in giving me feedback, this was upsetting so I spent the next few months improving my tech interviewing skills.
Eventually in one of many applications I interviewed for a company in Budapest, after doing a home assignment which didn't require any specific languages or frameworks there was also some pairing/whiteboard questions over a video call, after which I was invited to do an onsite interview with an all expenses paid trip to Hungary.
I had initially applied for a full stack position, the company had mostly Python/Django microservices and React in the front-end, when I got there however there was a mix-up on dates and the team I was supposed to interview for wasn't available, I was given the choice of postponing my interview or interviewing with another team that dealt mostly with a large React application, I didn't know much React back then, but I took the challenge.
It was quite a unique interview process where I worked with the team for three days in a simulated task, at the end of three days I received a job offer on the spot which I accepted, they also handled all relocation expenses and immigration concerns.
At the time I joined they were in the final stages of a full rewrite as the tech stack for their previous version was rendered obsolete, I worked on small features just before the launch, and then on larger projects, I also worked with integrating our software with the software of a company we acquired which proved to be a lot of fun, for the most part I worked on several features including notably a spell check engine.
Despite working almost always with a front-end application I held the title of Full Stack Engineer, here I also trained to interview but only interviewed two people in the end.
It was the first company I worked for that had regular hackathons where we could come up with projects to build on the company stack, these were some of my most fun projects, and I even managed to win a prize in one of them!
After 2.5 years I decided to move and found a job in a fintech company in Stockholm undergoing an acquisition, the interview process was quite straightforward, I had a couple of soft skills interviews with a pair programming session over video call, lastly, they invited me over to the office for one final interview.
Funnily enough I never knew what title I held at the company, whether I had a senior position was not wasn't explicit in the contract, however the converted levels to the acquiring company were in the senior bracket.
As a front-end engineer I worked on creating dashboards and reports for our customers, these were mostly rewrites as we were migrating an old Ruby on Rails application to React.
After not fitting in much in Stockholm I applied for jobs to move once again, and I ended up accepting a position as a Senior Front-End Engineer in Barcelona. I moved here in the beginning of 2020 and have been here since, I currently work with React applications for our users to verify collected data reports.
If I could change one thing, rewriting this made me realize that in the early years of my career without much guidance or mentorship from other senior engineers, once I actually had others to follow I felt my growth accelerated
I didn't have a stellar career start but I am satisfied with where I am now, clocking in just about 8 years in my career I expect to contribute to the growth of others as well.
I also enjoy being part of growing startups and like the idea of entrepreneurship, I don't know if I'll ever go back to trying to do my own thing but I definitely do not discard it!