Remove junior from your vocabulary

3 min readPublished September 03, 2018Updated May 02, 2022

This blog post was adapted from a Twitter thread I wrote earlier this month.

I'm giving a talk in November about empowering early-career developers. Not junior developers. I'm trying to remove "junior" from my vocabulary. Why? Let me explain.

"Junior" gets a bad rap about being inexperienced and needing to learn the proper way to code. But isn't that the whole point of entry-level jobs? To learn and grow the skills necessary? No one expects a 16 year old to start driving with the knowledge that accompanies the experience of 3 years behind the wheel. And no one judges a new driver for needing to learn.

Companies don’t want to hire juniors because they believe it costs too much money to mentor them and that it requires too much time from their senior talent. I think that's short-sighted. It costs a lot more money to attract and hire multiple senior developers to work on a code base than it does to have a senior developer spend time teaching and pairing with some early-career developers. And after the initial investment, the company now has multiple qualified developers who feel valued and can pay that mentorship forward as the company onboards more folks.

No one wants to admit to being junior. Saying “junior” feels like acknowledging you’re not good enough and causes imposter syndrome to run rampant. Imposter syndrome affects all of us to varying degrees, but it extremely detrimental to someone who's just starting their career and can cause them to exit this industry. By perpetuating the idea that "junior" isn't good enough, we're losing out on a huge pool of talent and diverse perspectives.

This is why I propose “early-career.” Some people’s believe that you shouldn’t enter the industry until you’re a mid-level developer and to that I say hogwash. We all started somewhere.

Just because someone is an early-career developer does not mean that they are junior. Career switchers have years of experience and transferrable skills that make them an asset from day 1. As a consultant, I often find that the soft skills (terrible name by the way...) are the hardest to teach. People with professional experience, no matter the domain, often have a leg up when it comes to communication and people skills.

And non-career switchers bring a fresh perspective to your company. Early-career developers don’t have years of bad habits to unlearn and egos to push back against. I would much rather invest in someone enthusiastic about learning than someone suffering from arrogance of experience.

Your senior talent grows just as much from mentoring as your early-career developers grow from the mentorship. Your code base becomes stronger since it needs to be readable, explainable, and simplified. Your senior talent can no longer fall back on “well that’s just the way it is” when explaining things.

And guess who becomes your senior talent? Senior developers become senior because other more experienced developers spent time teaching and mentoring them. The cycle needs to continue for there to be more senior devs in the future. You should invest in your early-career talent and grow them into the mentors you want in your company.

Remove the negative connotation from starting a development career. Celebrate your early-career devs’ strengths and learning. Don’t call them junior. Fight against imposter syndrome.