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The Power of Collaboration Between Junior and Senior Engineers

Scaling Team
Collaboration
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Juniors

9 November, 2021

Frédéric Duperier

Frédéric Duperier

Founder at We Are One Sarl

Frédéric Duperier explains his process of pairing juniors and seniors to fill the knowledge gap and learn new techniques.

Problem

When growing teams in my company, I’ve struggled to find the right balance between senior and junior software developers. On one hand, when there are too many juniors on a team, it often lacks years of experience and problem-solving skills to develop complicated features and solve bugs. On the other hand, too many seniors on a team and lacks new methods and will often get stuck in their ways. I wanted to build a team that had a successful balance between experience and the newest techniques.

Actions taken

As soon as I began growing teams, I hired a 1:1 ratio of senior and junior developers. My mindset was that senior developers would grow the junior’s technical skillset and the methodologies used at my company. In turn, the juniors would bring their relevantly recent college experience regarding new technologies to the seniors. My thought process was that both sides of the spectrum would benefit from one another as soon as I had this system in place.

Before this system, I learned that many senior developers didn’t enjoy learning from one another, as they had been developing their own methods for years. I found juniors the key to my success because they had small amounts of experience compared to seniors, and my developers didn’t find their help condescending. Engineers are often interested in the most recent technologies and the newest methods of solving problems, which juniors brought to the table.

A major mindset shift needed to occur to create a change that uplifted our company’s learning. I paired a senior and a junior for each project to curve their mindset, and they would work together for a month. Throughout this process, there were successes and failures, many developers enjoyed learning from others, but a few didn’t. Rather than pushing these developers to collaborate with others, I let them thrive in their independence as these types of developers usually enjoyed working on the more challenging problems.

While hiring the juniors, I had multiple interviews to determine if the candidates would align with our company culture. During the first interview, I determined if an applicant had the proper skills and experience. I brought senior developers into the next interviews, which acted more like conversations with a few technical questions. I observed these conversations and decided if this candidate could successfully interact with our current team and bring them learning.

Lessons learned

  • There will always be software engineers that want to work independently. You have to let them work in their way and understand their method. I’ve found that these individuals are often some of the most dedicated, technically driven engineers, and they will work on features others don’t want.
  • Some of my engineers did not realize that they could teach others. Many juniors were reserved at first, but once pushed, they began to succeed in their teachings. In turn, once a personal connection developed between the senior and junior engineers, both parties were more apt to collaborate and answer each other’s questions.

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