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I work in a company with 2 other developers. We typically don't work as a team, just independently on various projects. One developer has been here for 20 years and the other for 7. They both have the title of Senior Software Engineer.

I have been at this company for almost 3 years and have had 2 developer jobs prior to that, for a total of around 6 or 7 years of experience, and my own job title is just "Software Engineer". If I'm honest, I do look to these other two developers for guidance, but not actually in software development. I mainly ask questions about our specific systems since much of it is legacy stuff with little documentation. That being said, I'd like the title of Senior Software Engineer for my resume, future job prospects, and maybe a pay increase.

I enjoy my job, but due to the company being small, there isn't a lot of upward mobility. I can't have direct reports under me because there are no other developers. Would it be a strange request if I asked for a promotion, which would make the company have 3 "senior" developers with no mid-level/juniors. Or would I most likely be better off seeking out a larger company where I can have more responsibility?

  • What does "senior" mean? Is it related to "seniority" (as in years of experience) or do the junior developers report to the senior developers? – Juliana Karasawa Souza Oct 17 at 15:13
  • @JulianaKarasawaSouza In this case, I don't believe it's related to having direct reports because I was the first new developer for a long time prior to me joining this company. I think it's a combination of skill level and years of experience. Neither senior developer has any reports. I report directly to the CEO. – Jared Oct 17 at 15:16
  • It's hard to answer this question, because what a given title means (or what it takes to "earn" a title) is somewhat company-specific. If a company has a perception of what senior means, and all the work they're getting is legitimately senior-level - then sure, it makes perfect sense to only have senior developers. – dwizum Oct 17 at 15:31
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    @Bilkokuya Yes. All of us work directly with clients. – Jared Oct 17 at 15:32
  • If you want a pay increase. Don't be afraid to ask for both a pay increase. Asking for a better title sounds to me like you're afraid to ask for what you really want. – Stephan Branczyk Oct 19 at 6:31
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Is it reasonable

It's just a job title. The company can give any title they want. I once worked in a place where every single person in the engineering department was a senior engineer, including the guy who drove us to sites and 2 guys with no qualifications at all.

I'd like the title of Senior Software Engineer for my resume, future job prospects, and maybe a pay increase.

Ask the boss, in practical terms it makes no difference to your role, so might be fine, unless there is a pay increase that goes with it. In which case there's still no harm asking, at least you will have information to make decisions with going forwards.

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    I heard of a place that called their receptionist an "Executive Assistant". – Nelson Oct 18 at 3:13
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According to the information provided, the titles are not linked to your position in the hierarchy, but to years of experience and technical expertise. There are also no department / reporting lines, since you report stright to the CEO.

This means that there is no organizational reason for having a ratio of junior x senior developers. There might be a monetary reason (a.k.a. "not in the budget")

That being said, you have 2 courses of action:

Stay in your current organization and apply for promotion

Understand what are the criteria for being elegible for a Senior Software Engineer position and what is the difference in scope of work between your Software Engineer position and the Senior Software Engineer.

Make an assessment on whether or not you meet the criteria and whether or not you can / will handle the different scope of work (if any). Set a personal target date for the eventual promotion to happen.

Talk to your boss about your intentions and to scout if there is a monetary reason behind this difference in titles, and whether or not they're willing to back your promotion. Understand if your boss' plans meet your target and the reason if don't.

Leave your organization

As you mentioned, your organization is quite flat for the moment, so there are not many positions with people leader responsibility. If you want to lead a team and have a different type of responsibility, you should look for another job unless there is a plan in the foreseeable future to expand the organization and create team lead type of positions that meets your personal timetable.

You should also be thinking about looking somewhere else if your boss' plan does not meet your personal target for promotion without a reasonable justification.

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    Something to consider: The OP could interweave both actions - apply for promotion and get the 'senior' in front of his current title, hang around for a while (6-12 months) and then apply for a new job where he's actually getting a team to lead with the benefit of having the 'Senior Software Engineer' title already and the prospects of an increased compensation.. – iLuvLogix Oct 17 at 16:41
  • @iLuvLogix yeah, that's the "set a personal timetable" part that connects the last sentence of both action plans :) – Juliana Karasawa Souza Oct 18 at 14:03

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