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I've been a Junior Web Developer at a non-tech company for about a year and a half. The other day I had an informal mid-year review and my boss asked where I wanted to be in a year's time (a front-end dev, I told him), and he expressed interest in "helping me get there." He asked "what he could do to help me", and said that I could give it some thought and let him know.

I've never been asked such a question before, so I wanted to ask about it here. What does a non-entry level developer look like, and what information can I give him that'll help me? It's important to note that there aren't any mid-level developers at this company, just me, a senior, and managers.

Since I've started working under him, I:

  • Have gathered project requirements independently
  • Have received positive feedback on projects I've completed
  • Have established a solid rapport with other employees, especially those I've done tasks/projects for
  • Have been sought out for design and project proposals
  • Have been partially responsible for our team receiving more project requests
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  • Out of curiosity, what does your former boss have to do with this? If it is just venting, public complaining is generally not beneficial to advancing your career. – buckminst Jul 16 '20 at 19:32
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    Does your company have any published guidelines around what competencies and expectations they have for different levels? – Seth R Jul 16 '20 at 19:35
  • Who is making the decision to promote? If it is your manager, then the answer to "How can I help you" would be "Promoting me, would help me" – Helena Jul 16 '20 at 20:44
  • @Helena my manager's boss would ultimately make the decision. – Bodrov Jul 16 '20 at 21:16
  • @SethR I don't know, but I can find out. – Bodrov Jul 16 '20 at 21:16
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Sounds like your boss has a great attitude, and that means this would be a good conversation to have with your senior colleague, and then continue with your boss.

Ask your them where they think the gaps are between your current skills and performance, and the next level at your company. Then ask your boss's advice for how to fill those gaps.

This will have the double effect of learning what you need to do to advance with your current employer, and also reinforce to your boss that you regard them as a mentor, which will in turn be likely to make them look out for you when you need them to.

Of course, you may find that the skills they need you to develop before you are promoted don't align with your own long term aspersions. You'll still need to develop them if you want promotions and pay rises at your current company, but you'll know that you need to make a decision about moving somewhere more in line with your own expectations in the future.

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a front-end dev, I told him)

does a non-entry level developer look like

So what do you want?

Specifically, as "a front-end dev" covers a heck of a lot of terrain. Even "non-entry level developer" is very broad and can be a very different role across companies.

  • Do you want to be a web frontend dev? Or JavaFx?
  • Do you want to develop expertise in a particular framework?
  • Do you want to have a particular specialty within frontend development, such as user experience or speed?
  • Do you want to work for a big company? Or perhaps found your own startup?
  • Do you envision yourself as a consultant in the future? Or would you rather be an employee?
  • Does management interest you? Or would you rather be a technical contributor?
  • Does dealing with non-technicals excite you or make you want to run back to your desk?
  • Do you want to get a promotion within the company? Or are you looking to leave?

Start by answering those questions.

Then identify key skills that support those preferences. If you are going to switch companies every two years, you need interview skills. Management, you need presentation skills. Consulting, you need patience skills. Then ask for opportunities to develop those skills. Want a promotion? Ask your manager to set metrics which once you meet, you will have earned the promotion.

If you want to do management, ask for more project ownership. If you want technical specialty, ask for harder/more complicated work. Want more skills? Ask for the company to pay for your Udemy courses and give you paid time to work through them. Ask for them to send you to conferences and skill workshops.

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