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Discussion on: What is a Senior Developer *Really*?

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Alex Martelli

You're neglecting a key point in Brook's immortal "The Mythical Man-Month": in a sufficiently large team, different roles, personas are warranted and helpful. One of them, per Brooks: "The language lawyers are well-acquainted with the intricacies of the language used. Able to see obscure but efficient ways of solving tricky problems." (nowadays, add libraries and frameworks to just "language" -- Python+Flask vs Python+Django may well require different "language lawyers" as the frameworks are SO deeply different). I just happen to have just the right mindset to be a very senior and impactful "language lawyer" -- on Python and several libraries/frameworks for decades now, as I was with Pascal (mostly Turbo Pascal) in the '80s, C and the Win32 API in the '90s (see aleax.it/TutWin32/ -- alas, it's in Italian only, as I was back in Italy then, though I'm back to the US for 15+ years now:-). Of course, especially as I grew in maturity and experience, I added other in-depth skills, but the "language lawyer" mindset you shrug away has been my core claim to adding value to a team mostly throughout my decades in software (after getting college training, and starting out my career, designing hardware systems and circuits) -- that's why I wrote early editions of "Python Cookbook" and all editions of "Python in a Nutshell", how I won the Frank WIllison memorial award for contributions to Python, how I made "front page" (top 0.01% or less) by reputation as a Stack Overflow contributor (mostly about Python and related matters)... no doubt this quirk of my mind is part of what helped me graduate in electric engineering with a GPA above A+ (though it was HW, I nevertheless "glommed" into the details of whatever specific technology was most relevant to any given course, and aced+ exams focused on it).

Of course there are many other kinds of senior technologists contributing to a sufficiently large team (and if you work in small-enough teams, esp. in startups, this forces you to broaden your "footprint" to help the whole team/firm move forward!)... but "language lawyers", or, to quote you, "People that know everything about a programming language" (and framework, libraries, etc), as I remain at my core, can, in particular, be extremely valuable. "gnōthi seauton", and, if the shoe fits!, DON'T be worried to wear it:-).