Levels in the software industry

  1. beginner
  2. junior
  3. mid-level
  4. senior
  5. technical lead: team lead, architect, chief architect, …
  6. Organization Technical Lead: VP of Engineering, CTO

These levels can be defined in terms of the Skill Matrix.

Beginner

This is the not (yet) employable level. They know some language constructs, but don't have a good overview of all the features. They do not know any frameworks or libraries, but they may use some (wrongly).

They're the unemployable students, who could eventually become employable after a few years of practice. Many give up though, early enough, to everyone's benefit.

Junior

They have a good grasp of all the features of a programming language, even if they may not know what to use and when. They are slowly learning the terminology and how things work in various areas, but they need close supervision and guidance.

Mid-Level

They know one or more languages quite well. They also know some frameworks and software development methodologies. See Skill Matrix.

They can figure out problems and solutions in their immediate vicinity, but lack the master view often. Also, they often don't have the “strength” to punch through a problem, may feel lost at times and need to be motivated and unblocked when facing a technical problem.

Sometimes, they miss the overview of how things work, especially in more complex situations.

Senior

Senior developers know their way around the system, from top to bottom. They master at least one programming language, and they can guess very often what possible causes there are for a specific problem. They're guiding the lower levels and they have valuable input in design meetings.

In their strongest areas from the Skill Matrix, they can even innovate.

Technical Leads

They can do everything that a senior does, plus the people game. They serve as an important avenue for bottom-up feedback regarding problems at the system or at the design level.

They gain influence in the organization by solving problems.

They have valuable input during backlog grooming and they are extremely driven.

Organization Technical Lead

They are at the top of their game. They have vision for the whole organization and recognize opportunities.

The CTO is the visionary who knows the industry.

The VP of Engineering is the person making sure that deadlines are met.