Simon Willison’s Weblog


How does a career progresses for a web developer?

22nd September 2013

My answer to How does a career progresses for a web developer? on Quora

A web developer is a software developer, so you should look in to how software development careers work.

It used to be that the only way “up” was to move in to management—which is five for some people, but there are many developers who are great engineers but only average or below-average managers.

Thankfully, many company have now realised that forcing your best engineers to become bad managers instead is a poor strategy!

Potential career routes then for a senior developer that aren’t on the traditional management track:

  • Become a “principle” or “distinguished” engineer, which involves working on the company’s most important problems at a higher rate if pay than regular developers.
  • Become a “software architect” who helps design the higher level if how the software being developed works.
  • Become a lead developer—no direct people management, but responsible for mentorship and leading development of a project.

Or you can move in to management and eventually work your way up to positions like VP Engineering or CTO. It’s rare but not unheard of for the CTO to some day become CEO—Chad Dickerson from Etsy made this transition, for example.