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Beware of the so called “Senior PHP Developers”

With the rise of PHP developer as career, many are trying to get their share in the pie. Lately I’ve met a number of developers who have worked for more than one/two years in developing PHP applications in various companies and they consider themselves as “senior” developers. They try to emphasize that they’ve done enough raw programming and they are now in a position where they’ll only design architecture of applications.

When you interview them and ask about complex topics, they’ll reply: “Oh my last company didn’t allow me work with that, but I’ll be able to grab that in a day“. You trust them and think that if they get the chance, they’ll sure be able to excel. After all, they’ve got that Company X’s experience and Guru Y’s reference.

At first everybody gets amazed with these developers employment history, the projects they’ve done, the technical jargons they can utter, the ideology/framework/pattern they talk about, etc etc. Everybody wants them in their team. The team who gets them finally are happier than ever, after all life will get easier to have such an expert in team.

Soon projects get rolling and everybody in his/her team is eagerly waiting to see the magics from these “senior” developers. To their disappointment, more ideas/criticism/review (e.g. “Pattern X is better than pattern Y. Why you’re choosing X?”, “Why are you doing Z in this way? Who taught you this?”, “Have you ever heard of DEF?”, “I have done research on DB normalization and you teach me schema?“) takes place but they don’t see actual code from these developers.

They come to office in an awkward timing, leaves early, works with personal things at office – but nobody can question their activity as people might not believe them. With much regret, the remaining team members continue to complete the work which the “senior” developer was suppose to do. Instead of a team synergy, an unintended pressure is created in the team.

Eventually the project misses deadline by miles, team members become unhappy as they had to do extra work each day to cover the team’s ass, company gets screwed as client is unhappy and decides not to do repeat business. Company digs down the cause of the failure, finds the responsible person, and fires them away.

Surprisingly, when a friend of the “senior” developer asks them in a social party: “What happened with the Company X you were working on?”, they’ll reply: “Oh that crap! You know, it’s a pain to work with junior developers. They don’t understand things. All they know is coding, no knowledge, no understanding of architecture. And the management is so poor, you won’t believe……“.

Don’t include someone like them in your team and think twice or thrice if you don’t have many options. Try to find out how good programmer they are in the interview. How senior they might be, ask them to write code in the interview. Try out proven questions that others have shared from their experience. Overall, make sure you’re taking the right person. The best hiring option is to hire “no one”.

Have you been in such situation? Share your experience here!

22 thoughts on “Beware of the so called “Senior PHP Developers”

  1. Omi Azad

    VERY Practical.

    There are some other problems too. Some guys passed from renown University (eg. BUET) and applied for some post in X company. Now that X company is a foreign investment and the management thinks they can take written tests and choose the employees. The fresh heads passed the tests and gets the job. Because they just closed the books sit for the exam. But could not write a single line of code in starting of their career.

    The fraudband cable guy can connect you to the information super highway. He can connect a UTP cable to the clip according to the color specification. But he cannot tell you who specified the color code. He cannot tell you what is the abbreviation of TCP. :)

  2. Insane

    I know many people who speak of , but Cmon .
    ‘ The best hiring option is to hire “no one” ‘.

    No way, there´s a lot of good skilled developers who know that A to Z patterns and Technologies.

    (h)

  3. Emran Hasan

    @Insane: What I meant is – it’s better to hire no one rather hiring someone who not only fails to add value but also hampers company people and projects.

    Of course there are good developers out there but it’s a little hard to find them. So unless a good developer is found, I’d rather stick with the ‘no hire’ option.

  4. Pingback: Uzmanieties no t? saucamajiem “Vec?kajiem PHP programm?t?jiem” | Endija Lisovska pieraksti

  5. Amit

    You’re completely right about the judgement of value in people you are going to hire. In a commoditised environment, the sole differentiator is skill, foresight and quality, at a good price. I think really good people who not just code, but understanding the full context of what is being achieved are worth many, many times more than mere developers. They’re a rare breed that have expertise in a combination of things.

  6. nhm tanveer hossain khan (hasan)

    hi emran bhai,
    thanks for highlighting such a nice topic.

    usually management or those who are involve in recruitment they most often select this type of ppl.

    i believe every people can give their best effort if they get their perfect job. probable the senior guy you are describing about, he is not inclusive. thats why he throws blame instead of taking it forward.

    i think you should be very selective while you are selecting senior guys. so no other developer won’t get disrespect.

    i think, there are plenty of experienced guys around, but a few experienced team players.

    here is one tip from me -
    http://biznik.com/learn/tips/employee-issues/team-leader-should-never-blame-about-her-team-member

    best wishes,

  7. Emran Hasan

    @hasan: I agree with the points you mentioned – not everybody is a good team player. But when someone has that lacking, they should try to cover that by doing hard work.

    Btw, nice article on team spirit !

  8. Jens

    I didn’t start calling myself a ‘senior’ until I had 8 years of day-to-day experience with PHP.

  9. hasin hayder

    ahem

    great post, emran. i really like way you’ve expressed yourself. such a person is very dangerous to the whole team and can end up almost ruining it.

    pathetic but true, you will also find some sr. devs who also knows how to save their ass when the project is in a critical state, about to fail. you will find a lot of interesting characters
    ;)

    @hasan, thanks for sharing that article

  10. bill

    I never hire “Senior PHP Developers”.

    I hire senior programmers who are well versed in PHP. Anyone who only knows one language is a “one trick pony”.

  11. Tarique Sani

    After 10 years of running a PHP company – I have come to realize just one thing – If you end up hiring an A**H*** like the one you describe above you have no one to blame but yourself.

    We have a process for weeding out such people (may be I should blog about it) but in the end it is the one to one interview which decides who gets to stay….

  12. Rich Zygler

    This is the reason why I always require candidates to write some code for me before I offer the job. If you need the candidate to be skilled in a certain topic, give them a short programming assignment a week before the interview that deals with that topic. Then during the interview you can discuss their solution. That is the only real way to discover if they know what they are doing.

  13. Rokcy

    I think I know the man whom you are indicating in your post. But you are absolutely wrong about him. If you are right then he shouldn’t have a such a good experiences. He has very good experiences in very renown companies. And still doing much better then before.

  14. Emran Hasan

    @Rocky: Thanks for your comment. I think you’ve missed a point: “Lately I’ve met a number of developers who ….” – that I didn’t mention about a single dev, but a number of them.

    Regarding me being wrong, I’d beg to differ from your view. Having experience in so called renowned companies doesn’t make someone a great developer – he/she needs to prove their experience through actual work. A great developer is a performer, not an audience.

    I’d ask you one simple question. Who would you prefer: someone with big company names in their resume with very little contribution to his/her job OR someone who might not have a long resume but works his ass off to keep his company’s project in line with expectation ??

    Once again, thanks for commenting.

  15. Rokcy

    @ Emran. But you didn’t answer one of my point? That’s how s/he can have such good experiences if s/he is not a good developer. And a developer will not remain as developer throughout his career. Once s/he will be senior and perform senior role. If you have worked in really large scaled projects you might have understand the actual value of good architecture. That’s why you could have comment such badly about the architecture thought of that developer. But you have to respect and give value to such genius where his/her single line of code talks. But you won’t understand. Coz, I have visited all your profile and even your freelancer profile. You even didn’t work in such live project where thousands of con-current user log in and log out.

  16. Emran Hasan

    @Rokcy: You seem to know about me better than I do :) Did we ever met or you’re drawing conclusion from the secondary information you’re getting in the web? I don’t need to defend your views, but I guess people will differ with you regarding your views about me.

    And regarding your point of senior role, it’s purely a crap thinking that someone senior cannot touch code and only design architecture. A senior developer knows his/her place and they can come to the level of their co-workers to help them out. I’ve had the chance of working with a number of such great developers and I think I can judge pretty well.

    If you still feel that it was my mistake that I couldn’t understand your so called senior developer, why don’t you stop by one day in my office and check their work in person?

    Thanks for your time and comment.

  17. Rokcy

    Sorry Mr. Emran. Came to Bangladesh with a large project. Found your site and just browsed about your thinking. Leaving tonight and I would love to if I could visit your office. And by the way, I know such seniors who even don’t do any coding now and just designs the architecture of the total solution. One of them in your country has referred your company and then I started searching to know more. But it’s really pity that where CTO thinks like that then how they will develop my application for which I am looking for long term relationship. And for your kind information I have met 2 of your developers and their comment about the company was not satisfactory. I have 12 years of experience in this field. I also heard that your company is loosing foreign projects day by day and getting involved in local projects. You may have seen 10 or 20 seniors but there are 22 architects working in my company. Being a Bangladeshi origin I am trying to out source some of our projects to Bangladesh. But not in such a company where developers want to leave.

    Wish to meet you next time I come.

  18. Rokcy

    One last thing, don’t blame developers for loosing projects. It’s mainly the failure of management then the system designer. We believe in this.

  19. Emran Hasan

    @Rokcy: As you have 12 years of experience in this field, I am sure you’ve seen a lot and have idea about too many things. However, I believe that you can truly learn about someone or some company only when you have a face to face sharing session. If one party cannot confront the other with valid ground, you know instantly who’s on the defaulting side.

    Regarding the fact of losing foreign projects and getting involved in local projects, I’d like to mention that we’re NOT just an outsourcing company. We have specific business plan and we’re growing inline with that. We’ve just started with local solutions and will continue to increase our footprint by empowering local companies with solutions that help their business. We will surely work on foreign projects as well – side by side. If you would have been able to come to our office, I’d be able to show you which foreign and which local projects is currently taking place in my company. It’s a pity that you’re leaving tonight.

    And I appreciate that you have 22 architects working in your company. We have just started and have a long way to go before I can also take pride of having x number of architects. But for the time being, we have two great teams and we’re working steadily to climb the ladder one step at a time. When we hire someone new in our company, they know where they’re joining, what’s the prospect and what to expect.

    Regarding blaming developers for loosing projects, I surely appreciate your viewpoint about management and system designer. However, I’d like to add the point that if the actual programmers don’t contribute in a project, however good management or system design is there, it’s going to fail. An architect can plan a house, a contractor can bring the raw materials, but if the construction workers don’t work, no house will actually get built. And just as a part of sharing, I keep myself as a part of the blaming when project fails and communicate my faults to my developers. They know by heart that Emran did that wrong, we did this wrong and the combined effect did not work as planned.

    Lastly, I’d like to mention that if someone senior in our country has referred to me or my company, surely they have reasons to have faith. Please convey my gracious thanks to that person. And also thanks to you for spending the time to reply to the msgs. I hope you have a safe journey.

  20. Omi Azad

    WOW
    This place looks like a forum than a blog to me.

    I did not get one thing, why someone took the post personally? The post is very practical and we should appreciate that rather criticizing it.