Why do you need Senior Developers on your founding team?

I have founded startups and have worked in many startups. When starting funding round, startups are usually cash-strapped. Hiring some freelancers from Upwork is so enticing. What is the big deal right? Hire some developers for cheap and get the work done, right?

Well after all these years I have learned that the value that Senior Developers is just unmatchable.

What is the difference between a Junior, Mid & a senior Developers?

Most big tech companies have “levels” and these levels are very coherently defined.

Junior Engineer (Equivalent to Amazon L4)

  • Are able to work if given specific instructions
  • Their scope is limited to features in usually one service

Mid-level Engineers (Equivalent to Amazon L5)

  • Are able to work with some ambigous requirements
  • Their scope is limited to few services

Senior-level Engineers (Equivalent to Amazon L6)

  • Are able to work with ambigous problems with no clear solutions
  • They understand the cost of decisions and are able to foretell future requirements well.
  • They don’t over-engineer a solution.
  • Their scope spans multiple services and projects. Their impact is usally cross-team

Is there a level above Senior Engineers?

Well, in amazon’s lingo they are called Principal Engineers or Tech Leads or Engineering Leads.

These are the engineers who are usually very hard to find. They are to find products the company can launch. They consistently propose and “deliver” new products and services for the team with measurable results.

These engineers don’t confine themselves in one area of the product and can easily switch from service to service as if they had been working on these services for years. They are able to work with poorly defined systems and contribute to design implementation and delivery.

They are able to understand Product & business requirements very well.

So which engineer should you hire?

A basic team must have at least one senior engineer just when you are starting up.
If you have some paying customers trying to find at least one Head of Engineering or Principal Engineer. These engineers are usually hard to come by as they get very high salaries in FAANG corporations (usually over $300k/year).

Why would a principal engineer join your startup?

Not everything revolves around money, if it did then no one would quit their job to start a company.
Although FAANG gives really high salaries the job satisfaction quotient is quite low. Most of these Principal engineers want to do more but are limited by the corporate hierarchy. They want to have more impact on the product and be in control.
That is what your startup can offer to them!

They will be more interested in a startup with less control and more ownership.

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