Recently, I started my first job as a junior developer and I have a more senior developer in charge of mentoring me in this small company. However, there are several times when he would give me advice on things that I just couldn't agree with (it goes against what I learned in several good books on the topic written by the experts, questions I asked on some Q&A sites also agree with me) and given our busy schedule, we probably have no time for long debates.

So far, I have been trying to avoid the issue by listening to him, raising a counterpoint based on what I've learned as current good practices. He raises his original point again (most of the time he will say best practice, more maintainable but just didn't go further), I take a note (since he didn't raise a new point to counter my counterpoint), think about it and research at home, but don't make any changes (I'm still not convinced). But recently, he approached me yet again, saw my code and asked me why haven't I changed it to his suggestion. This is the 3rd time in 2--3 weeks.

As a junior developer, I know that I should respect him, but at the same time I just can't agree with some of his advice. Yet I'm being pressured to make changes that I think will make the project worse. Of course as an inexperienced developer, I could be wrong and his way might be better, it may be 1 of those exception cases.

My question is: what can I do to better judge if a senior developer's advice is good, bad or maybe it's good, but outdated in today context? And if it is bad/outdated, what tactics can I use to not implement it his way despite his 'pressures' while maintaining the fact that I respect him as a senior?

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    You learn more from mistakes than successes. – StuperUser May 23 '11 at 17:54
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    Can you give an example of one of the issues you two disagree about? I know this is more of a theoretical question, and you probably want to avoid technical debates, but it would be interesting to hear what the disagreement is over. – Adam Rackis May 23 '11 at 18:09
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    I see one red flag in this post. You have had to be asked to do something three times. Once should be enough. If you don't want to do something, you need to convince your mentor it isn't necessary. If you can't do that, then either hold your nose and do it, or find a new job. – PeterAllenWebb May 23 '11 at 21:50
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    @peterallenweb, indeed it is bad to be asked 3 times regardless of the quality of the advice. I guess from the comments here I have a lot to learn in terms of working in different teams. :) – learnjourney May 24 '11 at 0:10
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    In addition to what Peter said: Consider his point of view: You ask the new guy to do something, have a technical discussion, get no further objection, and then - a week later you find out he simply ignored your request. And this isn't the first time this has happened. (Don't worry too much - you're certainly not the first person straight from college to fall into this trap. As long as you are aware of this issues and work on them, you'll be alright.) – Martin May 24 '11 at 8:48

33 Answers 33


As I understand it, your dev lead is actually just there to keep a watch on you "because leaving a developer entirely on his own would be irresponsible". But he doesn't have a clue how to actually judge your work.

Have you talked to him about it ? Maybe he's tired having to do that as well.

If you need advice and help, wouldn't it be a better and more productive solution to have a teammate work with you on your part of the project instead ?

  • may be, also because he is in some other domain, this work might not have been his choice and he might have been pushed here. But at the same time, getting another team mate to work with me, is a management decision. If i tell my bosses my work is difficult, and i need another team member may show my incapability, where in actual it is not like that. At the same time, having arrogance as a defensive mechanism for lack of knowledge, is this a solution on his part? – developer123 Aug 19 '11 at 14:47
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    It's only human to need someone to share your thoughts and ponder your decisions with. The best solutions often come out of collaborative work. That person needn't be 100% on that part either. Anyway, if i were your boss I'd choose that over letting a knowledge silo form into you any day. – guillaume31 Aug 19 '11 at 18:40

It's okay to question things while doing them exactly as asked. A good senior person might not always be able to convince you of the rightness of doing things before they need to be done, for business reasons or even just for task-dependency reasons; but should take time to acknowledge your concern, admit when they have failed to address it, and touch on it at another time.


At my last job, I worked alongside another developer who'd only been there for a months more than me. He had some existing experience at other companies working on similar systems. He was very calm and level headed. Still, he gave me the impression that wasn't a native software developer. By "native", I mean he just sort of fell into a developer position gradually over time. You could tell that he was well read in some areas, but lacked some fundamentals. It was clear that he struggled on some seemingly simple problems. He could get the software to do what he wanted, but he just didn't "get it".

Personally, I could never get over the "my way is better because I read it in a book" mentality, which was something I openly admitted when I worked there. In many ways, my previous experience made me a bad fit for the position. I'm not sure if it was because I was "too advanced" or just on a different path.

He and I continually argued about how to do unit testing. He believed in a very white box approach, via monkey patching. I prefer black box testing supported with mocks and dependency injection. I thought his approach led to fragile tests, but I'm sure some of my opinions were swayed by my background in C#. He had always worked in Python. Who was right? Both of us? Neither of us?

Companies should be more careful when promoting developers to senior status. It is very difficult to gain enough experience at one job. A good senior developer has to know about what tools are available and how other shops handle similar problems. It wasn't until I left my first job (where I was a senior developer) that I learned how to build modern websites, properly do continuous deployment, manage source control branches, build distributed services or use NoSQL databases. You need to learn new philosophies, technologies and processes to really be a senior developer.

Ultimately, the six months he'd been there longer than me gave him the advantage. I always bent to his will and did testing his way. That's what professionals do. I was there to learn. Still, as with most not-quite-developers, he wormed his way into a management position. In less than 3 weeks, we had a meeting and I walked out with a cardboard box. Now I am glad that I was fired because that place was boring me to tears.

It wasn't an environment of self-improvement. Unfortunately, policies intended to help, start to harm productivity when followed too strictly. I'd sit there for hours waiting for others to review my code, only to get comments back about line spacing and naming conventions. When I started making suggestions contrary to policy... I suddenly became labeled a rebel, a naysayer and an instigator.


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