From Junior to Senior Engineer — specialist’s perspective

At Bornfight, there are 2 advancement paths that a person in any team can take once they reach the Middle levels of seniority — a specialist path and a management path. In this interview with Ivan Lesar, our Senior JavaScript Developer, we’ll be exploring the former.

Fresh from college in late 2015, Ivan joined our team as a Junior Software Developer. Over the course of 5 years, he’d gone through all 6 of our Junior and Middle seniority levels, and is now one of the core Seniors within the team — a Senior JavaScript Developer.

So let’s learn a bit more about his professional development at Bornfight, and see what made him take the specialist path instead of the people management one!


Let’s start with the start of your career in our team. Tell me how it all began when you joined us in 2015?

I joined the team as a Junior Developer — this was my first job after college, and it was actually the only position I applied to at the time because I really wanted to become a part of the company. As I just finished college, I was extremely driven and ready to show everyone just how much I learned and how much I know — but when I started working here, I quickly realized just how much more there is to learn about software development. That was an eye-opener, and it showed me this was the place where I could maximize my potential.

And you gotta understand that this was 6 years ago — and at that time, the onboarding and all of the accompanying processes weren’t even close to what we have today. But as soon as I started, I was assigned a mentor and a project, and we progressively ramped up the difficulty of the task I got to work on. It was a kind of a trial by fire at that time, but it was very controlled and I had full support from others.

When I look back, I gotta say that this enabled me to go through the Junior and Middle levels with relative ease and quickness.

You said you only wanted to join our team, and that it was the only application you sent. Why is that — what attracted you to join us?

Well, I might be a bit specific because I love connecting the development aspect with creativity… and that might not be something you see that often in back-end developers. But that combination is something I found here — Bornfight is strong in both the development aspect and the creative aspect, and I got to experience all of it.

Couple that with fast professional advancement and continuous changes that happen as the company grows, and I can say that I got through a number of very different situations in a short period of time — and all of that has driven me to push forward, to learn and to advance.

I haven’t seen something similar in some other company, and that is why this team was my only choice.

The company is now 6 years older, a lot of elements have changed or evolved, the projects are larger, the processes are more structured… What is it that still keeps you here?

This is an interesting one. When I compare the situation 6 years ago and what’s going on now — one of the only things that hasn’t changed is the fact that my work is still focused on coding. But everything else has gone through some aspect of change.

From the processes and strategy to my day to day activities — and it’s not just because I’m a Senior now and it’s kind of normal that my day to day tasks are different. Everything we do feels more mature, our strategies and approach are much more detailed and we take every aspect of business and projects in a much more serious way — this enables us to tackle larger challenges and provide more value.

6 years ago, everything was quite simple to me and that was fun. Now, it’s more complex, but it is still fun because I can now use all of the knowledge that I gathered throughout the years, because that is now needed to solve the challenges we’re working on. And in addition to that, I can always bring something extra from my creative side to the project — and you know that’s that cherry on top I always like to add.

Now, everything we do is structured and it all just flows, but we still keep upgrading our approach, our processes and the ways we handle things because we know we can always improve them and bring even more value through our work. And that is what drives me now. That is what still keeps me at Bornfight.

What would you say were some of the major milestones of your career?

One of the biggest milestones in my career at Bornfight was DaPowerPlay. This was a blockchain project we started when I was still a Mid, and it was the first project on a scale that is similar to the scale of projects that we’re working on now. When I look at it, I can say that this was the project that prepared us for all of the future projects because it completely changed our mindset and the way we approach building complex systems and long-term products.

That was the time of the first big crypto boom, so we were working on technologies and in the industry that none of us knew much about. As a project team, we needed to constantly learn and implement new tech, share the insights with each other and ensure that every person understands all of the needed features and aspects, as well as the bigger picture of the product. We had a core team of people that was focused exclusively on that project and that guided its every aspect — this type of approach is now completely normal, but back then it was a first for all of us.

This was the time where it became extremely clear to me that we as a company are capable of working on and delivering extremely complex products.

What about the time when you became a Senior Developer — what did that shift look like?

It was organized, but it was still a large change. And it still is a constant change. But it drives me, it is fun to me. We Seniors are the ones primarily responsible for continuous implementation of new aspects into the business and into the way we operate… finding out ways to do our work more efficiently and then enable others to do the same.

When I look at it now, one of the biggest parts of this shift to a Senior role was the change of my primary objective. From the time I became a Senior Developer, my major focus became using my knowledge, expertise and experience to maximise the overall quality and the result of the project I’m working on, as well as ensuring its successful delivery.

This means I was the one who made sure that development aspects of the project are done on time and in line with the standards that we set. This not only meant that I was responsible for tackling the most challenging of issues, but also making sure that other members of the project team are independent in their work — through proper delegation of tasks and responsibilities, as well as through continuous technical mentorship.

This is something that I’m fully involved in, and it brings me loads of fun — seeing the entire project team constantly push the boundaries and our capacity to work on more and more challenging projects.

You like teaching people and you’re a mentor to your project team. So what would then be the reason why you chose the specialist path, instead of taking on the team lead role as a manager in the Development department?

Well, as I see it, there’s a big difference between the two. You see, when it comes to mentorship, and especially technical mentorship, there is no resistance – people always want to learn, they want to know more because that will enable them to work easier and faster. There are no emotions involved.

On the other hand, when you’re a team lead, you’re bound to get some resistance from the people you’re leading because you’re dealing with opinions and emotions. That aspect is not technical — you’re expected to resolve issues, as well as influence the change of mindsets, attitudes and a lot of different aspects of a certain individual. And I don’t think I would be great or feel comfortable in that role. As developers often like to say — I’m much better at talking to robots than people.

What it boils down to is ​​— I love solving problems. And seeing if you successfully solved a specific problem is much clearer in that technical aspect, then in the human aspect. When you’re dealing with tech, when you change something you instantly see the result — it either works or it doesn’t. If it works, everything is great. If it doesn’t, you change it again. With people, it can take a long time to see if something changed and you can’t be sure of the outcome.

As a specialist, you have your Team Lead and a Head of your department. What do you expect from people in those positions?

When it comes to the Head of the department, I don’t expect them to solve technical problems I come across. As a senior, I can handle that, but I expect them to provide assistance — a Head is someone you should be able to talk to about technical issues, and they should be able to help you or steer you towards making the right decision.

Yeah, a Head is someone who can understand the bigger picture of a product I’m working on without the need to go deep into it, and is able to talk to me about different approaches to solving technical issues.

And when it comes to Team Leads, I expect them to know what I’m doing and how I’m doing. Not in the way of monitoring everything I do, but if someone asked them what I’ve been handling for the last three weeks, they could give them a brief summary — they could tell them what I’ve done great, and what challenged me the most.

A Team Lead is someone I can talk to at any moment and they would listen. Although they can also provide assistance when it comes to solving technical issues, I get the most value from Team Leads who help me solve the non-technical challenges and are focused on ensuring that I’m continuously growing as a professional.

Now that you’re on a Senior level, what do you see as the next step of your career?

This one is pretty clear to me — it is the role of a Software Architect. I see myself as a person who builds giant systems and handles the grander scale of products.

On a product I’m currently working on, we’ve already implemented structures that prevent us from making mistakes, and it is those rules that are guided by my own approach. I like creating structure, defining rules and building systems, so an Architect role is something I will continue to pursue.