Does ‘Number of Years’ of experience matter in Software Development or IT?

A career advise for many of our fellow developers who assume that spending more number of years automatically qualifies them for promotion. What you gain in experience counts more than number of years.

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Does ‘Number of Years’ of experience matter in Software Development or IT?

By Piyush Bhatt  at Dec 25, 2020  0 Comments

In the beginning of my career and for 8–10 years even after that, I was naïve enough to think that number of years of experience in resume really mattered for something tangible — higher salary or seniority within teams. Just like in elementary school a 3rd grader feels being older than 2nd grader is some kind of advantage - is what it feels like when you get into a job and your 3 year experience seems superior to a fresher guy who just comes on board.


I had that Aha! moment when I was talking to a friend Mark W., who was Director then and I was consulting at the same place. I was just recommending someone saying XYZ has around 5 years of experience so he should be good fit for a job. And he asked “Does he have 5 years of experience or 1 year experience 5 times?”!


This was like, he could put in words what I had been questioning whenever I interviewed people with good number of experience but always wondered how did they make it this far.


Now that I head a software development firm and have hired or overseen over 50–60 people in last 6 years, it changed my perspective of which experience really counts.


Why & When an employer does not see your Experience:


If you are self-employed yourself, this does not apply to you. But if you are seeking job and find that your experience is not giving you any additional benefit then read how employer looks at it:


What does a person have to DO to gain experience — well, just maintain the job for one more year. You see, there is no much ‘action’ in here. This is how an employer looks at 7 year v/s 10 v/s 15 — what does 10 year experience do better than 7 years?. There is no data.


Performance comes from Individual not from number of years  There are certain people who just perform better at what they do. I have met, hired and worked with enough of those freshers who performed 10 times better than 10 years experience individuals. Employers have met those, so they don’t look at your number of years.


Difference between X years of experience and 1 years of experience X times is — one could just be like a fresher with 1 year of experience even though s/he has been working of X years. The experience has not taught them anything more than working through the 1st job for 1st year. With individual’s age and natural progress in life about growing family needs, our minimum salary and benefit requirements increase as well. This makes employers consider cost v/s benefit.


Tools & Platforms keep changing. In Software & IT, the tools and platforms keep changing. So if you are good at a tool or platform and when that becomes obsolete, our financial needs do not become obsolete.

Ok, then when does experience count?


This is still a wrongly worded question. Better worded would be — what matters in the experience?

Have you heard the quote “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” by Otto von Bismarck. For sake of our own career and humility, I would change this to “Wise person learns from his/her own mistakes; smart person leans from other’s mistakes.


  • Lessons from Mistakes count first.

Have you made and learned from your mistakes? This is also one of the typical interview questions. If you think that by talking about your mistakes, you will fail the interview then that is a mistake too. And if interviewer judges by mistake and not by lessons then that is interviewer mistake.


  • Ability to teach those lessons. 

Our experience count when we help others not repeating the same mistake. If one watches other making mistakes and do nothing then one should not be hired. If one teaches others to do the right thing then those are the stars that should be hired.


  • Ability to differentiate good and bad.

As our experience grows, we work at different places, and there is something good at every place and something bad. Ability to carry forward what is good and reject what is bad is what the experience teaches.

In many interviews, I show few lines of code to the candidate and ask what is bad in it? Let me tell you 70% candidates with 5+ years of experience fail at this. And those who pass are sometimes freshers.

/* Find out what is bad in following two lines of code */
var x = new X();

x = getX();

/* Find out why exception should not be handled following way */

try { doSomething(); } catch(Exception ex) { throw ex; }


  • Ability to show better practices.

With more work experience we should have learnt what processes work better and what do not. What decisions will make team’s life easy and what will make it hard. And these are not coding questions or programming decisions. They are about taking decisions about team, project management, approach of development etc.


  • Ability to fill in the gaps.

One thing we learn from experience there are always gaps in what is needed, what is being asked, what is being developed and what is being delivered. An experienced person identifies and fills these gaps. S/he recognizes


  • Being familiar with what and why of Technical Jargon:

Understanding certain jargon — or terms and well-sayings used in the field — and knowing ‘why’ for those terms also shows your experience.

falling through the cracks; 80/20 rule; deal breaker; important v/s urgent; priority v/s severity; road blocks or impediments; adding value;


There could be written syllabus to get technical skills. But, there is no written syllabus to gain ‘experience’. Many times, to get promotion and climb the corporate ladders one may have to unlearn past habits and put in new.

Our experience should contribute towards making others’ life easier. This is core principal of success in the universe. Even in your daily work day, find out how many people are able to do their job better with your help. If it is 1+ per year of experience, then you definitely have done something right. If it 0, then it is a problem you need to fix.

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