The idea of a “senior” title, whether in WordPress, general tech, finance or any other field should tell a client or other stakeholder that the person holding the title has experience in their craft. It should convey they not only know the technicals of their profession but also how the industry itself works to a level that says their advice and guidance can be trusted.
In WordPress, all too often, that is not the case.
The WordPress community often tries to, instead of leaning on experience and knowledge, lean on the financial results of a single project or point in time. It is the only community I’ve been a part of where a lack of education and virtually no experience can lead to a senior title almost immediately.
In other words, WordPress seems to have a fascination with salesmanship over actual talent and experience. The ability to sell a single, often short-term project is enough for an individual with no other experience, and far more luck than knowledge, to jump to a new organization with a “senior” title and better pay.
This is a problem.
In WordPress we often talk about the “race to the bottom” where pay for WordPress developers is dropping at a seemingly accelerating pace. What else could happen when a green dev with limited external experience can be tasked with complex sites that should go to people who understand the system.
How is it, given the situation, that we, as the WordPress community, still wonder why our craft is viewed so negatively by others? Should we really be surprised, as WordPress developers, that our skills are seen as “not real engineering” or “not real development” when we are willing to dilute any meaning of experience on our profession?
That isn’t to say that there aren’t excellent, truly senior developers in WordPress. There are and they do great work. They’re not, however, the norm. Instead all-too-many organization rely on selling senior level work with junior level experience, patting themselves on the back if the project is actually completed and learning more about how to sell themselves rather than build robust, sustainable projects.
This also isn’t to say that there shouldn’t be new folks coming in and leveling up. We need fresh eyes and people to power such a huge part of the web. While other systems have failed due to excessive gatekeeping could the downfall of WordPress happen due to leaving the doors too wide open?
It’s time for the community to step back and look at better ways to recognize the talent and experience within it. If job titles cannot be trusted than formal credentials should be available to do so.
I think of the accessibility professionals I know and the certifications they get. Nearly everyone I know of with an accessibility certification was working in accessibility before they got it. It wasn’t, however, until later in their career that they had the experience to pass the certification exam which then helps really demonstrate that experience to new organizations or clients.
The biggest danger here is gatekeeping. Any credentialing should, in my opinion, not be required of any org but should allow an org to bypass other costs. Maybe this is a maintenance discount for hosts that recognize them, maybe it is something else. There are a lot of ways this could go.
I hope, in 2022, to see more discussion happen around the idea. It is well past time that we recognize our senior people as the experienced professionals they are and treat their years of experience building WordPress sites as something of value. Currently there is not nearly enough of that.