I haven’t see this personally, I’ve only seen the opposite, companies pushing for full-stack devs. And from what I’ve seen, people self-select frontend vs backend despite teams pushing and hoping for more full-stack activity from every person on the team.
Frontend and backend and ops are specialized activities, and those domains are only getting more specialized and more complicated over time. Writing an API and designing CSS almost couldn’t be more different, and they’re both full time problems.
When I started a company with a friend, we both wanted to be full-stack and we both tried multiple times, but we just automatically drifted to me on the UI and him on the bots. After a while, when I would try to write bot code I would screw it up despite good intentions, strong knowledge of the code, and unit-tests in place. I would forget important security or schema details, or not quite understand the way my partner’s code had changed structurally even when we talked about it for hours. He’d get tired of explaining it and just write the code. Same thing happened the other way when he’d dip his toes in the frontend. If two people who want to be full-stack and communicate non-stop can’t make full-stack happen, I’d guess it’s a hard problem.
Not saying that you shouldn't want Front-End work; if you enjoy that, great, and I am happy to support you with that API in a timely fashion. Happy to work closely with the designer and/or Front-End dev to make sure you get what you need so that things look good on the front end. But, I prefer Back-end development, for the most part. When I take a job that's described as "back end" it usually will involve every once in a while doing a bit of js, html, or css, but not much, and it's understood that it is not what I am going to be doing most of the time.
Again, this may not be other people's experience, but it's mine.
Do you feel that 'reporting' (of the SSRS variety)falls under the backend umbrella?
In practice, I've also seen a similar "bait-and-switch" where people get told they'll do data science, and then get pressed into back-end development instead.
Or both. Up to 2x the work at 1x the salary. Win. Same for "devops".
That comment on the post sums it up perfectly, in my opinion.
It's unrealistic to think someone can be an expert an the front end stuff (changing by the month) and be an expert at the back-end stuff with its own completely separate set of skills and knowledge.
It's like asking for a back-end dev who's also a DevOps expert and can handle all 100+ AWS services. Hell, good DevOps folks can't handle that _without_ trying to become good back-end developers too.
Of course not everyone is a computer scientist but even then everyone who is worth their salary should be able to get up to speed with a new language or deployment scenario.
That being said, how many job postings do you know that explicitly mention "we work with XXX - do you think you want to, too?"
Isn't it more like "we need a Snap-on 12mm operator", or "a Picard hammer user".
Please no open-source hammer-and-nails people.
You don't hire a "mechanical engineer", unless they are truly a new grad. You hiring an HVAC Engineer (have friend with Mech. Eng. degrees who do this), or a drilling engineer (again have Mech. Eng. friends who do this), or an engineer to work on mechanical control systems for chemical plants, etc, etc and you won't find these engineers boldly saying "Yeah I spent 15 years working on HVAC systems but how hard can these avionic systems be?"
So yeah, we don't name mechanical engineers "wrench guys" or "hammer guys", but those fields definitely don't presume that there isn't an incredible depth of acquired knowledge and lore that one needs to be effective in them, and that can only be acquired through experience, and which is generally not transferable to other fields.
To say I can lead a team in a Java environment would be a lie, because of all the minor details.
Just because you can do something in a language doesn't mean devs are truly universal and "it's all the same."
Can I write some function integration in C/Go/Powershell, etc? Sure, but when I do, I am not nearly as efficient as when I am using my daily languages/frameworks.
I don't think I agree with this, but there's an underlying truth here.
Personally, I have at least dabbled in pretty much everything that I've come across. I do this intentionally for two reasons -- first, it makes me aware of what tools exist, so I can make better tooling decisions, and second, it gives me a little head start if it becomes desirable to actually achieve competency in one of them.
I'm minimally competent in a very large variety of things. I can accomplish pretty much anything with a tech if I'm minimally competent with it. It will just take me longer to do so.
I'm competent in a variety of things, and I'm expert in a handful of things.
An expert dev should be able to at least muddle through with pretty much any tech, where "muddle through" means that you can produce using that tech, but it will take you longer than with someone who is at least competent. But you can still do it, and recognizing that isn't lying to yourself.
I agree that devs can't do everything efficiently.
Different languages don't really matter, because once you've learned the major types of approaches languages take then everything else is (mostly) just a difference in syntax.
If we look at mathematical and algorithmic issues, all of those can be learned if needed. They don't affect the ability of a dev to do them, only how long it would take.
When I say a dev can do everything, I don't mean that everything is easy or fast for them. Just possible.
Should you be so efficient though? At the end of the day the only thing that matters for most employers is that you get the job done and the product out of the door. If your general programming knowledge with other languages frameworks allows you to quickly asses a problem and write a fix you create value, even if it not the most idiomatic solution. Of course everyone should write the best code in the most efficient and idiomatic way possible. But we don't live in an ideal world. As long as you take responsibility and apply your general knowledge together with common sense and best practices. Just don't go cowboying around a codebase just because you think every language is the same.
Minor details shouldn't stop you from leading a team. If putting you in a slightly different context means you can't lead anymore, you probably weren't actually leading in your preferred context.
I have me a bunch of "architects" who can "do everything", until you ask them to solve a practical problem.
Can you read about these best practices? Sure, but knowing right off the bat (and why) is part of what makes you a lead dev imo.
Leadership is when your team members come to you to solve difficult technical tradeoffs. It’s when you are giving valuable unsolicited feedback because you see problems and want to help the team. Leadership is driving difficult changes that may not be popular but are necessary, and finding a way to sell those changes to the team. It’s taking on work that matters and postponing your own features because the success of the team matters more than the success of your particular project or area.
Leadership is about leading. Not about being able to answer basic questions that anyone with a few years of experience should be able to answer. If your “leadership” is only applicable to one narrow technology, you don’t have leadership. You just have familiarity.
At my last job at a big company we had HipChat rooms for all kinds of user groups. The one for frontend devs had constant discussion about their job (in)security, and every couple of weeks someone posted an article complaining about the existence of "fullstack" engineers.
I wouldn't care if this ended at chats and picture, but it's these people who deliberately push for ever increasing fronted complexity to make sure they're not easily replaceable.
The sad reality is that IT industry is currently in a bubble. It is choke-full of overspecialized tool junkies with no transferable skills. Certain complexities you "have to know" to perform basic operations are often 100% artificial and shouldn't be there in the first place.
Have you considered that problems you’re not working on may actually have more inherent complexity than you realize?
From my own experience, and also just based on Ockham’s razor, it seems much more likely that people are mostly giving an honest effort and trying to solve real problems. Sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail to solve the problem, or fail to recognize the right problem to work on, but overall real things are certainly getting done in the software world — new products launch and companies provide real value and gain real customers.
I was hired as front-end and did angular and css but earned respect of my back-end devs by pestering them successfully about creating correct indexes on the tables involved in queries that were mysteriously slow to them.
The other front-end guy just switched to Java were team were short of back-end capacity.
The chief trait of a Full Stack developer, in my opinion, is often just growing into the needs of the team/moment. I've been weighted in different directions because that's where the product needed me; I'm currently the Front-End domain expert on my team.
Self-adulating thought leaders who throw shade at Full-Stack are themselves just really bad at using more than one language, let alone thinking about different parts of a large system.
(I'd also expect a Full-Stack developer to understand systems and resource provisioning/monitoring. Not just JS vs. Java.)
The converse problem is a brilliant but un-coordinated team of front end and back end developers that make things that the other team has trouble interfacing with: the severed front half of a narwhal and the back end of of a dragon with thousands of JSON/XML ants going between the two distant mounds of meat.
“A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”
In a startup or smaller organisation an Engineer with a deep understanding of a single area (frontend, backend, devops etc) is far less valuable to the business than an Engineer with "T-shaped" skills (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-shaped_skills), a solid understanding of fundamental best practices and the ability to quickly understand new things as required.
This article nails it:
One relevant (anti-)pattern I've seen too often: nominally full-stack teams who fail to value and take ownership of their UI component. In my examples, this happens when they "require" full-stack devs, but will give full rating to the "meme horse" developer (weak UI, strong backend) and completely de-rate the opposite developer: strong UI, weak backend.
That said, I agree with the author's preference for "full-stack team" where the entire team puts real value in the whole range of competencies rather than just pushing the full-stack need down onto every individual developer.