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Jakob Attkinson
Jakob Attkinson

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Explain full stack developer to me like I'm five

There seems to be a large and various definition of what a "full stack developer" is and what he is actually doing. People will likely understand different things, depending on which continent you live or try to apply to a job.

Therefore, does "full stack" has anything to do with seniority or experience or field of work? Does someone that hack some stuff both in the FE and in the BE call himself "full stack developer"?

Explain to me what full stack developer means to you like I'm five. Maybe I'm a full stack developer already and I just don't know it yet :)

Top comments (12)

evanplaice profile image
Evan Plaice • Edited

Think of a restaurant. You have greeters (CDNs) and hostesses (reverse proxies) to direct customers (users) to their seats.

When they get there there are servers (FrontEnd Devs) who provide the customers a pleasurable experience (UX) as well as eserve them food (data).

In the back you have cooks (BackEnd Devs) doing prep work, dishwashers (SREs) making sure everything is clean and ready, as well as Kitchen Managers (DevOps) to ensure everything in the back is setup to run smoothly.

SPAs operate like a buffet in that they leave more work for the customers to do themselves and put more emphasis on the FrontEnd.

Where do FullStack devs fit in. They're the restaurant managers. They can fit into -- and accel at -- any role b/c they have likely worked in every role at one point or another.

It takes a lot of work to get good enough to be a FullStack dev. So much so that some other types of devs deny that they even exist.

The truth is, the hardest part about becoming a legit FullStack dev is pushing back against your employer so they don't keep you pigeonholed into a very narrow role.

Many devs are perfectly happy to get paid a lot to work a narrowly defined role. Pursuing FullStack is the hard path and the sacrifice in time/effort to get there may not be worth it.

Like every restaurant wants a badass restaurant manager like Gordon Ramsey, companies would really love to have badass FullStack devs on their team.

But! Very few companies will invest the time and resources to raise a dev to that level.

FullStack devs have a lot more freedom to migrate elsewhere if the work conditions are bad and they're very difficult and costly to replace.

FullStack devs have the capability to raise everybody up. But companies don't want to raise devs up to FullStack status.

rsmithlal profile image
Robert Smith

This is an excellent explanation! I'm thankful to have started off as a full stack developer. It feels great to have a handle on the whole stack and be able to contribute to all layers of a project. I think that the skillset of a full stack developer makes for great CTOs! You have to be able to see the big picture and orchestrate product development across a wide range of specialties.

jansoriano profile image

Thank you for this eye opening comment.

lbayliss profile image
Luke Bayliss

I suppose I consider myself ‘full stack’ in the sense that I don’t focus on working with front end technologies or back end technologies.

I build web applications with react and angular. But at the same time I build web API’s with .Net and Node.

I also dabble with infrastructure to host all of my applications. I enjoy knowing that I can work on all the components of a system, and that I’m not stuck focussing on one particular side of the stack.

patrixr profile image
Patrick R

I believe we can have fulfilling careers without ever placing ourselves in a category.

In the end of the day, we're just trying to create solutions to problems. And those solutions might require us to write server code, UIs, scripts, etc

The act of defining myself as A, has a tendency to close the doors of B,C,D

Just my two cents :)

formula1junki3 profile image
Alex Hadjivarnava

I don't think a "full stack" developer exists now. Traditionally full stack was front end/client side and backend/serverside. Now with AWS/GCP/Cloud Services/Serverless hosting, Docker and Kubernetes, async messaging, etc you cannot simply be full stack and have deep knowledge of each technology as the information and knowledge needed is huge for a single developer to hold.

attkinsonjakob profile image
Jakob Attkinson

I've seen a bunch of people considering / labeling themselves as "full stack devs" with less- or around one year of professional experience.

I've seen companies looking for full stack devs, people that are not seniors (thus costing less), but what they actually want is someone that could jump between front-end and back-end as needed.

terabytetiger profile image
Tyler V. (he/him)

I think the opening of this post outlines my thoughts on "full stack" pretty well (and also I'll take any chance I can to push someone to this article):

juancarlospaco profile image
Juan Carlos

New FullStack, is old WebMaster.

jansoriano profile image

Thank you for this eye opening comment.

lawlessheaven profile image
Robert Grants

Full stack is easy. You just need to do everything end to end and that's it😂👌

it_headhunter profile image
Tom Byrne

Nicely explained Jakob! I remember when Full Stack referred to a combination of front-end, middle tier, and backend development.