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If I don't use React, am I still a developer?

bugsysailor profile image Bugsy Sailor ・2 min read

This post is an excerpt from my 2019 Sunrise Journal (built with Hugo, Imgix, Flickr, and yes, jQuery), which I thought would be interesting to share with the dev community.

I've been a professional web developer for over a decade. But lately there's been a recurring question in my head, "If I don't use React, am I still a developer?"

In one regard, I've never been more confident in my abilities. I can be handed a design and make a functioning site with many of the best practices, tie in API services, and create some advanced functionality.

It all began with my first website in 1996, learning HTML and CSS on Geocities when I just was just 13 years old. Eventually I learned to make dynamic websites, mastered Wordpress, learned MySQL, managed several WHM servers, fell in love with regular expressions and did so while working for on some incredible projects through a couple agencies and have used my knowledge to launch some fun projects.

In another regard, I feel like a complete hack. I've been a casual dev.to reader for a couple years. Now when I read the content, I feel everything is entirely over my head. Being in the remote Upper Peninsula of Michigan, it's difficult to find developers to learn with. I don't relate to a thing I read about the culture of Silicon Valley or the startup scene. Being entirely self-taught I feel basic concepts of programming or development are beyond me. React, ES6, AWS management, node.js, Vue, and package managers are completely beyond me. And worst of all, I still build using jQuery and PHP (it's ok, you can laugh).

This is a field I love, but I feel like an old guy (PHP) in a young guy's game (React).

This leaves me with many questions.

  • Just how in the world does one keep up with it all?
  • If I don't keep up, will I still be taken seriously as a developer?
  • Is there a place in the dev community for those who are marketers first, and developers second?
  • Is becoming full stack out of the question?
  • And alas, if I don't use React, am I still a developer?

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Bugsy Sailor


A sailor without a map exploring the seas of the internet.


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I think what really makes or breaks a person as a developer is the ability to move data around.
It doesn't matter what language or framework you use, once you know how you want your data to flow through your application you can implement it however you like. Knowing how to handle data structures, how to communicate through the application, that is what makes you a developer, knowledge of the language is important but once you can handle data flow, then you can pick up a language/framework and get productive. but that is just my opinion of course.


I love this first sentence. So much of it really begins with data. Sourcing data, organizing data, sending data, and I'm a data junk at the root of all of it.

My idea of heaven is just an open source database of every data endpoint one can dream of.


That heaven you described sounds a lot like GraphQL and Prisma. Check out Prisma some time for sure. :)

Btw, I know it’s tough to keep up. But I bet you know more than you think. And most good employers care about raw skills instead of buzzwords. Stay positive, my friend! Also, killer profile photo! :)


Try to check out Postgraphile some time. I think it's even better than Prisma (runs on node.js)

Also maybe a great way to get into some new things, if you just check out their examples and play with it.

to answer your question: I don't think you stop being a developer (ask the cobold guys) if you stop expanding your toolset, but you for sure get less and less relevant in a area that's always pushing forward...


"...My idea of heaven is just an open source database of every data endpoint one can dream of..."

That is great, I use that phrase?

Absolutely. Just quote me if possible 😉


I'm with you on the React stuff. I work mainly back-end but sit next to React developers, and looking at what they do is... annoyingly daunting. I think it's because a lot of modern javascript is as terse as possible, and I think that's driven by a culture of wanting to be seen as clever, and that it's a Bad Thing for Everybody.

I mean, I know terse, I used to be a Perl programmer for crying out loud, but as I get older I find myself wanting everything to be clearer and closer to human-speak. It's like when people say they've made something as a "one-liner" which is really a bunch of semicolon-separated ternaries with variable names like a and b. Very clever, have a biscuit, don't bring that stuff anywhere near my codebase.

Going back to the title... well, React isn't ubiquitous. It's, am I an artist if I don't use acrylics?, not am I a painter if I don't paint?

I find myself saying I'm going to learn something in my spare time and then spending that time watching TV instead. I don't feel bad about it. I keep up with the things that interest me, and that might be a new framework or language and it might be the characters in Game of Thrones. I only have so many bytes of brain left, and I have to prioritise.


"... I think that's driven by a culture of wanting to be seen as clever, and that it's a Bad Thing for Everybody..."



Lot's of things I agree here, especially the "one-liner" and using your spare time to just unload.

One thing I'm really curious about, though, is this:
"I mean, I know terse, I used to be a Perl programmer for crying out loud, but as I get older I find myself wanting everything to be clearer and closer to human-speak."

What "human-speak" language(s) do you use? :-) Or which one(s) do you consider "human-speak"?


Probably Python (which I used to use ages ago and picked up again recently for Advent Of Code).
The zen of Python defines a lot of that as things like "Explicit is better than implicit, simple is better than complex." and its whitespace requirements force people to write short, clear code.


I usually find myself asking the opposite when I am hiring new developers: if this person only knows React - are they even a developer??

Unlike Angular and Vue, React reinforces bad design patterns since the view and logic of a component are rarely separated, and this makes it difficult and messy to do team development.

For example, I recently hired a "React only" dev who seemed hungry enough to learn other things. Unfortunately, they quit after a week without contributing any reasonable commits. The final straw seemed to be a lack of willingness to understand proper MVC.

This was obviously an extreme case, but I've experienced similar things before among young devs of our current generation. Unfortunately, the same things that make React easy to learn mean many new developers won't bother learning the reasons behind the decisions that power React or how to use web components without React.

In our current epoch, it's important to learn how web components work, but the framework you use to achieve this shouldn't matter, and there should be some emphasis on learning how web components work at their most basic and without any framework (W3C spec).

Anyhow, enjoyed your post and was "old dev" enough to understand the feeling :)


“Unlike Angular and Vue, React reinforces bad design patterns since the view and logic of a component are rarely separated, and this makes it difficult and messy to do team development.”
Spot on!! Not to mention how the react community is...not the most welcoming and accepting of other approaches.


Don't mistake logic with business logic


I’d argue you’re more of one if you don’t use a framework. The lower level stuff is generally the hardest.


I don't think using a framework makes you less of a developer, if you ONLY know how to work within a framework then that's a problem, but doing lower level stuff doesn't mean you're good or anything, I've seen very bad implementations of assembly, and attempts of programming languages


Not saying anyone is less of one, just that knowledge of the language underneath can go a long way.


Writing my first webapp that I felt was good enough for public use was a beast. AngularJS is annoyingly over-complicated, IMHO.

Refactoring the entire thing and getting rid of AngularJS for the sake of speed (and simplicity in updating) was an even bigger beast to deal with, though calling the refactoring 'absolutely worth it' is an absolute understatement. It's less total code, and I know what ALL of it does and how.


and that's why I still stick with Angular regardless of the challenges I face


I’d argue that full stack is a bad term and no one really is. Full stack is really stack agnostic. Dangerous in multiple areas with strong underpinnings to quickly pick up whatever you need to. All the while being aware of the fact that someone who is a specialist might be more efficient at implementing whatever thing.

That being said, learn what you want to learn. Grow your skills in what interests you. Sure, it may not be the technology on every job posting, but tech is going change again and continuing to stretch your learning muscles is what truly matters.


I'd argue that there are genuine full stack developers.

Not all companies have the budget or "perceivable" need for teams of people.

I know an e-commerce company turning over £3 million a year with a single developer who handles the design mock-ups, frontend, backend, database, backups, you name it. I'd say that qualifies as full stack.

The trouble comes when you expect a Jack of all trades to be a master in a specific field.


And I think that’s why the term doesn’t fit in my mind. There is that expectation. But you’re correct that there are absolutely people working all across the stack and doing great work. But I’d still call them stack agnostic :)


Gosh, this is basically how I feel. I don't have nearly as much experience, but I am extremely confident in the skills I do have. My passion is HTML and CSS/SCSS and accessibility, ultimately leading to UX. My JS is mediocre at best... But I can write some decent PHP. For years I questioned if I could even be considered a developer.

The Great Divide by CSS Tricks made me feel a ton better as it showed me that there are many others like me. In fact, we're no uncommon. However, I'm looking to get away from my current job and I haven't found a single post that doesn't mention JavaScript and it's frameworks as being important.

It's a trapping feeling.


This resonates with me so much.

I honestly feel like none of my other skills matter at all any more; The only skill that seems to matter is knowing React.

I've been trying to improve my JavaScript skills... I'm pretty comfortable with DOM manipulation, but I don't know ES6 well, nor have I ever worked with APIs or done anything with Node.

I am trying to improve but so many days it feels like I can never move fast enough to keep up, and I worry that my type of Front End Developer is going to disappear.


As José Muñoz said above: "It doesn't matter what language or framework you use, once you know how you want your data to flow through your application you can implement it however you like."

Given their name, developers should be able to develop. But developing is only dependent on knowing a way to develop, not necessarily developing using a specific framework like React, or even a specific language like JavaScript. Not unless you want to be a JavaScript and React developer.

If you feel like you want to improve as a developer, then work on improving yourself as a developer.

If you feel like there is a trend towards using React, instead of experiencing it as a trapping feeling, go with the flow and at least try to understand what all the fuss is about. You do not have to learn anything you do not want to. Development is in and of itself method agnostic. Do it how you want.

  1. No need to. I see it as buffet. Take what you like, but it doesn‘t hurt to know what’s out there.
  2. If you deliver value and results, nobody cares.
  3. I think the term you look for is „Developer Advocate“ or „Evangelist“
  4. Depends on time and motivation I guess. And the definition of „full-stack“.
  5. Did John Carmack ever use React?

3.b) Ah yes, those are great terms to keep in mind.
5.b) Coincidentally, I met John Carmack once while having a tour of Armadillo Aerospace in Texas back in 2007.


You have years of development experience. My opinion is, It doesn't matter what tools you use, what matters is a working final product which is maintainable and scalable.

"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." -Bruce Lee


I feel that this is old article is also related: blog.codinghorror.com/the-magpie-d...

However over the course of my professional carreer (almost 14 years now) I do feel that the industry is sort of... settling. Slowly. Oh, it's still pretty much in turmoil and new ideas and frameworks still appear on a regular basis, but at the same time... some concepts, principles and ideas seem to have coalesced. They've been mulled around, variations have been tried, best practices have been found and are now accepted as the Right Way by almost everyone. And they've stopped changing. There's an implementation or five in most popular languages that vary mainly by method names and no others are being created, because there's just no point.

In backed this would be, for example, the areas of ORMs and Loggers. Take a bunch of active libraries and compare them. The differences are mainly in small details and naming, but the core concepts and patterns are the same. There's no big innovation left there because we've already reached a state where they're good enough for all practical purposes. In a similar way, GIT has won the source-control wars.

And I wonder if the same is happening in the front-end world? That's not an area I'm deeply familiar with, but from the sidelines it also seems like there is a sort of settling. We have React and Vue which are based on the same ideas and everyone seems to be happy with them. There hasn't been a major paradigm upheaval for years now.

Nobody can predict the future, of course, but I think that if you wish to go along the front-end route, then picking up React/Vue would probably be a good investment of time, likely serving you for years to come - if not the rest of your life.

In other words - even if you have fallen a bit behind the times, I think that catching up is easier than it seems. :)


Oh good. I get to be the first to mention Elm. Recommend you skip all this JS framework stuff and go straight to the gold. I do use jQuery and JS for an existing client and have used Angular and React in the past. However to me Elm just makes so much more sense as the future of front end.


I couldn't agree more.


If you can produce quality and keep up with new best practices (not necessarily trends), then yeah. One of the reasons for hate of new tech is inability to learn. People still hate JS because their knowledge is stuck on old ES5 or the recent years fast pace changes, even though things got really settled for a while. Same for PHP hating (they're hating legacy stuff, while not aware of v7 changes). Same goes for trend followers who immediately look at others with disdain if their knowledge of news is old a few weeks...


I have recently written about developers jumping on the React bandwagon without having a sold grasp of the basics. Don't start with React

I believe there is nothing wrong with choosing to stay away from React and its peers. Not every website need to be a Single Page Application. There are valid uses cases for 'older' stacks.


Great article Maroun. This totally needed to be addressed. Thank you!


Thank you Tanner!


Nope, I just think you are still a developer regardless of the tools or programming language your as long as your solving problems using code.

Using pure PHP without web frameworks is something you definitely can wear it as a badge of honour.

There is actually a place for someone which is called "Developer Relationships", "Developer Evangelist" or something around that line that focus on marketing first and developers second. You can take a look at this below.


React is extremely overrated anyway and is often used as a buzzword in the community. Vue in comparison is both easier to learn and is by comparison much easier to understand. The issue here is trying to keep up. A lot of the time you don't have to especially if you specialise in either the front end or the back end. There are some things that everyone should know but ultimately unless you are losing out on work because you don't know a framework (that will never happen) then I really wouldn't worry about it.



Now go learn React!

Not to be a "real developer" but because it's easy especially with vids and tutorials... Who said you have to know everything? No one

Forget about Redux, it's dying anyway and replaced with Context API or GraphQL or others... Just learn plain React

Good luck


Sorry, but I have to answer.

Redux is about state evolution in time, while context API is about drilling props down, while GraphQL is just about querying data from your backend. That are 3 different ideas, absolutely orthogonal to each other.

  • It's wrong to use Redux to drill props, or query data from backend (without state evolution, aka handling loading state machine).
  • It's wrong to rely on ContextAPI for complex state operations.
  • It's not efficient to use GraphQL as client-side state manager - resolvers are not compact and not optimized for FE in terms of memoization.

This is all accurate, but the differences matter not to a beginner -- and in practice, few use the major benefits of Redux (rewind, fast-forward, state hydration) while they do use it to pass props. Meanwhile memoization sounds great, until you realize you fetch the data only once, or only once in a long while.

So you can say the philosophical drive and even the main advantage of each is totally different, but in many projects (including large ones) these are subservient to the actual business requirements. If this were not true, there would not be unlimited number of Medium articles or people proclaiming so. Simply put it matters not what the libraries were designed for, only what they are used for. You may say that Context API shouldn't be used for complex state operations and you would be right, but neither should Redux be used for complex state operations. That belongs in the memoization layer, for example reselect. Or perhaps even encapsulated in the component itself.

But none of that matters. The main point is, you do not need Redux to do React. Redux is not React, and the documentation of Redux even includes a section for when not to use Redux. Redux is a major stumbling point for many people entering the React ecosystem, but it can be completely avoided until such time the problems it is designed to solve are actually encountered.

In short, no need for Redux to start, and perhaps no need ever.

I could definitely agree - redux is overused and usually not needed. You have to have some complex situations or conditions, which could be easily resolved in “redux way”, not the “component way”, and you may be lucky not to face such situations ever.

But it worth to understand, as long redux and react are based on the same immutable data structures ideology, and they helps to understand each other.


I program in C++, Java and Go. Far away from React and JS in general. And trust me, I'm not less developer. Downloading 3 GB of node_modules, just to build a simple website for me is an overkill. Don't underestimate your skills.


Bugsy we chose your question to answer on our YouTube channel!

It matches what a lot of aspiring developers are asking us.

We hope it helps you: youtube.com/watch?v=I8jv2jUCV9E


Wow, this question really went places! Great dialog, thanks for contributing! I'm actually hoping to show my first Gatsby project soon to showcase some of the React I've been learning since.


Just how in the world does one keep up with it all?

You don't keep up with all, but with the parts that interest you, or the parts that you think will bring you good money in the future.

If I don't keep up, will I still be taken seriously as a developer?

Depends on who you work with. I've worked with many people who have the skill-level you talk about and they always found customers. As long as there is a market for basic web development work you'll probably do fine.

Is there a place in the dev community for those who are marketers first, and developers second?

I think so. My girlfriend studied marketing and now has to do some basic web development stuff in her job. Setting up Wordpress sites, installing plugins, updating themes. Also some automated text generation programming.

Then there is "dev-evangelism" where you basically do some marketing activities to make tech of some company more interesting for developers. These people often do marketing and coding (to showcase the tech they evangelize).

Is becoming full stack out of the question?

No, just a question of the time you want to spend on it.

And alas, if I don't use React, am I still a developer?

Probably. React isn't the only way to create complex UIs. There is Angular, Vue, Ember, Cycle, jQuery, etc. pp.

I think you're just a bit behind, if you have the core HTTP/HTML/CSS/JS skills, it shouldn't be too hard to get into something more complex that builds upon them...


Oh gosh so much of what you wrote up there I resonate with. Geocities and Tripod were GOOD TIMES. Dicking around with code before that I was a kludger and never really truly understood how it worked, and maybe even resisted that.

I started pursuing dev professionally in 2016, and like you, React came and went and then stayed. I learned Angular and Vue and also feel I have missed the boat. But it's never too late.

It doesn't seem I can get a job in Toronto for the next 2 years without knowing React, but I'd hang in there. Some people just want a swiss army knife expert in JS, Rails and Python.

I could always fall back on email development or maybe Wordpress if I can't find a proper gig. But I don't feel I have pulled my weight yet.

and yes you are a developer. I am a developer, albeit a shitty one.


If you feel "outdated" imagine how I felt when I did the jump in my professional career from C/C++ to React. My brain almost exploded.

My story is a bit funny as I started reading javascript.info to learn Javascript (I didn't even know that the language had changed from the times of jQuery), as well as the official React docs and Redyx videos in egghead.io. I did this while rocking my newborn son to entertain myself on our long sleepless nights.

Fast forward a few years later and I'm really loving React. I would say that no matter when you finally decide to learn new tech, if you ever need to, is that you will find yourself at a huge advantage of understanding CS terms in a very solid manner, as opposed to many devs who just learn what they need to learn in front-end.

As an example, our React application is growing and many developers seem to have a hard time visualizing what data structure is best suited and more performant for what, while if you have a solid BE background, this is an everyday life question.

Same with network requests. A network request is delayed, some race condition happens, etc. You would probably know right away where the issue is as opposed to someone with less experience in Backend.

Cheers and good luck!

  1. One does not. The vast majority of it is sturm und drang, which will leave yet another smear of legacy code across the landscape.
  2. That depends. The fundamentals aren't changing. There's nothing in React or the latest crazes in JavaScript that wasn't already known in the 1970's. There's nothing in the NoSQL or database world that wasn't already known in the 1980's. It's just showing up in a context that didn't have them before. If you have enough fundamentals to learn the local details just in time, then you're fine.
  3. There's a place for all kinds of people. Don't worry too much about definitions. One of my neighbors is an advertiser who also runs his own Linux fleet, does some rough machine learning, and handles his own business. Advertising is his core competency, and he's just good enough at the rest to make it work and ask for help if he needs it.
  4. It depends how much complexity you're willing to ignore at each layer. If by full stack you mean able to deploy a server, set up and administer the database, write and deploy a backend binary, and write the HTML and JavaScript that it serves, then, yes, it's completely straightforward. Just be aware that each one of those layers can scale into a career in its own right. The problem is knowing what parts you actually need to know and what parts only apply when to problems where you need specialists and their more complicated tools.
  5. I have never used React. There isn't a soul on the planet who would think that I'm not a developer.

Being in the remote Upper Peninsula of Michigan, it's difficult to find developers to learn with. I don't relate to a thing I read about the culture of Silicon Valley or the startup scene. Being entirely self-taught I feel basic concepts of programming or development are beyond me.

I grew up in the mountains of western Virginia. I totally get it. This is why the Internet is wonderful.


Hi, Bugsy. I've been a software developer (or computer programmer as it was called back then) for my entire life, I have over two decades of professional experience and over three decades of coding experience, so I can totally relate to what you are feeling.

Short answers:

Just how in the world does one keep up with it all?
A: You don't. Keep happily focused on what you like / want to do best, ignoring all the rest.

If I don't keep up, will I still be taken seriously as a developer?
A: Yes. When you build up 10 years of expertise in technology X you will be taken very seriously for positions concerning technology X.

Is there a place in the dev community for those who are marketers first, and developers second?
A: Absolutely. Being able to market yourself is a skill as important as (if not more important) than any other skill. My advice is to not abuse it though, you'll sleep much better by selling skills that you actually possess.

Is becoming full stack out of the question?
A: Nope, full-stack positions keep popping up all the time. Being able to put a full solution together is highly praised today.

And alas, if I don't use React, am I still a developer?
Yes and personally I think you're probably a good one for that exact reason. (Sorry, I could not resist it.) Try to ask yourself that same question in a couple years, but replacing "React" with "The Next Tech Fad". Think of all those buzz words you are probably glad you did not waste your time with when you look at your skill set today. I could name a few, but I'm sure you can easily remember those that used to be a thing yesterday and now people don't even remember about.

Long answer:

First things first: tech fads come and go, some stay longer, some make more noise, some don't. Also, I am sure I have seen at least a couple interesting job opportunities for PHP developers recently. Not to mention I see some FORTRAN and Cobol positions available from time to time, but let's not get to extreme-legacy tech.

My point is: you don't have to catch up with everything that gets in the ever-increasing list of tech buzz words. One can always grow, be it in breadth or depth. Usually depth is harder to achieve and a lot valued in the job market. I hope you can enjoy the simple math in this example:

Billy has 2 years of expertise in Python and 2 years of expertise in Ruby;
Jimmy has 4 years of expertise in Python;
Company X needs a developer with at least 3 years of expertise in Python.

Which candidate do you think has a higher chance of getting the position at Company X?

Also, when I mention depth I'm not just talking about having decades of expertise in a particular programming language, but adding up to your core computer scientist skill set. No matter which language you write in, the core principles are always there. If you understand them well, you can easily navigate between and excel in any kind of programming language.

Not to mention some languages have long survived the test of time. I'm sure C, Java, JavaScript and SQL skills (just to name a few) will "always" be in demand.

That being said, it doesn't hurt to sometimes get out of your comfort zone and try something different here and there. Specially when you notice some specific tech is getting the right attention building things you are interested in doing yourself.


I think myself as a developer is just a gun. Market is our target, and our customer is our boss. The bullet itself is our tool. If the bullet still can hit that Market then why not use that bullet?

Ill learn to use bazooka later when there is a Market that ill hit with that.

It just the matter of "why" when I'm listening to a guy talk about elixir it is good, thats a bazooka. But my target are just a Bird not Tank. So i still use my own bullet to kill the bird.


1) If you write words that tell a computer to do things, you are a developer. Full stop.
2) PHP is far from dead. If anything since the release of 7.x and follow on minor versions it is positioned for a major resurgence in the realm of server side languages.
3) React is not the 'fix-all' solution; nothing ever is. Sharpen your current skills while learning new ones.


👋 from a fellow Michigander in the Lower Peninsula. 😁

Like others have said, don't try to keep up with all of it. The best thing you can do there is be aware of what's out there, but only jump on the things that interest you. You don't have to (and can't) do everything.

Silicon Valley is its own world of flash and hype - not an indicator of the rest of the tech world. I wouldn't worry about keeping up there either.

Full stack is a fun one that can cause a lot of (pointless) arguments. A few years ago, I was told I was a full stack developer because I can code on the front and back end, and interact with a database. Prior to that, I just called myself a back end dev. But what he said made a lot of sense.

Look around today, and you'll find wildly different views of what full stack is, or if it's even possible for someone to be a full stack developer. Personally, I like the simple view (as with most things). If you can write server side and client side code, and can interact with a database, that sounds like full stack to me. Everything else is semantics.

And while a lot of job postings are for React developers, that's hardly a requirement. I've never learned it. We don't use it at our company. And when I interview people on technical skills, I typically look at raw language skills/usage rather than framework/library usage. My opinion is that if someone is proficient with a given language, they can pick up any framework if they need to. Going from framework to language is a bit trickier (I knew a "React developer" who didn't know how to write a function in JavaScript - that still baffles me).

Bottom line - the web development world (or dev world in general) is vast. PHP is still going strong, despite the hate it gets from a vocal minority (Ruby experienced the same thing not too long ago). jQuery is still used all over the place. If those are your jam, and you're able to build what you need to, then keep running with them. The ability to solve problems and create things is more important than the tools used to do so. Learn the things you want to learn - you'll find a use for them. And don't worry about learning Everything™.

  • GitHub doesn't use React (vanilla JS)
  • Intercom doesn't use React (JQuery)
  • Many big companies don't use React

Moral of the story: You don't need to know React, if you want to become a professional web developer!


On the intercom one I'd call out they use ember for a lot of their projects, one of the bigger companies using it 😄.


Is there a place in the dev community for those who are marketers first, and developers second?

I think this is the answer to all the other questions.

If you are developer first then staying up to date with the industry trends gives you advantage because you'll always be hireable in the trendy areas. And still is not a requirement, is just competitive advantage if you are looking for trendy jobs.

Now if you are a marketer first and programming is just a tool or skill, you don't need to keep up with any trend. You just need to be able to use that skill to do your job. If you are good at PHP and get the job done with that, awesome!


I dunno if it helps, but I didn't know anything about programming until I started in November 2018. Started learning Javascript, now I've moved onto React.

It's hard, sure. But, I bet someone like you, with actual experience, could master it WAY faster than a noob like me.

Give it a shot! It makes really snappy and fast sites.


Like you, I'm also self-taught and started with PHP. If knowing React is what qualifies somebody as being a developer, then you can count me in the "not a developer" group too.

The good news, like many others have commented, is that isn't the case. There are so many types of developers (front end, back end, full stack, software, websites, apps, etc.) that tying your "developerness" to your proficiency in one particular framework or library is only doing yourself a disservice. It's hard to ignore that little voice in your head though when you see so many articles, courses, and job postings focusing on specific frameworks.

I recently asked the same question of how to keep up with it all, and the advice I got was largely the same you've been given. You can't, so don't set yourself up to fail by creating an impossible-to-meet expectation. If there's an area that interests you, then spend your time learning that. I find it helpful to subscribe to newsletters or use social media to keep up with things happening in related-areas, but I only do deep dives if it's something I'm actually interested in.

Easier said than done, but I'm rooting for you!


My goodness! I think I'll be participating here more. I had no idea one post shared from my personal journal would gather so many responses. It really does help with the notion of being part of a community. Thanks pals!


I love JavaScript and the front end but the dominance of React really has me second guessing whether I want to stay in front end for the foreseeable future. Don't get me wrong, I actually really like React, its API is simple (though maybe a bit convoluted with recent additions) and I like its concepts of immutability, however, it's the ecosystem that really turns me off.

Many will argue that the point of React is to be a small, extensible, library and judging it based off its often-paired packages isn't fair... But the vast majority of jobs utilizing React in the wild aren't JUST using React. I'd like the opportunity to work in a team that uses React heavily, just to have the experience, but I won't lie that, even as an experienced JS developer, it doesn't really excite me. I've developed with it a handful of times on some freelance projects at the customer's request but as much as people argue that, "React is just JavaScript," I can't help but feel like I'm just utilizing the "React way" to do things, not necessarily the "best" or "right way."


I am a full stack dev, but why is this hurting me so much?

Putting my feelings aside, NO it doesn't make you less of a developer. If you are doing your job then that satisfies everything you think a developer should.


Too be honest, React, Vue, Angular, JavaScript or what ever front-end framework you use is not difficult, the most difficult part about the front-end is state management through libraries like Redux while keeping your app secure and performant


In my opinion - any lib in any language doesn't matter to being good developer.
But, it's great to growth your skills by using or investigating sources of that libs anyway, so just don't stop and keep learning.
For about 8-9 years of working with js and js libs, i've passed long way from things like mootools, jquery, backbone, angularjs to modern tools like angular and vue2, and every new step was a great experience in vanilla JS too.
Also, every new step in that way becomes to be more easier and faster to build complex apps, so with knowing these stuff you also becomes more productive developer.
The only thing i don't understand is framework-centric-developers, like it was 5-6 years ago with jquery - in that time there was a huge amount of people that knows only jquery and nothing else, and tried using it in any project, no matter how simple it was.

Screen from funny thread in stackoverflow about jquery


If you're already not learning these things I can assume you're not interested in the engineering side of JavaScript and you might be more interested in either PHP backends or CSS. Find your passion, align it with marketable skills and learn new things about it. You don't need to feel bad about your situation since with your experience, moving forward would be quite fast.


I feel you on the remote bit. I live in the mountains of Colorado but still make it into town here and there 😃. I say do what makes you happy and learn something if you feel it will be good to have in your toolbox. I personally enjoy Vue over react but I work with WordPress every day so I use php and jQuery tons still. Thanks for writing!


JavaScript is what I am doing at work for the last 10 years.
React is what I am doing at work for the last 3 years.
I am a Senior React Developer, deal with it.

My Senior PHP Developer and Senior C++ Developer alter egos are helping me with :tableflip:, :outofhere:, and maintain more critical opinion about any decision I made.

TLDR - React, and obsession with any other single thing, is the worst thing could happen to you as a developer. "Use the platform" === "don't forget about the vast world around you".

  • Just how in the world does one keep up with it all?

Poorly. Let me be honest - poorly.

  • If I don't keep up, will I still be taken seriously as a developer?

By serious developers? For sure.

  • Is there a place in the dev community for those who are marketers first, and developers second?

Unfortunately, they are on the top.

  • Is becoming full stack out of the question?

React full stack developer? :badpockerface: good luck :P

  • And alas, if I don't use React, am I still a developer?

100% Developer first, React developer second.


Thanks for your post! The funny thing is I feel the same way because I still feel most comfortable using Backbone.js, npm, and gulp.js - all relatively new tools/libraries (although several of these seem to be considered “ancient technologies” by some). I am a self-taught developer/designer as well. I had played around with HTML in 1997 but really didn’t fall in love with it until 2011 when I discovered JavaScript and realized I could make fully interactive art/websites. I wonder if this specific type of “imposter syndrome” is inherent to self-taught developers who view programming as a means to an end? Just a thought. Thanks again for sharing!


React is awful. I don't even use javascript frameworks anymore but I have the luxury of doing so. I really enjoyed Mithril and if I had to use one with a big team I'd use Angular but shoot me if I have to use Vue or React.

  • Just how in the world does one keep up with it all? You need to keep up with the things you want to build your career, like PHP? get on your feed with PHP7 or other backend languages like the front? just pick one and learn the concepts behind (most of today's frontend frameworks are about components everything else is fancy stuff that may/maynot come with other frabeworks) it don't marry the framework, learn what it tries to solve and how often these concepts are translatable to other frameworks/tools
  • If I don't keep up, will I still be taken seriously as a developer? Yeah, why not? I don't know a piece of C/C++ and I'm considered as a developer just not a C/C++ developer
  • Is there a place in the dev community for those who are marketers first, and developers second? No idea
  • Is becoming full stack out of the question? It's a nice to have, but not requried in my experience
  • And alas, if I don't use React, am I still a developer? of course! not everyone likes/needs react, I for certain don't need it or like it at all and I don't feel less capable than other people I know

Well React is only one of the big five : VueJS (current fanboi), ReactJS (previous fanboi), AngularJS (faboi before that), then there is jQuery and ExtJS (commercial) - these are the stayers, sure there are other frameworks if you want to work for small dev shops your whole life for bosses that change their js framework with the fanbois. I choose js frameworks that will still be supported in 5+ years.

To be honest I'd rather developers I hire have learned basic JavaScript before learning a framework. Most learn frameworks so they don't have to understand how JavaScript works which is the wrong way around.

Also a full stack developer IS NOT a specialist. They are ALWAYS a generalist - aka they won't (as a rule) write great code end to end. You should always rely on a UI/UX specialist and a backend specialist (and if budget allows a database/data specialist) - that's a killer combo.


First, coolest username ever. Second, many of us are self-taught, myself included. I am still a student, not yet a developer. You are way ahead of me and I don't want this to sound like I know stuff, because I don't. I have not yet worked as a developer. That being said, this is a great time to add some skills to your portfolio. There are a lot of low-cost courses out there that are pretty good. Whenever I talk to software developers (there are a few gaming companies here in Raleigh), they tell me that they are always looking for developers, that there aren't enough, and here's where I should go to learn, which is how I got the idea that maybe I should take a class. I signed up for a boot camp on Udemy and haven't regretted it. I think I paid $12? Mine covers HTML5, CSS, Bootstrap 3&4, JavaScript, JQuery, and NodeJS. React isn't covered but I'll probably take a separate course for it. So really, you are a developer who has lots of skills to choose from to add to his resume. Good luck!


Honestly, my advice would be - don't feel intimidated. If you can code in PHP, you can understand React and it really can't be lost. It worth it to go out of your comfort zone sometime.

On the other hand, there is a whole momentum saying that using React and Angular for everything is over-engineering. I seriously thing PHP is on the descending side, but hey, there are still tons and tons of PHP engine out there and they will probably needs maintenance for the next few decades. Moreover, I think young developer will stop learning it as the web evolve, which will leave plenty of room for PHP developers.


As long as you get paid for it, you are a "professional" software developer. The rest is not relevant.

People often forget: The main raison d'être for professional software developers is to solve customer problems. As long as you accomplish that, I see no reason to worry.

I remember back in the day in 2011, I had to develop a frontend for a warehouse management software. It was mainly done in jQuery, Bootstrap and the one or other jQuery-plugin. I came to a problem within the software, where the UI had several dynamic updates - and worse: some were interdependent (X has to be there in order to determine which Y has to be loaded). That demanded a completely different (event driven) approach. So I was looking for a relief to my pain. That was backbone at the time.

That said: As long as you do not feel the urge to use different technology - why switch?

Our industry has become something like the fashion industry where people are publicly shamed if they fall out of trend. I see myself more like a good plumber who delivers a reasonable result within the constraints of time, money and tools.


Indeed. I don't know React much (I've finally settled on Vue.js for a personal project, but have yet to really get started, because Netflix), but I've seen some good React code. Don't blame the tool because some are not using properly.

  1. You keep up with passion and dedication. And discipline. Also knowing your limits and focus on small steps. Take one hour every day to program outside your comfort zone. And don't try to learn everything at once.

  2. Any decent human would take you seriously no matter your skill level. If you lack knowledge, the aforementioned human should be glad to help you out :)

  3. Yes. We all need each other. And does it matter where your dev priority is? You are still a dev!

  4. Fullstack is never necessary, but some developers including myself became one with more and more responsibilities and a need for more control around the stack we are working with. But no, there is not a need for becoming full-stack.

  5. Learn a really good backend language instead. Python, Ruby, Elixir, Go are a few examples that comes to mind. If you become confident in your programming skills, you will pick stuff like React real quick. Also, Javascript frameworks are overrated and hyped beyond oblivion.


I was only a back-end developer until I was introduced to HTML,CSS or any front-end technology by an ad about these courses by a certified coaching center. I wanted to mostly do self study on these technologies. The best approach I took was to look at the documentations of each of these technologies. React and Vue have amazing documentation. Angular I would rely more on videos from Todd Moto or egghead.io . It totally depends on your interest, according to me even if you work on a small program to replicate mario game you are a developer.


I just started following you because of the questions you asked. I want answers too. :)


I'm going to try and be a little more active in the community, something I've never been too good at doing.


Obviously, developers didn't even exist before react and js.


„Am I a real tourist if I don‘t try all kinds of ice-cream on the pier?“


I'm not sure about a tourist, but that would certainly make you a robot and not a human if you don't have all the ice creams!