Fullstack developer is a scam term

Md. Abu Taher ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ’ป on May 24, 2018

You person one, were hired as a backend developer. You specialize in PHP, Python, C#, C++ and more of them. None of which are related to fronte... [Read Full]
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"You are an X developer and the employee asked you to learn Y" - You can say no at anytime, you have a choice! So it is not a scam, you just accepted to fill a more general role.

"You have to know 2-3 times more technologies", true, but you know them at a basic-intermediate level, it's understandable and accepted by the employer to not be great at either jobs (back/front) if you are full stack.

Your salary research may need some tweaks, you compared only 2 terms, there are many synonyms for those positions (web developer for front end, full stack web developer ...) and different names for US/EU.

You do not have to earn twice as much because the amount of knowledge and expertise is not double, instead of learning all SCSS commands by heart you can learn some AWS basic commands (and look the rest up whenever you needed), instead of learning 5-10 types of embedding an imagine in HTML you learn how docker works, it is always a trade off.

To add salt to the wound, some employers requires you to be "full stack developer" as in to do mobile apps as well (front end is web AND mobile), beside the back end.

So no, it is not a scam, it is just a different type of developer, generalist, when you will build a startup you will understand the need of general specific roles.

Most of all the positions are not exclusive, when the project gets bigger you can afford to get specialist (back end, front end, architects, dev-ops) and still keeping the full stack devs for their unique view and expertise (from a more abstract level, that bridges all those specialists).

PS: we, the "full stack devs" are not a myth, we exists, we build all rounded apps alone, from bottom up in record time ๐Ÿ˜Ž and all these new technologies like cloud, kubernetes, serverless, Flutter and managed services just feed our job and allow us to tackle even bigger projects without specialists (ofc in the small-medium ranged projects scope).

 

I do agree with a lot what you say, and generalists is not bad. They can earn a lot in the long run too, but usually not as much as specialists.

Just think of it as going to the doctor, the doc in the office earn less than a specialist. The doc you see first, have general education, knows a lot and can take most cases. Then something is wrong with a patient, or its a "blonde" that wants botox and bigger b... you know what :) They go to a specialist that have invested time in getting really good at a specific topic.

Now the risk for the specialist is that nobody want bigger... front-ends, so now he won't earn money anymore. Same with web-designers: If we for instance find a way to automize and use, say... machine learning to create the ultimate user experiences, then UX-ers are obsolete. They can no backend, so its back to the school bench with them.
Have happened before with lots of professions, graphics were wone of them. When printers took over, thousands of graphics were obsolete over night (over about a 2 year period).

What I think is most important, is that the choice is deliberate. If you end up as an accidental generalist, you won't be working optimally, and then you end up with less salary over time. That's my hypothesis anyways :)

 

Thank you for your in depth reply. Really appreciate it.

My post of course requires more research, my points are almost invalid in front of such strong replies.

That being said, Full stack developers exist for sure, I myself a proof of that and I am proud of being one, however, I worry for those who know more, do more, but being paid absolutely less than others just for being generalist. As if they are expected to do more.

The overall value is getting lower in many cases, the quality is dropping. Later it will affect on other web dev positions and then all web development sector is gonna fall for that. The internet will show us in meantime. The shady faces of slavery management companies.

 

All that is true, but our jobs "exists" to solve business problems so it comes down to money

If the company wants 1 developer instead of 2 they will get mostly:

  • lower costs (let's say 40-50% smaller salary)
  • lower quality (around about 30-60%, depends a lot on the developer expertise) then they form a market that will be filled by workers that needs a job.

As for the quality you can see it best in the security field, almost no business owner cares about it until something happen, and then they forget after a few months, and I keep saying we reached a state in that a good "ML bot written by hackers scientists" can easily hack into 50% of the current running websites.

I think the word "slavery" doesn't fit in our line of work that is described by:

  • staying at a computer all day
  • having all kind of perks
  • not having to even apply to jobs because we are assaulted by offers and HR hunters
  • 9-17 job
  • job security (I haven't heard of a fired developer)
  • high salaries

Most of the industries only dreams at such a job, be respectful and appreciate what you have.

I for one am ashamed to disclose my salary (and I am not a top earner in my peers) to people that are not in our industry, they often have 2 jobs and only get half of my salary. Sure I "work" too but the really work with physical related jobs. Even the fact that we have the time to chat on this website is a proof that we have:

  • free time ( so we don't over work)
  • care about higher more abstract concepts
  • so we solved our basic primary needs like food, electricity and so on

These are really common now a days. The seniors can take care of it, and don't see the bad side, the juniors learn the hard way.

I must also mention that everyone will have a different perspective. For some it is a heavenly job, for some it's a nightmare.

Looking down on workers

Few days ago I was in a call with some client meetup. All of their talk was like honey, the budget seemed really healthy, their attitude was respectable. Except they seemed to look down on many things that a developer cares about.

They said things like Well, the error logs doesn't matter much, And then continued recently it stops working frequently and we don't know the exact reason.

From the look of the code, it seemed they did not pay the previous developer that much, was giving really tight schedule and the developer ended up with very poor code, no unit tests and then left the project because he couldn't take it anymore.

Outsourced works

Most outsourced web development works are done for very low rate, thus the quality also decreases thousandfold. The web is polluted with such low quality stuff where everyone is just trying to trick each other.

Client X has $100k budget for app, his project manager starts outsourcing it for $10k to a different team, keeps the rest of money, the team then starts paying the developer $1k. It is indeed a field where some shines, and some gets scammed.

I like how those developers don't get the benefit the other developers are having being on the good developed country.

This is altogether a different issue, but is related to the full stack since the overall web is build by the developers hard work.

 

The issue is when you are better then the expert in tech X, and worse than the average expert in Y, yet you get a lower salary than both of them.

 

True, there may be some cases, but I don't think the technologies were the root of the problem here, or the company, I suspect a mix of:

  • he/she didn't evaluated properly his/her value on the market (get a job similar with the "expert in tech X" or get a raise). Usually happens because devs don't go to interviews until it's too late.
  • he/she is stubborn, too attached (or from other reasons); knows that it's underpaid and still remain there
  • "tech X" has too few specialized positions left (Cobol or jQuery?! :)) ), so it cannot move to a better paying jobs (they are all taken) and she/he doesn't want to move to a new technology

It is an issue, but it's the developers issue that can be easily solved (in most of the cases). Even if the geographic or other conditions don't allow an easy fix (too few jobs in the area), maybe he/she can work remote or go freelancing. Being the devils advocate here, but (most of us) live in capitalism, it's not the company fault (that wants to make more profit) it's the ppl that accept the conditions (and losing money by not doing anything).

I have former colleagues that have this issue, they know it but don't do anything to fix it. In the end I blame it on the human side of us, we are too reluctant to change, and the industry is changing too fast, faster than we can change ... and some of us got tired of learning new ways every 6 months (damn you web).

PS: I'm all in in creation of syndicates, that would fight in our benefit on these matters with the companies.

 

What if I like doing both frontend and backend? Money is not the only merit, and if it was, any pusher on dark streets earns way more than a project manager.

 

Exactly! Just what I was thinking ... couldn't have said it better.

Also, if you're a freelancer/contractor (not an employee), it can be very beneficial if you can work in both areas (frontend and backend) - you can take on complete projects where both a frontend and a backend need to be built.

Finally, the article starts with:

"You specialize in PHP, ... none of which are related to frontend"

What's funny here is, of course, that PHP started out as a language to build frontends - just cranking out HTML. Nowadays separating frontend and backend is in vogue (using SPAs and APIs) but it's not always the case that the backend and the frontend duties are so clearly separated.

One thing I'll grant the author though, the term "full stack dev" is overused, you're seeing it way too often. By the way, is this article irony maybe? i noticed just now that the author is labeling himself as "full stack developer" ...

 

@mudasobwa and @leob , Absolutely valid points.

I don't have anything against frontend, backend, full stack or programming itself. I enjoy programming and solving problems. I probably should've said server-side and client-side to make it more credible.

My main point is, companies (or clients) uses these terms to fool all parties. They are treating the developers as slaves and tricking however they can. That's all.

Yes, I understand and appreciate your points!

In fact this is really a good analysis, and I've never looked at it this way. I just saw "full stack" as a trendy, over-hyped, over-used and rather annoying "cliche" term which is nowadays being tacked onto everything ... everybody and their brother is calling themselves a "full stack dev".

I never realized that it's being used by companies or employers to take advantage of employees, but I get your point.

(in the same vein, I also notice the annoying over-use of the term "lightweight" that's being slapped onto every new framework or tool, no matter how light or heavy it really is ...)

 

I too, understand your point on how the term "full stack developer" is being abused by some companies. In a former job, I was the only web developer, and I did mostly back end but also had to do simple front end (and database and server management on different environments). I remember telling my boss at that time: "You know that you're getting a bargain with me with what you're paying me right now, cause if you paid me for all the stuff that I do here, it would almost be double of my salary".

But I understand what you're trying to say, is that a lot of companies use the term to justify a mediocre salary, when you could be gaining more of all the efforts and knowledge that you're giving to the company. I'm kind of that situation right now. I've done many different things here where I work right now, and feel underpaid. Yes I love doing my job, but I also feel being ripped off.

 

Wow! I detect a little frustration with current salary here :)

It's a shame that job titles get pinned to pay, because they are usually completely unrelated (those survey sites may be lying too!), that CEO running a one man ice cream company probably doesn't have the same responsibilties as the CEO of Ford, but the same title. Maybe ask: how much financial impact does this job have here (eg: if I made a really bad decision, we could lose a few million), that's probably a better indicator of expected reward.

I try to take a different, more personal view: Am I enjoying this work? Would I feel like a fraud if I was paid more (or would I work 24/7 to reduce the guilt)? Am I supporting those people who depend on me well enough? Am I making progress in my life goals (I happen to have a couple, YMMV)? If some of those are negative, then what can I do to fix it - change of job, start selling snake oil (joke!), move somewhere more suited to achieving my goals... you get the idea I hope.

It's cathartic to shout at the man (and I applaud your bravery!), it's effective to act knowlingly. Enjoy your passions!

 

I don't think FullStack is a scam term but Companies tries to use them like slaves and thinks 2 person with one pays.

I love coding with php and javascript. I can code backend with php and nodejs also I can create frontend apps with my javascript and angularjs knowlegde. I never design or write css stuffs.

If a company wants to use my fullstack skill, I want higher payments because coding at backend and frontend at the same time is tiring and payment must be worth for it.

You can be fullstack but you mustn't work backend and frontend at the same time. If company wants that, raise your payment.

 
 

Absolutely! I think it's just a sly way of saying "we want two developers for the price of one". That's all I take it as. I'm strong at backend and can whip up a bootstrap with javascript but I would not consider myself "full stack" in the sense most are looking for. Most are expecting a designer with that package, which I am not.

 

Scam is too harsh, people (including me) enjoy being able to work across the stack. The term is a bit overused but it does get across the idea that you're able to work both in backend and frontend. Regarding the salaries, I don't really have an educated opinion on how that would work out.

 

I consider myself as a fullstack dev, too. But I've never worked as employee (as a web dev) and see it a bit different than the author. Going fullstack is the only effective and sustainable way to get rid of the dependency on agencies or other big web dev companies and to sign contracts with the end clients directly and to get the full (market oriented) price for your work. If you consider yourself as a fullstack dev and you think your salary does not comply to you skills then you probably should start your own company or go freelance.

 

Interesting read I wouldn't consider this a scam, the wider somebody tried to spread their CORE area of competence the harder it becomes to develop the kind of mastery of any one area this might explain salary gap. Also we think about weather or not better paying be jobs can be found at companies that require more then one or to Devs and thus are more likely to hire at least one developing for each area of expertise rather than having there one or to computer guys do everything.

 

Liked your article but there's one thing that bothered me, DevOps isn't a role - this one isn't a scam though, it's a common misconception. DevOps is a methodology.

 

Sorry for using wrong terms, will go thru and proofread with proper terms and more research data. Thanks for reading.

 

I agree totally, my last job was for a backed dev building an Uber like app using erlang apparently only getting paid in the 25 petcentile, i built the backend in 3 months then spent 8 more fucking with the frontend using horrid technologies ie jquery that were outdated all to appease the cto who championed thus can be done in wordpress, Constantly getting threatened over my job because " it's only 3 lines of code" that project ended in a fire pit and i should have bailed asap.i even went to the investors and quit for a brief time because i wanted a frontend dev which they hired me back, needed the money. Well now I'm living in a tunnel as a homeless 21 year vet programmer, but those project managers eat well.

 

They eat well because they have a different perspective. I do not live in tunnel but I can relate, thus why I made this post. Your story really moves me, I am pretty sure you have heard similar words in past, but it's true.

You are 21 years old homeless* and you know erlang, jQuery etc, also did some talk with investors, finally ... think from a different perspective. You know a lot that can easily set you back on your track once again.

I will give you the same advice lots of others said to you before, but just think it from this perspective, "Project Managers eat well, because they saw things differently". You are a hard worker, it won't hurt to work a bit harder and make things okay again.do not have to aim for full stack development. Just be best at what you can do.

  • Build portfolio. Build lots of items, show off them on your github and portfolio. Build API, build backend stuff that you feel proud of.
  • Search for freelancing jobs, yup, search, search harder.
  • Help others solve their problems., help people with their software, service, products, daily problems.

The best thing happened to me when I was in despair and went ahead to help others solve various problems, it landed me a lot of job and project offers at the end. People always looks for people who can solve their problem, it's in their nature.

Full stack is a scam term of course, but we should not fall for scams knowingly.

 

Not 21 I am almost 40, i have been a software developer for 21 years and have 160 github repos been on approx 100 project teams it doesn't matter source ive committed to the Linux kernel, and over 250k active users on one of my opensource projects etc forieners are causing this in my country right now it has nothing to do with me, I've never had a bad review from an employer, many of them have hired me back when they get their money right. project managers are simply good at protecting their asses and jobs most of the time they see the profits from outsourcing and can't help themselves would you if you could make 10x the profits with less work? thy accel at telling the boss what they want to hear this is why 9 out of 10 it projects fail, 9 out of 10 managers are inept and never should've left burger King. Props to the few good ones and some truly are link sinek. I used to work in a huge company with approx 1k employees it only took 1 bad pm to sink the ship so much was done wrong never had one scrum. I am also disabled and have 15% use of my hand, they don't know this neither would anyone else as i work 50 hrs a week.

My city is very poor and corrupt, just last week my friend went out of business because she couldn't compete she was in business since 1991, it's hard for me and others to compete with the world. I can't sell software to say the Russians or Chinese, also Russia isn't importing lots of people which by no fault of their own are displacing us. America has a problem with this, especially in the tech sector, I've done so many job interviews how possibly could i still be unemployed im at about 400, a big problem is underhanded recruiters scope the job and report to the employer much more than the canidate wants then hires cheaper labor in another country and collects much more profits than if he was working in his native country. Then as more money leaves the country that's not paid to the govt property becomes more expensive due to rising taxes to pay for social programs so the citizens can eat. Its a cycle i hope will be ending soon, corporations think more about profit than people, eventually it will come to arms if it doesn't stop. Luckily it's getting better just not quickly enough i hope soon the us puts sanctions on countries like india, then they will be forced to deal with their unemployment issue rather than using the us to prop up their class system. If india had a more free market or Mexico did then there would be no need to come to my country.i don't mind sharing but when i don't get to eat or have to sleep on the streets so some syrian refugees can gave a home, car, phone, life there's a problem.

Now I have some words.

Look at this,
Cost of living in Bangladesh is 56.16% lower than in United States (aggregate data for all cities, rent is not taken into account). Rent in Bangladesh is 86.59% lower than in United States (average data for all cities).

To make the same quality software, people would be happy with 56.16%-86.59% less money than USA. That's true and sad. That is the reason why we cannot sell softwares to locals. The locals here expects to have a full blown software for $1k, while we can sell same thing to USA guys for $10k-$20k. By doing this, we gradually improve our own country, we increase the quality of work, we improve the living standards of true software developers.

The job market is hard everywhere. Trying to hire developers myself, I felt it over and over, it's hard to find good developers, and it's hard to find good hiring managers. Most just gets knocked at the CV part.

The cycle will not end, because people will obviously look for cheaper work and greater profit. That's human nature.

And all these talk will not help us solve our problem as it is not the real problem.

As I said before, every time I was in a crisis, I just went ahead and started helping others. I do not hold my pride onto something at that point. Just help others will whatever I know. Help others build frontend, backend, api. Help others with programming contest, functional programming, teaching, course and all. Help others on stackoverflow, quora, github issues.

Help your friend who just went out of business. Work together. Build something and solve some real problem. Do not expect money, just help anyone and everyone.

All these will improve my communication, and as well as build my potential network. People will see value in me anyway. It won't matter about my degree or cv.

At your age, it's hard to accept such thing, maybe because you saw world more than me and such. But look around you, who is getting the job? Full stack developers? Backend developers? Frontend developers? Developers who wants to sell own software?

I went thru your github, it doesn't only have elixir, it has PHP, JS, Typescript and lots of other stuff, except no portfolio/profile link.

Market yourself more. That's how these scammers earn money. If you do not market yourself, you will not get yourself out there magically.

  • Market yourself
  • Help others everywhere
  • Build portfolio
  • Think outside the box (and city/state/country)
  • Build network
  • Apply to jobs

Do not worry about full stack development, just make something worthy. It's easier said than done. But if you got time to reply that, you also got time to do all the things I said above.

Peace!

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