DEV Community

Rach Smith
Rach Smith

Posted on • Originally published at on

Full-stack? T-Shaped? Comb-Shaped? Developer or Engineer?

Whenever I come across a form field that asks for my occupation or profession, I hesitate before answering. I believe my official documented role title with CodePen and Active Theory is/was "Engineer", but I’m pretty sure that was just what it needed to be to satisfy the US Visa requirements they hired me under.

I think that software engineer probably describes what I do now and so I use that title in my bio, but I feel weird about it because I literally dropped out of a software engineering degree when I was 19. I dropped out because I thought it was "too hard" and I wasn't "smart enough". I was so very wrong on both points, but that decision still haunts me when I consider claiming the Engineer title.

I feel similarly hesitant about calling myself a full-stack developer. Yes, in the last 10 years I have been paid to do basically everything from setting up cloud infrastructure, designing and creating databases, writing server side code through to animating interfaces, building JavaScript apps and styling HTML. And yet, the full in full-stack throws me. Can anyone really know the full stack, fully? I don't think I'm there yet.

Recently I learnt about the concept of the T-Shaped Developer and I thought hey, that sounds like me. But then I gave it some more thought and still wasn't sure if that was right. Even though I'm strongest in client-side tech, I have been writing the code for the CodePen backend for years, so am hardly a novice in that area.

So then after some more research on this topic, I discovered the comb shaped developer: who has "the breadth of a generalist and multiple specialisations that they’ve gravitated to throughout their career". Finally, this feels right. I am a comb. I am also, most definitely, overthinking this job title thing altogether.

I’m assuming as I'm thinking about this there’s a whole group of people walking out of 6 month dev boot camps, slapping on a full-stack software engineer title, and moving on their merry way, with nary a thought to whether that is appropriate. I should take a leaf out of their book. Instead, I’ll be here having an existential crisis the next time I’m asked to list my occupation on the patient intake form at the Dentist.

Top comments (0)