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Why I Decided To Stay A Frontend Engineer And Stopped Searching Full-Stack Jobs

Web Dev Ken
Coming from a mechanical engineering background to web engineering. Happy and curious ever since!
・5 min read

My goal writing this post is to emphasize you to deepen your knowledge in the field you are currently in, instead of trying to move to new fields too quickly. If you are a frontend engineer yourself and think what you do are basics, read my story!

My software engineering career has pretty much started in January 2018. Coming from a mechanical engineering profession, it was hard for me to easily get a job in software engineering. At the time, I successfully landed a trainee job at a small company that had a frontend solution for their clients that was built with Angular. At work, I was confrontend with Angular, UI Architectures and Client-Server Architecture. Learning Angular was pretty fun, because the framework itself developed very quickly and there were tons of things to learn and apply to the application I was maintaining.

After two years as trainee with a solid knowledge with Angular, I decided to move on and get a job as a software engineer at a company that deals with multiple projects, so I can learn from different environments. Luckily, I could land a job at an agency that helps customers expand their digitalization strategy by creating React frontends for their needs. Meanwhile I finished my study and received my bachelors diploma in computer science. After one and a half year at this company, occasionally looking at my local job market, I noticed a trend in full-stack developers being eagerly employed by mid to large companies. There were double more full-stack jobs than frontend jobs. As a fresh baked software engineer, I wanted to get future proof by gaining knowledge as a full-stack engineer, so I can always easily find a job once I need a switch again. But I had pretty much no knowledge about creating full-stack applications. From university I learnt all the basics like relational databases, service architectures, MVC and even .NET and C# basics, but I had no practical hands-on in years. So I decided to deepen my knowledge in C#/.NET in my spare time by creating leisure projects and learning online.

Mid 2021 I started applying for various job descriptions that were looking for a .NET full-stack engineer. In total I had three job application interviews that, almost predictable, all rejected me. Here are the reasons why:

Interviewer number one

The first one wanted me to create a small solution for visualizing IIS logs that were saved as text files. So I created a solution where the files get parsed, written into SQL database, read from with Entity Framework, mapped to a data transfer object with a mapper, sent to the client through an API endpoint via JSON and nicely displayed in the browser. I thought, that's what full-stack developers do. I handed in my solution in time and was invited to the company to present and discuss my solution. After presenting my solution, the responsible guy started to ask me questions. These were questions like:

  • What does LINQ do internally?
  • What does line number so and so do (on an automatically generated .cs file)?
  • What are the differences of objet and value types?
  • What can be potential caveats of your application when you need to handle millions of lines of logs?
  • What are memory leaks?
  • What is garbage collection?
  • What is encoding UTF-8?

The moral of the story was, that he asked me lot's of questions about backend development which I could barely answer. There were pretty much no questions about frontend engineering. So my impression was, that these guys were actually looking for a backend engineer that knows a bit HTML/CSS and not a full-stack engineer. After getting rejected, I moved to the second interview.

Interviewer number two

The second interviewer didn't require me to create a small application, but during the interview they wanted me to create a UML class diagram of a problem description within 15 minutes. So I tried my best to create an agnostic diagram and try to solve the problem. They asked me questions about my solution which were related to creating a relational database out of it. Overall, they further asked me questions like:

  • What does the keyword virtual do in C#?
  • What are the differences between abstract classes, interfaces and class inheritance in C#?
  • Does an abstract method has to be overriden or not?
  • What is the difference between SQL and No-SQL?

They mainly asked me conceptual questions like class modelling, relational databases and so on. Again, there were little questions about frontend engineering and UI architectures.

Interviewer number three

The third interviewer had pretty much only technical questions about .NET and SQL Server. These were questions like:

  • Can you inherit from multiple classes in C#?
  • What are SQL Server functions and procedures?
  • What is a left, right and inner join?

With this interviewer, there were equal amounts of questions for frontend and backend. I pretty much could answer the frontend questions perfectly, but the backend questions almost none of it.

My conclusion

After getting rejected from all three, I was extremely frustrated and felt like that I was stuck creating frontends forever. At the beginning, I had great interest in also doing backend development, but I highly overestimated my skills and didn't really know what a backend engineer needs to know. After calmly thinking and re-considering the feedbacks I received, I thought about the constellation of these interviews. As can be seen, they didn't want to know that much about my frontend engineering skills, just as if they were looking for a classic backend engineer only, who has some frontend skills. I could have been miserable in creating frontends and still land a job as a full-stack engineer, if I could answer their backend questions well. For me this meant that in the industry in my area, or at least the companies I had an interview with, still didn't recognize frontend engineering as an own discipline with an enormous complexity, that even has it's own bachelor programs nowadays. Becoming an expert in backend and frontend at the same time with a certain amount of deepness was no option for me. So I had to set my focus and move on.

After all this, I recognized what I really wanted. I wanted to become a very skilled frontend engineer. Being a good frontend engineer requires a lot more than just creating fancy HTML with some JavaScript and CSS. I noticed that there is actually still a lot of things to learn creating frontends and that I actually just had started my journey. Yes, I didn't even know all the parts of JavaScript yet. Why should I switch disciplines before becoming an expert at what I do right now? From now on, I will dig much deeper, try to learn everything about the web and become a great frontend engineer.

Discussion (17)

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dgreene1 profile image
Dan Greene

As a frequent interviewer and a full stack dev, I can tell you that all 3 of those interviewers did a bad job and they shouldn’t have treated you like that. They committed a couple of interviewing sins:

  • full stack devs shouldn’t be expected to know details like IIS logs in the same way that they shouldn’t necessarily be capable of knowing off the top of their head every aspect of flexbox
  • they appear to have been really wanting a backend dev who can dabble in the UI but they advertised for a mix of the two
  • they asked specifics as opposed to focusing on your problem solving skills and attitude

All of these speak more about them than you. I’m sorry you had to experience that.

The whole stack is a wonderful journey that I hope everyone gets the opportunity to dabble in and to enjoy. Go forth and learn what makes you excited. Don’t let bad interviewers drive your career. But it sounds like your passion is UI at the moment, so I hope you enjoy it. Best of luck and congrats on being part of a wonderful career. Cheers. :)

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sshanzel profile image
Hansel Solevilla • Edited

True, most questions were just all about definitions, though it has its advantages of knowing it, but you won't write those code in your every day life as a full-stack engineer. Seems like they just want a hard-core back-end engineer with front-end skills

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gabrielmares profile image
Gabriel Mares

I was interested land in full stack jobs positions too, in my case, I like more frontend and Mobile than backend and DB. Now, I only apply for frontend or react developer, I feel more confidence with frontend

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zenphp profile image
Jason Murray

I'm just the opposite, I prefer the backend, database, api integrations, business logic, devops...it's what I live for.

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ziker22 profile image
Zikitel22

I have been moving between front and back end for some years.From my experience theres no such thing as fullstack engineer. its always frontend dev with capabity to write backend and vice versa. I would never ask fullstack engineer to design system architecture. His/hers understanding is in 99% cases not deep enough
Also with 10 yoe i can tell you frontend is no joke once you work on real large scale project exposed to internet your head starts spinning :). Good luck with your journey

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timsar2 profile image
timsar2

I was full stack developer, But finaly i found you cant go deep as much as needed.

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zenphp profile image
Jason Murray

It's true. But the team I've been on for the last two years has had a spectrum, we had a couple of solid front end specialists, I was the backend engineer, and we had a handful of full-stack types who were able to float back and forth as tasks came up. I think starting out as a full stack is a great start, but then as you progress in your career you should begin to specialize.

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docvominh profile image
Pham Duc Minh

The same like me, tried to find a job with title full stack develop.
I thought if my fontend skill not so good, backend can save me.
But sadly, company just want to find the best developer that fit for position.
And I like the guy know many thing but not pro at anything :(
Fullstack is cool, but now a day, application is separated, team is separated
Focus on one side will make you easy landing a job.

Fact: they always ask more Backend question in Fullstack interview -_-

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elladziv profile image
Elad Ziv

In my experience, full-stack is a bit of a hoax.
Yes, i have met a few very impressive developers with a deep understanding of both back-end and front-end needs and challenges, however most of the full-stack developers I've met (the vast majority) were actually either skilled back-end developers with mediocre skills in front-end, or not-here-nor-there developers.
They were very good, most of them, but couldn't deal with the 'magic' that's sometimes required of skilled true frontend developers.

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tanth1993 profile image
tanth1993

I am a fullstack. fullstackoverflow

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akashpal profile image
Akash Pal

I have been working as s Frontend engineer for 5+ years now. So initially I started with angular ionic then moved on to react in my second org and currently working with react, node.

In all three orgs I have been part of, I feel that frontend has a lot that actually meets the eyes.
From performance optimization to code coverage to modular components.
There is a lot that can be done in frontend.

I would continue to identify myself as a frontend developer with some backend experience.

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joakinobinna profile image
Nwafor obinna joakin

I think the interviewers did a bad job. I will say, don't use the 3 bad experience and conclude that all is going to be like that. I feel you should close the full stack chapter, since you already have some knowledge about it.

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sharpninja profile image
The Sharp Ninja

Good breakdown of the experiences. I would say the first two were confident of your front end skills and didn't want to waste time there. Most of their questions were really on point to see if someone has made the cognitive leap from scripted dynamic code and typed compiled code. Things like UML are hugely valuable to describing large and complex systems before you start writing code.

Your analysis and decision tell me that you have a promising career ahead of you. Having an engineering background will help you, especially if you catch on with a startup run by an engineer.

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ecyrbe profile image
ecyrbe

You can also try to apply to fullstack JS jobs.
At least you'll have js experience and grow node.js experience on the way down.
Bonus, your team will really appreciate your frontend skills since if the stack is full JS, they certainly know about frontend.

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larsejaas profile image
Lars Ejaas

Frontend developers also need to know more and more backend stuff if they are working with Jamstack. Try building a large frontend in Next.js or Nuxt.js without knowing at least some Node.js...

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pratapadityach6 profile image
PratAp aditya Chakraborty

Thanks

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golangch profile image
Stefan Wuthrich

Whatever way you go, heere you can find a Job, even remote :-)

fullstackjob.com
javascriptjob.xyz