What is a Full Stack Developer?
To answer the question of what a Full Stack Developer is, we first need to define what we mean by “stack”. A stack refers to all of the components needed to run an application. This includes frameworks and components internal to an application, such as UI frameworks, MVC frameworks, data access libraries, etc. It can also include things external to an application, such as the operating system, application server, and database.
Thus, a full stack developer is a developer that works in all areas of an application, from high-level frameworks all the way back to the servers that host the application components. Sometimes the definition of a stack is limited to the internal components of an application, excluding things like servers and operating systems. Nevertheless, the concept is the same: full stack developers are able to work throughout several layers of the stack. They are not limited to a single aspect, such as the UI.
Who is a Full Stack Developer?
At this point, the question becomes: can anyone truly be a full stack developer? After all, applications and platforms can be very deep and complex.
It is true that no individual can be an expert at everything. There are too many layers to modern systems. Gaining and maintaining expertise in all of those areas seems impossible. Furthermore, expertise in one particular area can go stale over time. For example, if I work heavily on web UIs for a length of time, I may become an expert. But, when I move on to another area, such as data access, my expertise in UIs will fade. This is true not only because of how fresh it is in my mind, but also because technology and practices changes over time.
So then, is there really such a thing as a full stack developer? I think the answer is yes, but not in the sense that the developer has expert knowledge in every aspect of the stack. Rather, a full stack developer is someone who has knowledge and experience in most or all layers of the stack, and is comfortable working in any of those areas. Also, this breadth of knowledge helps the developer learn quickly and move between different layers of the stack.
Is a Full Stack Developer Good or Bad?
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Does this mean that a full stack developer is a “master of nothing”?
While it’s true that a full stack developer has knowledge of the entire stack, this does not necessarily mean a lack of expertise in particular areas. Rather, I have found full stack developers usually do have expertise in particular areas, and are very good in those areas.
I think this is true not because full stack developers are simply super developers, but because of the person. There are certain traits required in order to become a full stack developer. Among them are flexibility, quick learning, and self motivation. Working throughout the stack can be very demanding, and these characteristics are needed to be effective in doing so.
Furthermore, you can see that these traits are not unique to full stack developers. Rather, these are things that help make any person successful. That is why I say that an “expert” full stack developer is more about the person. What makes this person valuable is not merely their knowledge and experience, but the underlying traits that helped them become a “full stack developer.”
Full stack developers are an asset to any team. Not only do they have wide ranging knowledge and experience, but they also tend to be flexible, self motivated, and quick learners. In addition to being good developers, these characteristics also make them good people to work with.
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