Are Full-Stack Developers a Dying Breed?

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If you open any tech job board, you will see dozens of companies looking for full-stack developers. You read that a full-stack engineer is expected to be a master of front-end, back-end, and databases, able to deliver fully-fledged software themselves. The thought runs through your head at that moment: maybe I should hire a full-stack developer for my team if they are so capable?

Well, I would strongly recommend giving this idea up. A true full-stack developer is a thing of the past. In a modern development landscape, they are unicorns – said to have immense power, but yet seen by no one. 

But still, why are there so many job openings for full-stack engineers? To understand the situation’s absurdity, let us give you a deep dive into the nature of the term “full-stack developer”.

Table of Content

A Full-Stack Developer Profile: Getting to Know Tech Jack-of-All-Trades

The term “full-stack developer” describes a software engineer who can provide end-to-end development by themselves. They have mastered the technologies – the stack – necessary for single-handed software delivery and do not require the involvement of other specialists. 

However, if look deeper, the stack is much more than just using JavaScript, HTML, and CSS for front-end and Python, Java, or another back-end language. True full-stack implies an understanding of a long list of layers and components.

layers comptonents of software development 1

For the self-sufficiency usually expected from a full-stack developer, they need to have an extensive knowledge of at least one of the components in each layer. At the same time, a full-stack developer needs to have great soft skills and English proficiency, as they are also expected to communicate with management on a high level. And don’t forget that the tech world doesn’t stay still; to stay relevant, a full-stack developer should follow all the recent technology updates and keep their knowledge up to date. 

Let’s be real: today, a person needs to be a genius to master all of these skills on a decent level and constantly keep them up-to-date.

So why is full-stack development even a thing, if it sounds unrealistic? 

In 2008, when the full-stack development was born, the situation was quite different. It was much easier for a single person to deliver a complete consumer web application, including dynamic web client, server-side business logic, a scalable database, deployment, and operational support. The full stack of those days included HTML5/CSS2, MySQL, Amazon AWS, and one of the server-side languages like PHP, Python, or Ruby. That was enough for success

Now look for the standard requirements for a full-stack developer today. 

Frontend Development:

  • Proficiency in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.
  • Experience with frontend frameworks like React, Angular, or Vue.js.
  • Understanding of responsive design and cross-browser compatibility.

Backend Development:

  • Knowledge of at least one server-side language (e.g., Python, Node.js, Ruby, PHP).
  • Familiarity with server-side frameworks (e.g., Django, Express, Ruby on Rails).
  • Experience with RESTful API design and development.

Database Management:

  • Proficiency in working with SQL databases (e.g., MySQL, PostgreSQL) and NoSQL databases (e.g., MongoDB).
  • Ability to design, query, and manage databases.

DevOps & Infrastructure:

  • Experience with version control tools, particularly Git.
  • Basic understanding of containerization technologies like Docker and orchestration tools like Kubernetes.
  • Familiarity with cloud services (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud) and CI/CD pipelines.

Other Skills:

  • Understanding of security practices.
  • Knowledge of unit and integration testing.
  • Experience with Agile methodologies and software development life cycle (SDLC).

The amount of time and effort required only to keep up with all the advancements and updates of these technologies will be a full-time job. It is really hard to be a true full-stack developer nowadays, so many developers choose to focus on a single specialization. 

Are Full-Stack Developers Still in Demand?

Nevertheless, job boards are still full of job postings for full-stack developers. Some companies are still looking for know-it-alls, hoping that they will effectively do the job on both sides of the application better or at least at the same level as developers who specialize in frontend or backend. At TurnKey, occasionally, we also help our clients find full-stack developers when they are sure that it is what they need. Sometimes, the involvement of full-stack specialists makes sense, e.g., when a company needs not a unicorn that can do literally everything, but a developer with strong experience of back-end and average knowledge of front-end. Here is a perspective of our recruitment team.

Finding full-stack engineers is always challenging. Full-stack engineers are expected to possess proficiency in both front-end and back-end technologies, making it a daunting task to identify individuals with such diverse capabilities. One inherent challenge is that full-stack engineers often have a deeper understanding and mastery in either front-end or back-end development. If they divide their attention equally between both aspects, their knowledge might remain superficial. This can affect the quality of code and the overall success of a project. However, some companies adopt a more flexible approach. They may be open to hiring full-stack engineers specializing more heavily in one domain, allocating approximately 70-80% of their workload to that specific area. This compromise allows for a balance between specialized expertise and broader proficiency. For companies interested in finding experts in both parts in a single person, it may be more efficient to hire separate specialists for each domain. This approach recognizes the depth of expertise that specialists bring and is typically better aligned with the complexity and specialization requirements of certain projects.
Aleksandra IvankovaRecruitment Lead at TurnKey Staffing

However, in the majority of cases, there is a small chance that a company hiring a full-stack developer eventually will fulfill its expectations.

The demand for full-stack developers is a demand for a magic pill that will somehow cut the development costs or simplify the development process. And while you can save money when you hire one full-stack developer instead of front-end and back-end specialists, you will lose in terms of value delivered, which, eventually, will trigger additional expenses to fix bugs or address technical debt.

And yet, some developers have mastered front-end and back-end at some level and are willing to work as full-stack developers. Knowledge and experience with technologies of both sides is definitely a competitive advantage, but I believe that the employer will gain more value from this developer’s effort when hiring them as a front-end or back-end developer. This approach also makes sense for developers themselves – back-end or front-end engineers usually earn the same, if not more, as full-stack ones, and they work on one aspect of the development instead of scattering their attention between everything.

For Developers

By the way, if you are a developer, check our career page – we have vacancies for different types of specialists!

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Why You Don’t Need to Hire a Full-Stack Developer?

Hiring a full-stack developer today isn’t a wise move. For a brief moment, you might achieve the goal you want to reach with the help of a generalist, but in the long run, you will only create problems. 

So why am I so negative about the idea of full-stack developers? Let me explain.

First, as I already described, it is almost impossible for a person to have advanced knowledge of all layers. Even if a developer knows both front-end and back-end technologies, it makes more sense for their personal growth and team success to focus on one direction and expand their expertise in depth, not breadth. This way, instead of a developer who knows everything on a surface level, you have a top specialist in their niche who can handle complex challenges. The dev community mostly shares this thought

Second, one person won’t be able to handle a modern scope of software development as well as a development team. The role diversification was created for a reason: the development process has become more demanding, and more aspects need to be addressed. Even if you find a true full-stack unicorn, it is unrealistic to expect that they will deliver software at the same speed or with the same level of quality as a fully-fledged development team.

So why choose a questionable shortcut when you can set things right from the start?

The Effective Alternative

full stack developer team 1 scaled

In my opinion, the more effective strategy is quite simple: do not put the burden of doing everything onto the shoulders of one person, even if they are a prodigy obsessed with coding. The scope of software development stopped being a one-person job a long time ago, so do not expect a single developer to deliver it well single-handedly.

Find the best front-end ninjas, top-notch back-end rock stars, back them up with experienced DevOps magicians and hotshot designers – and you have a leading team generating real value that will pay off your investments manyfold in the long run.

However, the key here is to find top-of-the-top specialists, and TurnKey can assist you in this uneasy task with one-of-a-kind offshore staffing services. 

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We believe in the power of custom recruitment. Unlike other staffing agencies, we don’t keep a bench; we provide you with top candidates from Eastern Europe and Latin America that were found and chosen specifically for your opening and that match your unique requirements. 

We also keep everything transparent between us: you will know the precise compensation of the developers we hire for you. You also see our capped fees on top that don’t rise with salary, so you always control how much your developers get paid, and dictate all promotions, raises, and equity grants. 

This approach, combined with our special retention program, ensures that the developers you hire will stay with you for a long time, and you won’t lose money due to high churn. 

And of course, we take care of legal and financial aspects of developers’ employment, so you can focus on essential things instead of worrying about payroll, compliance, and other administrative hassle.

Build your top development team with TurnKey Staffing

Summing Up

Full-stack developers are really a dying breed, if not already dead. The true full-stack is almost impossible nowadays. Moreover, it is irrelevant, especially for enterprise-level development projects where scaling and sustainability are crucial and demanding.

The tech industry has already adopted developers’ specializations, and the term “full-stack” has turned into an unrealistic concept that we need to leave in the past. The experience of dozens of companies proves that having a team of specialized pros is much more productive and beneficial for the development process and software quality. The current hiring options, including TurnKey’s offshore staffing services, allow companies to find top talent and optimize their cost without compromising on quality and productivity.

FAQ

What is a full-stack software developer?

A full-stack developer is a professional who has expertise in end-to-end software development. This concept implies that they are proficient in multiple programming languages, frameworks, and databases.

Why are full-stack developers becoming less popular?

The primary reason for the decline in full-stack developers is the increasing complexity of software development. With the advent of new technologies and frameworks, it has become difficult for a single person to master all the skills required to build a modern application. As a result, it makes more sense for companies to hire specialized developers who can focus on specific areas of software development.

What are the advantages of using specialized developers?

Specialized developers can provide better quality code, faster development times, and more efficient use of resources. They can also work more efficiently in teams, as each member can focus on their area of expertise.

What are the disadvantages of using full-stack developers?

Full-stack developers may not have the same level of expertise in all areas of web development, which can lead to lower-quality code and longer development times. Additionally, they may not be able to keep up with the latest technologies and frameworks, which can make it difficult to build up-to-date applications.

January 24, 2024

TurnKey Staffing provides information for general guidance only and does not offer legal, tax, or accounting advice. We encourage you to consult with professional advisors before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business or legal rights.

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