Full stack or specialist? - Agilis

Full stack or specialist?

I’ve had many conversations about the dilemma of full stack or specialist technical workers and teams. Is it better that everyone can do everything to a fairly good level or is it preferable to specialise and really excel at one thing only? At the last Wordcamp I attended I asked the closing WordPress Developer stream discussion panel (all lead senior developers) what they most wanted or needed in their teams. From three panelists I got three answers. Yes full stack please, no keep it specialists and maybe, we can teach them. So, if you’re a jewel in the Ruby crown, chained to Backbone, a Java god or a slave to npm, you may still need to know how to photoshop cool icons, or create svg code, or even carry out user-testing.

It’s the same in other tech fields. I’m known as a general specialist, I kid you not. And I’m not even really a coder. I can code though, to an extent. I ‘do’ client requirements, user task analysis, usability testing, persona development, journey and interface development. Information and navigation architecture. Dev team support. Project coordination. And technical solutions. And content management and strategy, social media connectivity and streamlining, community facilitation… I teach this stuff. And ‘do’ it.

Jack of all trades? I don’t think so, it’s more complicated than that. What’s happening here is that until you’re way up in the super high-tech nova bright world stratosphere of really specialist apps, you’re often developing pretty standard content management and social media presence and approaches. That means that quite a lot of tech and design folks can do it. It’s no longer that much of a specialism. And now that apps like Backand are around, even fancier client side is becoming within the reach of code primitives like me.

So where does that leave the young budding webdev superheroes? You have to prepare for a very very fluctuating market of technical skills demand. Today it might be dotNET and/or Angular and Node, tomorrow it might be Titanium and Swift. Or not. You might need to use After Effects to promote the work you just made, or iMovie to edit some user testing video.

The biggest lesson? Get learning. Keep learning.

Web chatter on Full Stack

http://techcrunch.com/2014/11/08/the-rise-and-fall-of-the-full-stack-developer/ 2014
http://andyshora.com/full-stack-developers.html 2014
http://www.sitepoint.com/full-stack-developer/ 2014 (quick history)
https://skillsmatter.com/conferences/6612-fullstack 2015


Author: Pen Lister

Pen Lister is Academic Lead at Agilis, and has fifteen plus years in tech and new media, the last ten years spent lecturing at a London University. She’s now living in Malta, doing a PhD in augmented reality learning.
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