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How to get the ‘best job’ right now: Full-stack developer

Be the unicorn companies are looking for.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

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From cybersecurity and big data to software development and gaming, IT Brew delivers the latest news and analysis of trends shaping the IT industry, like only The Brew can.

Steve Bennett builds portals. While that may sound like the work of time-traveling wizards, Bennett and his crew at the business firm Soliant Consulting are merely application developers, frequently tasked with the creation of internal payment and invoicing tools.

The day-to-day responsibilities of portal work, however, do call for a kind of rare creature— a coding “unicorn,” a multi-skilled professional familiar with all areas of the app’s stack, from the front-end user interface to the back-end database, and all the microservices in between:

The full-stack developer.

This hard-to-find programmer may understand design languages like CSS, or know acceptance testing, or have a handle on cloud services like AWS, which apps increasingly leverage. The full stack includes the user interface, under-the-hood data programming, navigational elements, and information storage.

“It’s somebody that doesn’t just…have experience in a specific coding language for the front-end and back-end and has a little database knowledge. They also have a solid understanding of the full interaction that happens, the full life cycle for a user interacting with a browser-based solution,” said Bennett, senior technical practice lead at Soliant.

As companies look to optimize their tech spending, an engineer who knows the whole stack—and not just one pancake like Web development or Javascript—is valuable to employers on the job boards.

“As technology invested in massive growth over the last few years, you could afford to have people that were very focused in a niche. As they’re tightening their belts in this economic climate, I think there’s higher demand for individuals that can work across the stack and be involved in a number of different projects,” said Erik Brown, senior partner at the business consultancy West Monroe.

Super stack! A “full-stack developer” ended up on the top of a recent list of Indeed’s “Best Jobs”—a survey that factored in professional demand, flexibility, and pay. A report from the employment website noted 1,398 job postings per 1 million jobs, a 56% yearly growth, and an average salary of $129,637.

To meet employer demands and make that $129k, developers need to “ABL,” as Kevin Schuchard puts it: Always be learning. The learning can include a variety of tutorials, training options, and a good, old-fashioned seizing of an opportunity.

“If you’re fortunate enough to be on a team where someone lets you step up and take a swing in a domain you’re not comfortable with, that’s probably your first entry into that,” said Kevin Schuchard, director of engineering at the application developer Briebug Software.

Bennett suggests the sincerest form of flattery: watching fellow developers, or even replicating favorite features of everyday apps.

“There’s no better way to sort of learn it and verify that you’re comfortable doing the full stack part of it, than to just copy something and do it on your own,” Bennett told IT Brew.

If you can’t be the unicorn, imitate one.—BH

Do you work in IT or have information about your IT department you want to share? Email [email protected].

Top insights for IT pros

From cybersecurity and big data to software development and gaming, IT Brew delivers the latest news and analysis of trends shaping the IT industry, like only The Brew can.