Does a Full Stack Developer Even Exist?

Full Stack Developers are the tech professionals who cause a certain level of confusion throughout the tech world. How can we define a full stack developer and does such a thing even exist?

What’s a Full Stack Developer?

Before getting stuck into whether full stack developers really exist, let’s delve into what they’re defined as.

Being a full stack developer is no simple feat; it’s a profession requiring years of experience and a large and in-depth skill set.

A full stack developer can be described as someone with an adept level of knowledge regarding each distinct layer of web development, possessing a passion for software technology. The layers of web development include; an understanding in the server, network and hosting environment, data modelling, business logic, mastery in user interface and user experience, as well as a grasp on what both the consumer and the business need.

But ultimately, full stack developers need a deep and coherent understanding of both front-end and back-end development, as well as best practices – so, full stack developers must be incredibly versatile.

Full stack developers are extremely valuable to a team as they are able to address, discuss and advise about all ends of the web development process. Developers who can readily assess how a website should look and feel, as well as understanding the potential technical limitations, are a hugely valuable asset.

Full Stack Developers: A Myth?

There are many who view full stack engineers as a myth and an improbable profession. But is this the case? Do well-rounded, knowledgeable full stack engineers exist in line with their definition?

The idea that full stack developers are a myth is underpinned by the idea that developers can’t be complete all-rounders; however, is this true? Perhaps full stack developers don’t need to be all-rounders? Perhaps it’s about their level of awareness regarding a number of important technologies and the value that they can add to a team?

Granted, it would be incredibly rare to find developers who are experts in all technologies. While some developers may be able to cover a large proportion of technologies, it would be rare to find someone who is a master of all stacks. It’s about knowledge a mile wide, rather than a mile deep.

When people say they want a full stack developer, often they’re looking for one person who can come into a project and handle all aspects with a level of deep expertise. In this respect, perhaps one developer who is an expert in it all just doesn’t exist? Full stack development is all about one person who is comfortable working in a number of important technologies and it’s unrealistic that they’ll be a master of every aspect.

So, Do Full Stack Developers Exist?

Although the definitions often pinned onto full stack developers, as well as people’s expectations about their capabilities, may be slightly skewed, it’s not to say that these mythical beings of the tech world don’t exist. Simply speaking, full stack engineers do exist, just perhaps not in the form that they are so often defined as.

“The stack is a nebulous term, which needs to be a bit more tightly constrained.” [3]

Although definitions on what counts as “full stack” may need a little re-working, generally speaking, as long as you possess a wide breadth of knowledge in a number of areas and a deep knowledge in a distinct few areas of your specific stack, then you are a full stack developer.

What do you think? Are you a full stack developer? Or perhaps you think that full stack developers are a ‘myth’? Tweet me your thoughts: @GeorgeKallias.