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When executing a software project, having the best talent is something everyone wants. After all, only by having the best people can you make sure that your product will be a success. It makes no sense to hire someone with ordinary skills if you can opt for the best. However, this leaves us with a question. What makes someone the best candidate for a job?
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In the app development world, it is common to speak about full-stack developers, yet there is little consensus about what this means. In general, it refers to a person with a broad set of skills and experience that makes them an ideal candidate for any project; in theory, they should be able to develop a software project alone.
At Koombea, we prefer to speak about Full Stack Engineers. An engineer has a stronger background and thus a deeper knowledge of critical topics related to software development. In this post, we discuss what this concept is and how to know if someone is one.
Although the term is very common, there is no clear definition as to what it is. There are so many different fields within the world of computer science and software that it is unrealistic to believe that a single person can dominate everything there is to know. Nonetheless, there is consensus regarding the importance of knowing both frontend and backend, that is, the user-facing part and the server-facing side of a product.
One common idea around the concept is that it refers to web development, yet this is not always the case. A full-stack expert is often said to work in the business of software development. Yet the term can refer to someone who works with mobile apps, or even with native devices. In reality, It is common to use the term specifically for the web niche.
A Full Stack Engineer can be thought of as a generalist. The problem with this is that a generalist may know a lot about many things but specializes in none. In theory, they should be able to develop projects by themselves thanks to their knowledge and expertise, even if this is not always the best alternative due to time constraints.
Ideally, these experts occupy the role of a project manager. They should be able to act as connectors, that is, they help integrate the different components of a project through their extensive knowledge and their vantage point of the big picture. As integrators, they help different areas like design, development, Quality Assurance, server configuration, and DevOps speak the same language. Recently, it has been discussed that full stackers should also be knowledgeable about topics like marketing, business, and customer relations. The list can be very extensive and can also include other topics such as version control, database management, and testing.
The downside to this versatility is that a Full Stack Engineer may indeed be knowledgeable about a specific topic, but not with the necessary depth. This means that it is sometimes necessary for a project, even with a full-stack expert on board, to have a specialist.
There is no way to know for sure if someone has the right qualifications. This is a problem for companies wanting to hire someone for a full-stack role because many developers present themselves as such, even if it isn’t the case. In the end, whether someone is or not a Full Stack Engineer depends on subjective factors closely related to the project being developed.
Teams in need of a full-stack member have to make sure that a candidate’s skills actually correspond to what is needed. The best way to do this is to check out their work. It is now common for anyone working in the tech industry to have their work uploaded on platforms like GitHub. By looking at such platforms, it is possible to say whether someone has some of the requirements in order to be referred to as full-stack, however, it is not enough.
Additionally, it is important to verify that the candidate actually knows about the topics that matter for a given project. In other words, it is important to verify experience and problem-solving skills. Someone may be knowledgeable about a variety of important topics, but not the ones you need. The best way to verify this is through interviews or exams. By doing so you can determine whether someone has the knowledge and skills your project needs.
Full Stack Engineers are a rare breed in high demand within the industry. Being one is no easy task, and finding one that suits a specific project’s needs is even harder. However, this does not mean that it is impossible to find one. It is important to ask yourself why you need one, because in reality, and no matter how good they are, they are not the swiss army solution to your project.
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