Full Stack Reality Vs Expectations

January 19, 2021

What does it mean to be a full stack engineer?

Can I call myself a full stack engineer if I’m better at one side than the other? What if I have a preference for one over the other? Do I have to know everything?

Here we’re going to uncover the truth of being a full stack dev. Let’s dig in.

First, at a basic level, this is what a full stack engineer will be working on.

Front End

You have to know how to build out front end code. You’ll want to be familiar with Angular, React, Vue, or other frameworks/libraries.

Back End

You have to know how to build out back end code, using Node.js, an Apache server, Rails, Python, or other frameworks/environments.


You need to be able to save your data. Have some foundational knowledge about databases such as SQL, MySQL, Postgres, or other database management systems.

Test Cases

Be able to write test cases for the front end, back end, and your database. Write test cases to ensure that everything works in unison, whether it’s end to end, integration or unit test cases.


Be able to bring it all to production. That might mean deployment or having a pipeline. Ultimately, you need to be able to provide the solution from end to end.

Be a jack of all trades and do a little of everything.

That’s what a full stack engineer is like. So, what are the expectations? And more importantly, what’s the reality?

Expectations vs Reality

1. Everyone is better than you.

This probably isn’t news to you, but everyone is better than you at something.

But guess what else? Everyone is worse than you at something, too.

The goal is to find that line – where does your imposter syndrome kick you to, and from there, can you take a look at the other side? Can you try to see the full picture?

Maybe someone is really good at front end and back end, but their database skills are shabby.

Reality is not always what you think it is.

2. My code isn’t as good as their code.

This is when imposter syndrome can really rear its ugly head.

All devs feel this way, and this is the prime reason. We’ll touch more on imposter syndrome later, but just know it’s at play here – and imposter syndrome is not reality.

3. You will learn everything you need to know at your job.

Afraid not. Reality check – you must explore outside of work. Dabble in side projects, explore, and keep learning.

Know that you have to fail (and it’s ok!), fail outside of work, and take the time to learn outside of work to amplify your career trajectory.

Don’t want to do that?

That’s fine – you can still be a good developer, but perhaps not great. To take it to the next level, learning outside of work will need to come into play.

4. You need to have a degree in Computer Science to be a dev.

Nope. There are projected 1.4 million jobs in the next two years and only 400,000 CS degrees coming out of college. That’s about a 1 million job difference.

And truthfully here, some of the best programmers I know are self-taught.

5. The more senior you are, the easier it will be to pick up new technologies/frameworks.

The reality is, experience can sometimes dictate this.

But more often than not, it’s more about how you learn for yourself and putting in the time to do so.

Remember, the faster you fail, the faster you learn.

6. You will climb the career ladder by producing beautiful code.

Did you chuckle about that, too?

Sometimes you do climb the ladder because of dumb luck or good timing. But most of the time, you won’t climb the ladder just from writing beautiful code.

You climb the ladder because you provide value. That is what drives your salary and your promotions.

Learn how you can best provide value in your environment, and do that.

It could be leadership, writing code, setting standards, going to extra meetings, etc. All the extra things you do will provide value.

Next Steps

You know what it means to be a full stack engineer. You know the expectations and reality in some of the aspects of being a full stack engineer. Don’t meet the expectations, rise to reality.

Want help accelerating your coding career around being a full stack dev? Head over to Coding Career Fastlane: https://codingcareerfastlane.com/.

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