Full-stack engineering is an attractive concept, but very often, it’s a misguided compromise that leads to lower-quality output in exchange for a highly stressed developer.
Full-stack engineering is a dream job for every development enthusiast. But, this may come as a shock that many times it’s a recipe for slower development, soaring technical debt, lower-quality software, and over-stressed engineers.
Developers starting their careers or wishing to upgrade their skills to include full-stack development should be wary of this title. Although there are some exceptions where full-stack engineers deliver the perfect code, it might become the last resort for highly experienced engineers. One thing is clear a high-performing, and experienced team of specialized engineers will deliver much more value than a full-stack developer.
The Issue with Multi-tasking
The human brain is not wired for multi-tasking tough jobs and full-stack development. For example, one is designing a Boyce-Codd standard database schema with appropriate indexes, creating a fully scalable RESTful call, building an interactive UI with the suitable object model, and then maintaining the full implementation along with the issue to be solved. Isn’t it overwhelming?
Front-end and back-end engineering are two complex areas with different practices and priorities. Either one takes several years to master, and neither is static. Every aspect has to be re-learned with new advancements.
Full-stack engineering requires coders to learn too much at once, putting a cognitive load that unnecessarily causes nervous strains. These overloads dim the development speed and may cause more mistakes leading to excess technical debt in the future.
This problem will continue to impact every developer, seasoned or not, because the field will continue to advance, and all the engineers will continue to struggle to keep up.
Dropping the Assumption of Building Solutions On the Ground
A distinguished full-stack engineer can create more value with a high-functioning team of specialists.
Some problems are simple and familiar enough to resolve via server-side rendered monoliths. Suppose the solution fits within the limited patterns of frameworks like Ruby on Rails, Laravel, or Django. In that case, a skilled team of full-stack developers will be able to build it efficiently.
But, there’s an upper limit to the monolith’s complexity and viability, even if it may serve short-term needs. A monolith won’t be the best choice for all development challenges. The developers may rebuild the codebase later to shift to correctly sized services or implement a new approach.
Instead of building loose MVP structures, it will be better to wait to hire a specialized team of skilled developers instead of putting pressure on full-stack developers. This approach will further help in avoiding the re-coding and rebuilding of the entire codebase.
Hiring a team of separate and moderately skilled developers for both front-end and back-end will help create a solid and well-skilled team. Each of them can focus on their work and collaborate when needed.
Developers Need to Slow Down
Even though developers enjoy racing to be better than their own selves, they need to take a step back and slow down to stay updated on these. Trying to learn all languages, back-end, and front-end will be like pursuing different degrees with different majors all at once. This will cause more burnout and slow down learning and upskilling.
In conclusion, full-stack engineering is poor math that will lead to insignificant implementations. Collaborating with high-performing teams will generate real value for developers, companies, and clients.