The words you use to represent yourself matter — and those words mean nothing.
The vagueness and confusion around the phrase “full stack developer” has been lingering for years. Google it and you’ll find plenty of discussion about why it’s such a loaded term.
Given that long-standing vagueness, labelling yourself as “full stack” might be doing you more harm than good, especially if you’re just starting out.
🥞 Are you being honest?
“Full stack” basically implies that you can do it all — that you can build front to back effectively and ship.
But can you really do all of that well?
Anyone with some programming experience can learn the basics of something new and cobble a solution together. But that certainly doesn’t make it good software — a goal every good, experienced programmer strives for.
When someone with a few years experience labels themselves as a “full stack developer”, I’m pretty skeptical. Is there really enough experience there to be good at everything? I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s certainly not likely.
Here’s the important thing to remember — knowing your limitations isn’t a sign of weakness or impostor syndrome. It’s a sign of honesty, and that in itself is a major strength.
Don’t sell yourself short, but don’t be afraid to acknowledge your (current) limitations either. People will respect you for it.
🥞 What matters to you? What’s your focus?
Referring to yourself as “full stack” doesn’t express any opinions or preferences — it’s vague, broad, and bland. It’s the equivalent of saying “I’ll do whatever work, it doesn’t matter to me”.
And if that’s the case, well, stick with that label. But if the work does matter to you (and it certainly should), speak your mind.
Saying you’ve been “A proud, productive Ruby on Rails programmer for two happy years” sounds a hell of a lot better (and means a lot more) than “full stack developer”.
Along the same lines, don’t overdo it when presenting your skills.
“Full stack developers” are often the same folks who list out the dozens and dozens of skills they have. Whether they have those skills is irrelevant — it gives the appearance of a quantity-over-quality cover story.
When listing out your strengths, be sure to keep the list short and focused. A handful of really strong talking points is far better than a wall-of-text laundry list of skills. It demonstrates clarity in your thinking and a healthy opinion on what matters to you.
The bottom line is this: the words you pick to represent yourself really matter, especially when you’re just starting out. “Full stack” is far too bullshitty to do you any good.
Figure out your limits, be honest, and focus on what you enjoy most. Express those in your work and how you talk about yourself. You’ll have a clearer head and will be positioning yourself for a much happier, long-term programming career.
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Just starting out? Ditch the “full stack developer” label was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.