Notes from The State of Front-End Dev Hangout

Really enjoyed watching The State of Front-End Dev Hangout, hosted by none other than . Chris’ guests included , , , and .

The video is just over an hour, but makes for some mighty fine, and pretty humorous, infotainment! To follow are a few notes I made while listening (there were many more), the bits that really caught my ear, mixing pieces of what the panel members said with my interpretations and thoughts on the matter. So, don’t take any of this as direct quotes… :-)

As a bucket-term, what is included in Front-End Development?

Everyone easily agreed that it absolutely includes HTML CSS, and JS (though there was discussion about “back-end” JS, a la Node, etc.). Everyone agreed it does not include Ruby, Python, or PHP. Grunt files were considered part of front-end, as were pre-processors. Accessibility was a resounding yes from everyone, though as you might expect, it was immediately followed by the same sheepish “but..”s that you and I and nearly every other front-end developer would give… The opinions started to get a little fuzzy when asked about SEO, performance tactics such as image optimization and other network metrics.

What job title should we be using now?

The title “Front-End Developer” comprises… what? A few different terms would tossed about, but the consensus was that this single term cannot effectively describe what a job would require, and that we don’t really have definitive titles for all the jobs we have to do. Basically, job ads can use any title they want, but the job description is where you will really find out what the job is all about. Personally, I like the boring old “Web Developer” term. I know it sounds flat, but I agree with the approach above, something like “You will be working on things that live on the web”… And then “You will be required to know… and we would like you to know…”

“Jack of all trades, master of none”

This brought up the question of whether it is okay to be a generalist, or should everyone be a specialist in something? And further, can being a generalist itself be a speciality? Maybe, as an architect or manager, someone who knows what questions need to be asked, what possibilities exist, then directs specialists to do special things. It was even suggested that perhaps this is the best place to start, so developers can try everything, sample all the skill sets, taste all the specialties, then maybe eventually find a specialty that they really love… I envision this as being similar to like kids that are exposed to soccer, football, baseball, piano, guitar, painting, biology, mathematics, etc., etc., etc. Ideally those children will find something that excites them and inspires them, pulling them into a field they will be impassioned about, and ideally prosper in!

Skills list on job ads

It was said that skills on a job listing are often just a “wish list”, not necessarily requirements. It is unlikely that any developer has all the skills listed, and it’s impossible to get to know all the new stuff that comes out seemingly every-other second… Ideally, we are all at least aware of what is out there, we know the names, maybe the core concepts, perhaps have a chance to dabble a bit, and then we are all flexible enough to learn one if it is required of us, or switch from something we do know (like AngularJS) to another similar skill that we do not already know (perhaps React).

What makes the switch from Junior to Senior Developer?

Most everyone agreed that he biggest determining factor is someone that is able to enhance those around them (like a teacher), who can be a “force multiplier”, making those around them better! And while this change from Junior to Senior cannot be achieved merely with time (“It’s been 5 years, now I’m Senior!”), there is a time relation, because you cannot cram 5 years of experience into 2 months… The experience you would gain from working 5 years in the industry, cannot be compressed. The lessons you would learn over 5 years cannot be passively-learned.

One of the final notes is that Front-End Dev means “there are no rules”… Our field is ever-expanding, ever-changing, and we all need to be ever-growing… But isn’t that why we chose it? I know it was for me. I remember standing at the fork in my road, when I had to decide between three jobs: front-end, back-end, or database. I thought quite a bit, and in the end obviously decided on front-end, and the reason was that I considered it “sexier”… I saw our industry as one where I would learn something new everyday, that I would be challenged everyday, and I would have the chance to grow everyday. And I have to say, I was pretty much right. :-)

Happy growing,

3 Responses to Notes from The State of Front-End Dev Hangout

  1. Karen says:

    A really relevant and informative article for me these days, Aaron. :-)

    I think I prefer the more generic term “Web Developer” too, over “Front-End Developer”. As I’ve been browsing a ton of job postings lately, the requirements many list seem to encompass so much more than what a “Front End Developer” should actually be doing. One can’t easily filter through postings by title anymore, and really have to read through the description to see if a job is more Front-End or Back-End.

  2. A List Apart has made the full video, with transcript, available on their website.

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