Can You be a Full Stack Engineer

I’m a huge fan of the Full Stack Journey podcast. In the show Scott Lowe investigates the question “Can someone truly be a full stack engineer?”. He and his guests work together to give actionable advice and talk about the benefits of being a full stack engineer vs working in a silo.

The definition of a full stack engineer really hard to pin down. Many people have opinions on the matter and they revolve around some common themes. They are an engineer that may have a specialty in one area of technology but also have greater than average skills in other areas. For example a Virtualization expert that is also competent in networking, knows their way around storage, and can write scripts is what I picture as a full stack engineer. You could also consider a full stack engineer a technology generalist. That term has some negative connotations behind it but they are very similar ideas.

With all that said, can someone truly be a full stack engineer? I think that the full stack engineer is a unachievable goal. It is, however, an important ideal to strive toward. No one person is truly capable of being an expert in all aspects of technology. A person is capable of looking past their sphere of influence and picking up new skills. I’ve very rarely been turned away when I’ve asked someone to share information or help me gain skills in their technology. Many tech people love to mentor new technicians. I am very passionate about growing communities and helping others “level up” their skills.

My suggestion to everyone in a silo is to branch out and learn skills relevant to your primary job function. When you understand how VMware actually performs the actions that your script told it to perform you also are better suited to troubleshoot. Root cause becomes easier and mean time to innocence decrease if you can interpret data provided from upstream or downstream dependencies. Do yourself a favor and watch some YouTube or plural sight videos outside of your comfort zone.

If you are currently a generalist and lament that fact, try not to fret too much. As my career develops and I dive deeper into VMware I find that I rely on those “other” skills a lot more than I would have ever expected. You may want to be an Exchange Admin but knowing the basics of VMware and networking may save you a lot of heartburn one day.