Why I Dislike the Title “Full Stack Developer” and Why I Use It on LinkedIn (for now)

Why I Dislike the Title “Full Stack Developer” and Why I Use It on LinkedIn (for now)

People calling themselves full stack developers are a dime a dozen in my opinion. I dislike the title because it is so misused. It can mean anything from someone who installs and customizes WordPress to someone who builds complex and interconnected applications from the ground up.

Unfortunately, many people believe the $10 and $15 an hour “full stack” developers provide the same value those of us commanding more do.

They don’t. (Click here to learn why I’m the right resource for your next project.)

For example, the complexities of integrating WooCommerce on WordPress with an ERP system to support the just in time manufacture and delivery of products sold on-line requires knowledge, skill and experience far exceeding the ability to hack together some php or javascript code for a website.

But that is exactly the kind of project I work on every day. I love solving problems others find too hard or can’t solve. I love the complexity of figuring out how to not only integrate separate systems but to monitor the on-going integration. Being able to identify and deal with exceptions to the expected workflow is a critical design requirement of any complex system.

On any given web application project I am likely to design and develop the front end, the back end, the database, multiple integrations with external systems and services, and even any required mobile apps. I’ll plan and secure the servers hosting the solution; deploy the solution and prepare a plan for me to manage and support all of the parts of the solution for the client or to hand that off to someone the client designates.

On such a project, I am dealing with the full technology stack. But most who say they are full stack developers often spend little if any time on anything other than some front end and some back end work. They can’t design a performant data model; they can’t implement nor consume a restful API to solve real world workflow problems clients face.

Clearly, someone putting together a simple blog or even a simple ecommerce site selling a few digital goods has no need for someone like me. My target client is a special breed. Which is why I dislike the title of Full Stack Developer. It is extremely broad and means anything and everything to everyone.

But I use the title on LinkedIn.

If you’re explaining, you’re losing.

Ronald Reagan

I spent a lot of time trying to explain what I really do on LinkedIn and Twitter. I thought if I could just come up with the right combination of worlds the clouds would part and heavens would open … I spent way too much time explaining.

While Full Stack Developer is overly broad it does represent concepts my target clients relate to and understand. So, a few months ago I stopped trying to swim against the current and changed my title.

The only real downside is getting lots of queries from agencies looking for low cost coders to throw at billable projects. All too often the only differentiator these agencies have is low cost. They don’t have an interesting USP. Yes, I know they serve a purpose in the food chain and some do a good job for their clients on both sides of the equation. But far more are just playing a numbers game. They need warm bodies at low rates to put on projects so they can bill their clients at higher low rates.

I’ve had more than one project where I was hired to clean up the mess left by some of these types. I’ve jokingly said I could build a very successful business around cleaning up failed projects but that is all too often soul draining work and life is way too short for that.

I’ve settled into a sort of detente with respect to the title I use on LinkedIn. When an agency reaches out to me I immediately inform them I will only work 1099 through my LLC and I share my minimum rate to go through any agency. That’s usually the last of our discussion.

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