I’ve spent the last few years sequestered away in “big tech” which has been an interesting and mostly positive experience, but one of the more unexpected side effects, especially as an extreme generalist, has been the specialization on the technical side of things.
From when I first started coding for money in the mid 90s I was always a true “full stack” engineer, even before that was a term. Give me a bare server and a sketch and I could handle the rest, even some basic UI design. As backends became more complex and interesting I gravitated that way, but was still pretty up-to-date on front-end technology for a nearly 20 year stretch.
The front end world got increasingly difficult to keep up with on a casual basis as single page apps became a thing and powerful frameworks took over. At Mondogoal I was entirely back-end from late 2013 onward, although I was also the product owner and oversaw design and branding. At Facebook I worked on maps and geocoding, writing mostly backend C++ code. At Google I’m deeper yet, working on the networking team.
During my last job search I initially still had “full stack” on my resume, but realized that I didn’t think I met that bar any more, namely because I didn’t really know any of the things most people were using these days, like React or Angular. My skills in that area, (e.g. jQuery), are no longer in demand at places I’d want to work for, supplanted by experience with scalability and distributed systems.
And don’t get me wrong, I have no regrets about this, at all. Back-end experience and knowledge decays much slower than the front-end, so now that I’m often the oldest person in the room, that’s a feature, not a bug.
Back-end work also tends to pay more and offer more paths to leadership roles. But I think I’m still a full-stack developer at heart, and the deeper I go the more wistful I get for being able to make something you can see and touch.
Enter, the Side Project
I haven’t had a software side project in years. With all that’s been going on, especially becoming a parent, my energies have been allocated elsewhere. But there’s been an increasingly more noticeable hole there that I need to fill.
I brainstormed a few ideas and kicked them around until one of them, a browser-based game, settled out that checked off most of the boxes:
- Learn how to build a modern front end.
- Give me a reason to explore the Google Cloud offerings (since those products are effectively my customers for my day job).
- Get back up to speed on things like analytics.
- Scratch an itch I’ve had for a long time (a nerdy economy-based game).
- Doesn’t risk any conflict with my day job.
- Give me something to blog about!
This is a bit intimidating, but more so exciting. There’s so much to learn I haven’t even really started to think about the actual project or how feasible it will be to launch. Stay tuned for updates!