Hello! Just joined this community yesterday and the information I've seen so far is invaluable! This platform truly is unique!
My question is about the overwhelming and sometimes contradicting information for front-end engineering. I was a backend engineer for 1 year and then switched to a frontend engineer within Mastercard since I love the design and visual aspect of it. It is much more gratifying. We work with Angular in mastercard but I feel like my skillset is very specific to our codebase. I am good at debugging (cause that's what most of my work is recently) but I don't know how that can transfer to other jobs. I also feel like Angular is an older framework. I want to join a proper tech company next year (outside fin-tech) as a senior front-end engineer. What do I need to do to get there?
Should I dive deep into Angular and make tons of projects with Angular? Should I learn React or some other frameworks and make projects with those? Should I look into full-stack roles and brush up on backend (Java)? All of the above??
I am a bit lost and any guidance would be appreciated!
The nice thing about front-end is that it's inherently demonstrable. Given your backend experience, I'd suggest you apply for generic (full-stack) engineering roles, unless the company you're applying to is forcing you to pick a track. Once you get senior at a large company, it should be easy to then specialize in what you want.
If your goal is senior eng at a larger company, I'd focus on showing your projects/influence at high levels.
In general, the first option is better if you're going for a senior-level role, since that shows your ability to create impact in a large company. The side project option is harder to really stand out since there are many good-looking projects out there. You need users to make it truly impressive (learn more about this here).
I don't have a strong opinion about React vs Angular, pick what you'll be most productive with!
I want to join a proper tech company next year (outside fin-tech) as a senior front-end engineer.
I actually have a much more tactical piece of advice here: Get to a senior level at Mastercard first. Here's why:
All that being said, I'm really glad you like front-end (I do too!), and I think side projects are a super powerful career level for those who love putting pixels on screen. I've gotten many interviews from "proper" tech companies like Instacart, Block, and Uber through my side projects, and I recommend this masterclass on how I did that (this one's about the execution, and Rahul linked the one about ideation).
I agree with Rahul in that you can apply to full-stack roles, but I recommend doing front-end only projects to deepen your focus. Adding a back-end to a side project greatly increases its complexity, and you like front-end a lot anyways. 90% of my side projects were front-end only (just ran locally on Android). If you're going to call an API, call someone's else - Don't build it yourself. Using the project to learn React seems like a good idea too.
I am good at debugging (cause that's what most of my work is recently) but I don't know how that can transfer to other jobs.
Debugging is always a useful skill (spending most of your time debugging is a Staff Engineer archetype), but it's important at your career stage to get feature work as well. If you aren't spending 35%+ of your time on that, I would talk to your manager about procuring more.