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Fear of picking a specialization/niche: Is focusing on front-end okay?

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Mid-Level Software Engineer at Taro Community2 months ago

Hello Taro Community

I want to pick a specialization now due to the market and the lessons I’ve learnt being in the group.

A little context on the issue:

I had a mindset that more technologies I know the more options I’ll have and also working as a full stack dev in my last position I got a lot of hands on experience on different stacks. More like breadth of knowledge but not depth.

I was applying to jobs like Database, UI/UX, Front End, Back End, Software and DevOps couldn’t land any interview in the last job hunt.

Last month I let everything go and I told myself I’ll specialize in “Full Stack”. I have been also working on side projects for my portfolio.

However, a lot of senior devs told me Full stack is too broad and 2 and 1/2 years of experience that won’t cut it.

I want to specialize in Front End with React and go very deep in that. Build projects pertaining to React Front End for my portfolio.

My fears:

  • I’m closing down my options, and limiting myself to Front End
  • Also being a foreign student where you kinda have to “work in tech” since that’s my major a lot of fear is coming up. In case the time I go back in the industry there is lack of front end openings
  • A lot of family friends in the industry telling me that Front-End specialization will be a waste of time since the industry is very saturated with it

Deep down I have realized specializing will really make my portfolio, knowledge and resume stronger. Plus Front-End is something I genuinely am drawn to and enjoy doing.

Would love to know your input on this.

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Discussion

(5 comments)
  • 13
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    2 months ago

    I'm gonna be 100% honest: When an engineer with <5 YOE tells me that they are "full-stack", I just assume that they suck at both front-end and back-end. 😂

    For folks earlier-in-career like yourself, it's all about depth - The senior devs you've talked to are correct. We talk about this in-depth (no pun intended) here: This Is How Software Engineers Should Initially Learn

    If you enjoy front-end, you should stick with it, specialize in it, and build awesome stuff with it. There's generally less front-end jobs than back-end due to the nature of software (dumb client, smart server), but there's still more than enough to go around (for the truly good engineers at least). I literally recently helped a front-end engineer with ~3.5 YOE land a new role after they were laid off.

    It's true that front-end web is saturated (and it's not truly saturated), but I think it's mostly because it's the most accessible and lot of the coding bootcamps teach web. There's also a lot of website builder tools like Squarespace that web "developers" can use to abstract away their work, which is why front-end web can have a bad reputation. However, there's still a shortage of truly top-notch web engineers (I felt this at Robinhood and other teams I've worked on). There is an overwhelming supply of mediocre web engineers on the other hand.

    To help you out with the job search, check these out as well:

  • 15
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    2 months ago

    If you become an expert in React, I guarantee you'll have job stability. Expert means you are at the point where you understand the source code and could share opinions about where the JS ecosystem is headed.

    No need to live in fear!

  • 13
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    Eng @ Taro
    2 months ago

    Plus Front-End is something I genuinely am drawn to and enjoy doing.

    If you enjoy front end work, you should definitely pursue it, otherwise, each day is going to be a struggle for you.

    I’m closing down my options, and limiting myself to Front End

    Most companies are open about letting engineers switch roles and teams. You are also not locked in to doing pure front end if you start down that path. A lot of times, you'll have to dig into different code bases or work on the backend or devops side to solve a problem, so you'll end up getting full stack knowledge.

    A lot of family friends in the industry telling me that Front-End specialization will be a waste of time since the industry is very saturated with it

    If a company is growing very fast, and they have a webapp, they are going to be looking for frontend engineers to hire to help them build faster. Companies are always drowning in work to be done. The key is making sure you are open-minded to solving problems beyond your realm and expanding your knowledge over the course of many years. You'll be so much more valuable if you can dig through different technology layers to solve a problem rather than just deciding that something is out of your scope of expertise. You'll want to be a universal problem solver at the end of the day.

  • 9
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    Mid-Level Software Engineer [OP]
    Taro Community
    a month ago

    I appreciate all of your insights guys. I went over all of them, and gives me more confidence to definitely pursue React Front End and get very good at it.

    Will get the portfolio ready and build some industry standard stuff.

    Thanks a lot everyone

  • 13
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    Mid-Level Software Engineer at Brex
    a month ago

    I've been wondering this very same thing, so maybe I can add my thoughts as well. Also worked mostly in the frontend space.

    Choosing to specialize in front-end development is absolutely okay. In my experience, I've mainly worked on the front end, especially in startup environments where the backend tends to be simpler. I initially considered myself a full-stack engineer, but later realized the depth in both front-end and back-end areas.

    In larger companies like Coinbase and Brex, I discovered the complexity of backend systems when dealing with scaling and serving more customers. However, the front end also presents challenges like creating design systems, enhancing internal tools, ensuring accessibility, and handling complex UIs.

    Front-end scalability is crucial too. Making sure the architecture supports quick product changes. That your UI can handle a lot of data, and it's blazingly fast. That your code is well organized, has proper testing and monitoring tools.

    As a front-end developer, you're closer to the customer, collaborating with PMs, designers, and participating in client research. This personal touch with users is a highlight of front-end work.

    IMO, being a full-stack engineer isn't just about handling both front-end and back-end. It's about combining software engineering skills to deliver real impact to users. This involves understanding user problems, designing solutions, guiding and upskilling others, demonstrating leadership, delivering projects, and aligning them with company goals.

    I believe a full-stack engineer with these broader skills is more valuable to a company and opens up growth opportunities. Personally, I'm focusing on delivering impactful projects this year, emphasizing the highest leverage skills, whether in front-end, back-end, system design, product management, analytics, UI design, or leadership, depending on the context.