My Journey to Becoming a Full Stack Web Developer

by Steven McLintock

Do you remember the early 2000’s? No Facebook, no YouTube and definitely no iPhone. The technology landscape was very different at the time.

I was a teenager and the internet was a big part of my life. Napster, iPods and most of all, building websites. I couldn’t get enough of it. I would spend hours in my bedroom, using a 56K dial-up modem to connect to the world-wide-web and learn programming languages to make a website of my favorite band, TV show or PlayStation game.

Cartoon of a nerdy teenager at a PC
Cartoon by Ollie Randall

Without a blogging platform like WordPress to install, or popular front-end frameworks like jQuery or Bootstrap, it was every man for himself. HTML, CSS and JavaScript were the languages of the day and without resources like StackOverflow, it could be difficult for a developer.

You’re Hired!

Fast forward to a few years later and I was finishing off my studies at Glasgow Caledonian University. I’d somehow made it through an undergraduate degree in Internet Software Development and was preparing for the real world.

It’s not easy securing that elusive first job when you have no experience in a professional capacity. Why would an employer hire you if there is another candidate with more experience? At least, that’s what I thought at the time. But I had passion and lots of it, and I was about to find out that passion can go a long way.

With all the job applications I had submitted, I included a cover letter with screenshots of the websites I’d built over the years, in my bedroom with that 56K dial-up modem. I thought it would take forever to get a reply, but in no time at all, I got invited for an interview!

A local non-profit organization had replied to my application and I was on my way to my first job interview. Suited and booted, I was nervous! I definitely had a lot still to learn. What I didn’t realize at the time is you will always have something to learn as a full stack developer. What you learn today won’t necessarily be around tomorrow. Adobe Flash, anyone?

Cartoon of nerd in his early twenties at his first job interview
Cartoon by Ollie Randall

I can only speculate why they hired me. Was it my eagerness to learn more? Was it my interest in their organization? Was it the screenshots of the websites I’d already built? Whatever the reason, I got the job! I was on my way to becoming a full stack developer.

The Right Tool for the Right Job

I was definitely not a “full stack developer” on day one, or year one, two or three. At least I didn’t call myself one for a long time. For one thing, the term “full stack developer” was not popular at the time. But as JavaScript libraries (jQuery) and frameworks (Angular, React) became common place in the industry, and CSS libraries (Bootstrap, Foundation) replaced writing your stylesheets by hand, there was a requirement to be both comfortable in the front-end and back-end of an application.

Whoa, you mentioned “back-end” I hear you say? Absolutely! If we are talking about full stack development, we cannot not mention the back-end. For myself at least, I was interested in PHP in the beginning. The “hip” companies at the time (Facebook, Tumblr) were all adopting PHP as their language of choice; and Microsoft wasn’t exactly the company it is today.

However, as Microsoft changed their leadership and became a heavyweight in cloud computing, in addition to the enhancements to .NET, SQL Server and their front-end languages (Razor, Blazor, TypeScript), the Microsoft stack became my tool of choice as I progressed.

Conclusion

Twenty years ago I was eager to learn it all, and today I feel like not much has changed. I still want to learn all the new front-end and back-end languages and frameworks that are released on an almost yearly basis; and that is what will always keep it interesting for me.

Cartoon of young man in his mid-twenties working as a full stack developer
Cartoon by Ollie Randall

My journey isn’t over yet and I cannot wait to see what the future holds!

I would like to thank Ollie Randall of Randall Writing for the cartoons in this article.

Steven McLintock

Kilt & Code is written by Steven McLintock, a full-stack developer originally from Scotland. Steven uses Microsoft languages and platforms such as .NET, C# and Azure and has been working as a developer since 2006.