Making of a Full Stack Developer: Origin Story

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At work the other day, while I was clacking away writing code for some tool or other, I asked myself a question. Since I can sometimes do two things at once, I kept on coding while thinking about this: Is this where I want to be and what I want to be doing in five years? Two years? One year? Now?

My immediate answer to this unoriginal query was: “Hmmm….good question.” After giving myself a high-five for not being rash with my response, I took a little time to ponder.

Let me give you a little bit of context here. I’ve been a Character TD (rigger, technical animator, etc.) for, jeez, almost 15 years now. For at least the last five years, and probably longer, I’ve felt that I might be in the wrong profession. It’s not that I hate rigging or anything, and there are plenty of challenges in the right environment, but the industry has changed so much and my life has changed so much over the years that there just isn’t the compatibility there once was. A lot of it has to do with having a family and wanting some semblance of stability in the location of my choosing, not dictated by the concentration of video game and visual effects companies which is only as stable as the subsidies and tax credits the entertainment industry gets in those countries. If I decide to uproot my family to move to a new state or country, I want it to be because that’s where we want to live, not because I’m chasing the next gig.

So that bit is rattling around in my mind as the memories of jobs past come creeping into the fore of my consciousness. Before I went back to school to eventually become a Character TD, I was a web developer. I wrote front-end code and back-end code using the standards of the day (remember, this is 20 years ago) — HTML, ASP (pre-2.0), SQL Server and JavaScript. I enjoyed the hell out of that stuff but the first internet boom was about to go bust and I had to get out of that industry before it took me down with it. The first internet explosion made way for a much more stable but ever-growing development platform. Shitty companies still get bankrolled for too much money, but that form of stupidity no longer creates an untenable situation for the entire web, just for the poor saps who thought their company was going to make a billion or two only to end up living on their parent’s couches because they’ve converted childhood bedrooms into sewing/BDSM rooms.

Woah, let’s get back on track here….

So, I have this experience as a web developer from ages ago, both front-end and back-end and it was something I really enjoyed doing. It’s a nice blend of the artistic and the technical (my favorite aspect of rigging) and, hey, the internet is still around. “Let me check this out,” I said to myself. It didn’t take me long to come across the term “Full Stack Developer.” After sneering at the pretentiousness of the title, I realized that it’s just the evolution of what I used to do 20 years ago. Sure, some of the tools have changed (MEAN and everything similar) but a lot of them haven’t (HTML, CSS, JavaScript), and all of the new stuff seems pretty slick.

I wish I could say that once I made this connection between my past and potential future there was a lot of soul-searching and stressful deliberation, but that’s not me. The amount of time it took between connection and action can be measured in milliseconds. At that moment, my immediate future was clear. I was going to be a Full Stack Developer come hell or high water. Given how hot it is outside (103°F as I write) and the probable rising of the seas not long after the state-sized icebergs break off from Antarctica, I can see my mettle will be tested. An adventure isn’t an adventure without adversity, so I’m ready.

The path ahead is being laid out brick-by-brick as I march toward my goal on the horizon. Future installments here are going to be a record of what happens along the way.

Next up: “Making of a Full Stack Developer: Week #1.”

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