Why Development Experience Matters... Kind Of
Recently, the company I’m working for has been looking for front-end developers with React experience; specifically developers that have a minimum of 7–10 years of development experience. In today’s market, especially with many companies working remote; it’s super difficult to find a developer that will meet our needs and that are local and willing to work in the office.
When I joined the company, just over two years ago, I was the second full stack developer with heavy front-end skills. Since then, we’ve had other front-end developers work with us that have left to pursue other endeavors. Granted the work is stressful at times and we have to pivot and make changes in the middle of a sprint because our clients would benefit more with the new change. Yes, there is scope creep and as senior software engineers, we push back and have to re-estimate and bust our asses to get the stories done.
A tiny bit of background on the company; it’s a company that’s been around for about 12 years and has a SAAS product for the healthcare industry. We operate a bit like a startup company and we’re still finding what works in a modified Agile / Mini-CEO model. The development team, at the time of this writing, is 6 devs; 4 back-end and 2 front-end. I’m one of the front-end developers who’s also a back-end dev, so technically 5 back-ends. Our back-end code is written in C# .Net Core and the front-end is written in React.
That’s where my argument comes in. We’ve looked at developer resumes where they have more than 10 years experience and some with less than 5 years experience. As anyone who has been in the industry knows, you’re gonna want someone with more experience as they have dealt with all sorts of problems and can come up with great solutions while refactoring code and following best coding practices. The developer with 5 or less years still has a lot to learn, but they’re on their way to building a great career. They may not have encountered as many problems or have mastered various development patterns. Both developers are constantly learning, so those patterns and coding standards and such are a work in progress.
Let’s say the senior 10 year developer spent most of their time on the back-end and just started getting into the front-end over the last year; that developer will have a better chance of getting hired to do front-end work over someone who has 2 year experience. This developer will have built up enough problem solving knowledge and will grasp something like React a bit faster than the junior 2 year dev.
Now, let’s look at the junior developer. This person has been working front-end and has built several applications professionally and has built an open source project that they maintain. This developer may or may not have a better chance than the senior developer based on the quality and complexity of the applications built. Are they web applications running current tech stacks? Is the code clean and easy to read (documentation may help)? Did they use best practices and implement some software design patterns to make the application robust and scalable? And, is it testable?
There are so many variables that the junior developer has to deal with when looking to get hired and a lot of those are based on the company that they’re interviewing with. While the junior developer has more front-end experience than a senior developer with 1 year of front-end experience, the company may be looking for more experience because of the breadth and depth of the developer’s experience and don’t have time to mentor and/or guide the junior year developer. There may also be a company that is strictly looking for specific experience in the tech stack that they’re working with and the junior developer may be more qualified or they’re willing to bring on a junior developer, save some money on salary, and mentor the developer.
There are various arguments I can make for and against each developer, but really; in the end it’s a numbers game. If you submit your resume to a hundred companies or submit to some online job site like Indeed and a hundred companies look at your resume; as long as 10 of the hundred contact you, you’re in great shape. If not, then you may need to contact them, find out what they’re looking for, and work on developing those skillsets.