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4 Tips to Hack Your Frontend Career

Okay, front end engineers. You may be a bit tired of hearing that full stack developers make up the current darlings of the tech industry. Sure, there’s value in having someone on a team who can cover a breadth of tasks across the technical stack and in the flexibility, adaptability, and holistic perspective inherent in fullstack knowledge.

But frontend developers are still very much in demand — and for good reason. Just as valuable as someone on the team having breadth, so is a team member who can go deep into tasks only available through frontend expertise. There’s no substitute for having intensive technical knowledge in frontend languages, frameworks, and tools.

Whether you’re just beginning to explore frontend development or have established a long-standing career in frontend (or are somewhere in between), here are four tips guaranteed to increase the value of your work — and fulfillment in your career.

1. You Do You

You probably don’t need to be reminded that you’re working in an industry with the highest turnover rate. While this type of environment is full of excitement and stimulation, it can also be stressful and unsettling. You may perpetually be on the lookout for opportunities–or be aware that your employer is.

While there’s no question that you want to be open to professional development, growth, and adaptability, don’t underestimate the value in what YOU offer based on your particular education, experience, and skillset.

Regularly reflect on what you want out of this path you chose. How did you get here? What do you have to offer? Where do you want to go?

Plenty of aspiring developers say yes to anything, assuming they can fake it til they make it. Stand apart by having confidence that you know what you do and do what you know.

2. Nail the Fundamentals

Instead of glossing over what should be obvious, let’s do a reality check. One of the reasons employers give take-home coding challenges is to ensure developers can actually write code.

Certainly, carve out a niche for yourself as a frontend developer who specializes in languages, frameworks, and design strategies that appeal to you. But first, make sure you master and can deliver the basics:

Languages, frameworks, and version control: At a minimum, frontend developers are expected to know HTML, CSS, and Javascript languages and frameworks. You should also have experience tracking your code through version control software like Git.

Testing: You don’t want to be the developer on the team with a reputation for bugs in your code: be in the habit of testing your code continuously for functionality. Become friends with a program like Mocha to help.

Responsive Design: There was once a time when competence in responsive design was considered a bonus skill for frontend programmers. Not anymore. The ubiquity of screens in every size and location means that frontend developers must understand responsive design principles and know how to implement them. The open source framework Bootstrap is a current favorite for responsive web design.

3. Develop a Growth Mindset

A game-changing idea for everyone from teachers to parents to business professionals, “growth mindset” is a way of thinking coined by Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck in her landmark book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

In a nutshell, after years of research, Dweck found that our beliefs about character and intelligence–our “mindset”–shape the way we respond to challenges, criticism, and obstacles. Considering that the job requires receiving and responding to feedback, understanding more about mindset is sure to boost your frontend career.

While a “fixed mindset” holds that intelligence and creativity are static traits that cannot be changed, a “growth mindset” views these traits as dynamic and malleable. Someone with a fixed mindset avoids challenge and fears being perceived as a “failure.” A person with a growth mindset embraces challenge and navigates obstacles with the attitude that hardships result in further learning and development.

In addition to shifting the way you perceive challenges you face as a frontend engineer, having a growth mindset means you view intelligence, influence, and creativity as something that can be cultivated through effort and practice. Embracing growth mindset makes you a lifelong student, ready to learn.

4. Work those Soft Skills

There are plenty of opinions and advice out there on which technical skills will level up your frontend game. So let’s take a minute to consider those equally important soft skills.

What are soft skills? Those qualities that help you play well with others. Unfortunately, software developers don’t exactly have a reputation for being easy to work with. If you’ve embraced a growth mindset, you know that at least one of the following soft skills is an area you should consider and practice for improvement:

  • Communication–the ability to articulate your thoughts concisely and with consideration is one of the most important skills you can have. This is true for both written and verbal communication. Communication skills can continuously be improved for even the most accomplished diplomat and will serve you well in every aspect of your life.
  • Teamwork–you may be coding away on a desert island (as long as there’s wifi), but the product you’re creating reaches countless others. Especially because you are developing in the most “public” part of the technical stack, you must be a team player. This means you are willing to listen to other people, consider their ideas, perspectives, and suggestions, and be open to compromise and mutual respect.

Accountability–you need to do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it. Whether you stay organized using good ‘ole fashioned Post-its or the latest software, have a trusted system in place that allows you to plan around priorities. When you mess up: own it, fix it, and move on.