Paradox: I am both very experienced and yet very inexperienced.

I used to be specialist in IBM mainframe ap development. But then I became the Mainframe department's "cheat," if you will, to get around having to use the company's legit distributed development teams to create a few distributed apps to supported their own, internal work (the mainframe department's work, that is) In other words, "non-client-facing" apps. And I was a lone resource off on these "special projects," so networking and collaborating with teammates wasn't a thing, and networking and collaborating with senior folks throughout the organization, those who who could offer tips and pointers as to the "legit" or "normal" way to do things, was very hard to come by. Politics. Both mainframe vs. distributed and USA vs India.

A small taste of my current skill set, as a result of the above:

  • 4 years of idiosyncratic Java/Spring development
  • 2 years of idiosyncratic VB5 (desktop app) maintenance
  • Piecemeal experience in what I call "normal" distributed development tech (i.e. CI/CA, git, maven, docker)

So, despite decades of Enterprise level experience in titanic Fortune 100 companies, I find myself as a generalist with very light experience in a whole slew of the more recent technologies. But I want to work in a real distributed environment. Like: actual stories, actual kanban boards. Peer review. Test driven development.

Am I Full Stack?

  • Yes. I know design from normalization and Stored Procedures up through using nvm > npm > Node.js > latest CSS3 features (web workers, too)
  • No. With the exception of DB2, I couldn't pass a Senior level tech in any one of the technologies involved. How do I know? I have been absolutely annihilated in the first three FS tech interviews I submitted to -- annihilated thoroughly enough that "just study more and keep trying" doesn't seem like an honest selling of myself as a resource -- feels like "faking." What those techs showed me, quite clearly, was -- gee, what an oddball, isolated corner of the I.T. universe I have been living in for the past 8 years!

How should I position myself as resource in a job search to eventually become a "normal" Full Stack developer? Should I hold off on calling myself a Full Stack developer and sell myself as a Jr. dev in one of the FS technologies? Sell myself as primarily an architect that wants to back-fill with actual development work? Give up on giant companies and go for medium? Small? Any and all ideas welcome. I'm asking here because my own brainstorming sessions are coming up short.

  • 11
    David, your problem "is that it is a non-issue". You sound literally identical to the last 10 folks I hired, to me, or to any other programmer. You have no issue except, apparently, you don't know the URL for stackoverflow jobs :) :) Good luck.
    – Fattie
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 17:40
  • Just a little side-comment: In my experience very few companies do all of your wishlist, some don't get Agile right, some have a heap of legacy tech, some misuse the newest hype tech etc. All I'm saying is, sure go for what looks cool to you, but also be careful to not hunt a unicorn, take a ride on a white horse if one comes along and then keep checking for even greener pastures... or a white one with a horn etc. Good luck! Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 3:45

3 Answers 3


Honestly you sound like absolutely any other developer - no difference.

  1. Find, apply for, and get jobs that look appealing to you: that's the whole story.

Literally, do those three specific things.

In answer to your questions.

How should I position myself as resource in a job search to eventually become a "normal" Full Stack developer? Should I hold off on calling myself a Full Stack developer and sell myself as a Jr. dev in one of the FS technologies? Sell myself as primarily an architect that wants to back-fill with actual development work?

You don't "position" yourself as anything. Nor do you "call" yourself anything. Nor do you "sell" yourself as anything.

Simply, literally, do the three things in point "1".

Give up on giant companies and go for medium? Small?

I would simply ignore that issue. There are innumerable good/bad jobs and good/bad pay at small/large companies. There is no correlation, so utterly forget the issue.

Click to stackoverflow/jobs and literally look through the listings, apply for all the ones you like, take one, and have fun.

  • 2
    I don't know about no correlation. In my (admittedly limited) experience, smaller companies are more likely to find a generalist appealing than larger companies, where roles (or at least the way HR hires for them) tend to be more constrained.
    – Kaz
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 18:06
  • I know upvotes are the "thank yous" on this board, and I did upvote. But I would like to add that this is very encouraging. Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 13:35

I voted to close this question as too specific, but I don't like leaving people without help so I'll give you what I can, in as general a way as I can.

You have skills in various technologies. Companies want people who know those technologies. So apply to those jobs. You have 4 years of Java Spring experience, that's nothing to laugh about, and a whole bunch of DB2 experience as well, which could position you as a DevOps person, especially as an IBM tech expert.

The problem is the technologies you know are on the decline; companies are moving off the Java stack and off the traditional SQL stack in favor of Node, Ruby, Python, and NoSQL solutions. So basically your depth of knowledge in "old" technologies might not get you very far. So what you have to do is convince the company that you're good at picking up new things, that should be the goal of the interview, whatever interview you take.

But you should tailor your interview to your skill set. If you have 4 years of Java experience, go for Java interviews, not Ruby, to showcase your Java experience. If you go to an interview which doesn't match your skill set, you'll be in trouble.

As for failing the interviews you've had, interviewing is a skill. you haven't exercised your "interview muscles" for 8 years, they've gotten some rigor mortis on them. Shake it off, build them up, you'll be good to go in no time. eventually you'll find that every company asks more or less the same questions and you'll be more confident in answering them, and confidence is half the battle.

Good luck!

  • Java and SQL not commonly used? In some areas sure. But a) I see quite a few cases moving back to SQL because they jumped the NoSQL hype train and found out that those may have pros, but also cons. If you look at db engine rankings SQL is still top, some systems loose influence, but also some gain with cloud oriented variants and so on coming up (but sure it's a wild mix now). Similar with Java, if you go backend it's still a very common popular language. Only other backend language more popular is python in the rankings I know and that has a particular use case dissimilar from Java. Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 3:25
  • So to me that feels like a weird perspective. Examples for popularity rankings in both areas: db-engines.com/en/ranking towardsdatascience.com/… (btw. not claiming either is the most important / best, but "not commonly used"? come on...). Commented Dec 5, 2020 at 3:27
  • I used the wrong wording; I fixed it. They're definitely commonly used. However, I have experience working for companies which started on the Java stack and moved off it, and most recruiter calls I get these days ask for NodeJS or Python, almost no recruiter asks for Java anymore, in my anecdotal LinkedIn experience. I haven't written or read a single line of SQL code in about 3 years, nor have I been asked about it in any of probably 40+ interviews I've had, all the way from small startups to FAANG-level (including both Facebook and Google). It's just not as common as it used to be.
    – Ertai87
    Commented Dec 6, 2020 at 5:16

My advice? don't. It sounds like you've carved a niche for yourself where you can avoid the terror of the "Story", the "Epic", the "Sprint", the "Scrum" and whatever flavour-of-the month, bullshit buzzword that the latest consultant just read from his latest book written by other consultants.

In my experience, the fact that you understand that there is "politics" involved in this stuff means that you are too smart for it. These "legit" and "normal" frameworks are for idiots who happen to be good at programming but are too socially inept to work properly as a team.

They also allow lazy programmers who don't want to do work a convenient methodology for avoiding it. This is why people kept coming to you as an end-run around the "legit" way of doing things, the "legit" way of doing things is to put up roadblock after roadblock after roadblock until the annoying person coming to you with requirements and bugs goes away and speaks to someone else (you).

Set yourself up as a contractor, you'll find there are hundreds of companies hamstrung by their uncooperative IT departments desperate for ANY developer that will agree to work outside the normal frameworks and just deliver what's asked for instead of asking for it as a "User Story".

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