Original question from Quora:
Is it easier to be a Back-End or Front-End Web Developer?
I’ve been developing software as a hobby and a professional for about twenty years so I’ll let you in on a little secret…
But first, I have to tell you a little story.
I once had a friend who wanted to be a software developer, but every time he took a class in school he hated it. He didn’t really ever take to the whole writing code thing.
Yet, every few months or years I’d hear from him that he was wanting to get in the business or something.
I don’t know what he was doing with his time other than playing a lot of World of Warcraft and maybe drinking. I couldn’t tell ya.
What I do know is he never wrote much code. I think a lot of years later he’s working a help desk and is interested in getting into networking and CISCO certification maybe.
It doesn’t matter because he had no real drive to be in software. It just wasn’t his thing no matter how hard he tried, he always failed to get anywhere with it.
Contrast that to the people I’ve worked with who were brilliant. Every person I can point to as being brilliant at front end or back end software development are sort of obsessed with it.
For example, one of my friends is a back end developer and I swear he has written a half dozen content management systems, a couple payment processing systems, ad managements systems, arduino stuff, robots, all kinds of crazy things and he is writing software and solving problems almost all the time.
And I have another friend who is very front end oriented. He is always designing things, learning and honing his skills, and keeping up with the latest CSS side of the world.
Both of those two are sort of world class at what they do because they have a strong pull toward it. It’s what you could call an obsession for them.
Now, you put either of those two outside of their happy place, and the obsession goes away and their skill dries up. They have no affinity for underwater basket weaving or double entry accounting or even network system administration.
They are really great at the thing that they really care about, but that’s about it. Outside of the thing they care about, they are sort of useless.
Which brings me to the secret I mentioned at the beginning…
Front end or back end doesn’t matter at all. What matters is what you gravitate to and if you are obsessed about it. If you are obsessed with either, you can use that drive to become great.
Without that drive, you are going to struggle to enjoy either and ever get good.
If you don’t enjoy the practice, it’s difficult to practice enough to become great.
P.S. I unpack more ideas in Creative Genius.