The stack is rarely the concern

Advice, Career / Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

Much is made of the tech stack in the startup world.

“Work with a world-class team of engineers working on the XYZ platform and shape the future of mankind” — so goes a typical hiring pitch for developers.

And for good reason.

Good developers and talents engineers are driven by the desire to improve. So if something improves what they do, they are more than happy to embrace it.

However, the choice of the stack rarely matters. When it comes to working in teams, there are far greater things developers don’t account for and business owners simply ignore.

Like culture.

And by culture I don’t mean ping-pong tables and team outings. By culture I mean what the team chemistry is like.

Do people feel safe or threatened?

Are senior developers humble and actually innovating or simply sitting there and trying to save their jobs?

What about that arrogant, super-talented, toxic developer that was hired at an outrageous salary?

Does anyone care about fixing bugs permanently or is rework just the order of the day?

And so on . . .

I wish I had a dollar for every time a developer joined for a fancy stack and then felt trapped. Once you’re in, you are locked into a job and have to stay there for some time or it looks bad on your CV.

Trust me, you’ll be far happier–and almost equally well paid–working with a team using core PHP, MySQL, and jQuery than one that boasts of Elixir, Rust, Go, React, Cassandra, and Kubernetes. I know because I’ve been there.

How I wish it was possible to gauge a company’s culture through interviews, Glassdoor reviews, and asking around. No matter how much information you collect, it’s almost always like a gamble.

All I’m saying is that the stack rarely matters when it comes to product success and happiness (and don’t even get me started on scaling, the elusive promised land).

The next time you’re in an interview, maybe you should pay attention to how you feel you were treated rather than whether the front-end devs were using Hooks in React or not (at the time of writing, Hooks are a big thing in React). 🙂

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