What makes for a successful JavaScript developer, insights with Kenny Vaughan from Software Placements

We spoke with Kenny Vaughan to get the latest insights into what makes for a successful in the rapidly changing world of Javascript developers. 

What is your area of recruitment speciality?

The main area that I recruit for is front end developers/JavaScript developers and I also focus on PHP developers for the back end.

What is your background?

Before SWP, I was a retail manager. I worked in Vodafone, and then Blacktie, a formal wear company, American golf, and then I started here. It is important to know your subject inside and out, and this is what I did when I started working with Software Placements. It was a tough learning curve when I began in August 2015, with a lot of learning and getting up to speed to know what was relevant for the PHP vertical. It took weeks to figure it out, it was like learning a new language.

Then after that, I learned a lot from the candidates. The best candidates are passionate about their field and they spoke to me and helped to teach me what was needed. Then I looked at JavaScript and began understanding what made a good developer in this language too.

What areas are in demand now?

There is more demand on the client side over the server side right now. PHP is not evolving as fast as the front end. There is still strong demand for good PHP developers but there is less change here. A big area in demand is for the full stack developer, however, these are few and far between and can be hard to find. JavaScript is evolving rapidly, and so there is a big demand for good developers. The full stack candidate is really a backend developer who understands the fundamentals of the front end too.

Most candidates feel they are either a front-end or a back-end developer. It’s hard to be both. There is the danger of being the dreaded Jack of all trades, master of none… Demand is on the front-end and is evolving constantly. There are lots of new frameworks being developed. Many of the developers are so dedicated and passionate that when they finish their work for the day, it’s not unusual for them to go home, get online and code and check out what’s happening within their own network of fellow developers or GitHub or wherever it might be. New JavaScript frameworks and libraries are being built on a constant basis and it is the developers who are driving this more than the clients.





How do you assess who is a strong candidate?

There are main three frameworks in demand, Angular, React, and Ember, in approximately the following breakdown 60%, 30%, 10%. The clients generally want someone who has used one or the other of these frameworks. There are also some developers who only want to work with one framework, and it can be the same for some clients, so if you haven’t got the relevant experience you are at a disadvantage.

Where do you see it going in the future?

New frameworks are coming, VUE, angular2, and the good JavaScript developers are already looking at these and thinking about what is next. Overall, they are looking for tools that make their life easier and to help them to write better code. It is the leading developers who are driving the framework’s evolution. It is evolving all the time.

In contrast, we had one client that wasn’t using any of the three technologies named above, so it was hard to find candidates to take this position. It’s not just a question of the money on offer, but also the technologies being used too. For this reason, developers were not keen to work there because it could be a potential dead end for their career. Developers want to stay up to date with the latest technologies. The best developers eat drink and sleep JavaScript, they are completely into it. You can tell who the good developers are because they are talking about it all the time. From this, you then know their level of interest in their career. There is a growing line between front and back end developers, a division is coming, as more specialisation as happens too.

What percentage of your candidates are found in Ireland or overseas?

Most are from overseas, and some Irish guys from overseas, but mostly abroad: Russia, Italy, Canada, France, and Spain. Ireland is already a competitive market and developers are in demand. Fortunately, Ireland is an appealing choice for people to move to.

What tips do you have for people to future proof their career?

You can’t be standing still. You should keep an eye on the frameworks and libraries. If your company isn’t using them, such as angular and react, then you need to upskill yourself up in these languages as you will need them. It’s possible you may even need to take a pay cut, to work with the right language, or try to find a way to work with the cutting-edge technologies.

There will be more demand for the full-stack JavaScript developer, and the MEAN stack JavaScript developer; Mongo database, express, angular, and node. There is a focus on this type of developer at present and it will continue to gather pace.

It’s important to look at the tech stack you are working with. JavaScript, HTML, PHP, Ruby, etc. are all important but really it is your familiarity with angular, react, ember and node, these are the key languages to master. D3, for data visualisation, will be valuable too, but it is still quite new, so it is a ‘nice to have’. The rest that I mentioned are the things that will make you stand out.

Then if you have mobile development to tie it in, and react native for mobile / app development will all be useful. It will all keep evolving, even since late 2015 until now it has changed fast and will only keep doing so. If you have some experience of testing if possible then that is useful too. There are also lots of JavaScript-specific testing tools which are useful to have experience of. Finally, it doesn’t hurt to be familiar with Agile and Scrum methodologies.


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