Our Last Tech Meetup of 2013: Full-Stack Engineering on Dec. 17!

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Full-Stack Engineering is a new (and rapidly growing) meetup featuring presenters from across the stack discussing topics ranging from DevOps to data modeling to scalability. Organized by Greenhouse.io Director of Engineering Mike Boufford, the group held its first meetup on November 26 with presentations from Basho, ZocDoc and Chartbeat–some of NYC’s most well-known tech companies.

Full-Stack’s next installment at Gilt on Tuesday, December 17 is another winner! The evening will include talks by Gilt Senior Software Engineer Casey Kolderup (who will discuss our public APIs), Docker VP of Services James Turnbull, and Customer.io Founder/CTO John Allison, as well as pizza, beer, and some networking time. RSVP here and soon–seats are almost gone! But if you can’t make it, just plan to visit us in January, when Full-Stack Engineering returns to Gilt.

Recently we asked Mike a few questions about his full-stack experiences and purpose for starting a dedicated full-stack meetup group:

Gilt: How did you evolve into a full-stack engineer?

Mike Boufford: I started by doing a lot of front-end programming and design in high school (mostly for fun), then I got my big break: a chance to help build my friend’s dad’s flower shop website for $10 per hour(!). One of the requirements was to receive orders via a form, and save them all in a database. I had no clue what was involved. So, I got a lot of help from a friend who was much rmore backend savvy than I was. He started teaching me how to program in ASP, and how to structure a Microsoft Access database (don’t judge me! it was 1999). That was when I started learning how all of the different layers of a website hung together; from then on, I was hooked. Fourteen years later, I finally kinda/sorta know how it all works.

What’s in your stack? 

At Greenhouse.io we use SSS (the Standard Start-up Stack): Ruby on Rails, PostgreSQL, JavaScript, Sass, HTML, Memcache, and host our site on Heroku/S3. There are a lot of other peripheral elements to our stack, but those are our primary technologies.   

Which technologies do you personally use the most?
Most of my experience is in a Java environment, but nowadays I’m having a lot of fun writing everything from Bash scripts to JavaScript libraries.

Why would an engineer present themselves as “full-stack” instead of specialized in one area?
There are two important advantages: first, if you’re in a small company, like a start-up, you have to be a technical generalist. You probably won’t have other team members who specialize in DevOps, DBA, Testing, Backend, JavaScript, and markup to lean on. You have to understand how everything works together in order to get anything done. 

Second, I can hand a full-stack engineer an entire feature, and they’re able to build it end to end. This saves time on coordination between developers, allows for more loosely spec’d requirements from product, and provides the full-stack engineer with total ownership over the outcomes of his/her work. Total ownership means that a feature becomes an extension of the developer’s identity–you’ll see higher productivity, more creativity, and a greater sense of accomplishment when their code is shipped to production.

Why do full-stack engineers need their own meetup? Full-stack engineers are a new breed of developer: We’re more versatile than specialized, our day-to-day concerns are different from those of traditional specialists, and we need a community built around the way we work. 

NYC is filled with awesome meetup groups, but they tend to be either highly specialized (e.g., AngularJS) or very high-level (e.g., NY Tech).  As a full-stack engineer, I’d have to attend a half-dozen meetups every month in order to gain sufficiently broad exposure to the topics that interest me. Our group is more concerned with breadth than depth. I created this group for two primary reasons: to expose members to different parts of an application stack in every meetup, and to help other engineers develop an understanding of full-stack engineering as a modern and holistic approach to software development.  

I also thought it would be fun to surround myself with a ton of smart people who like beer, pizza, and programming ;).

What topics do you hope to see covered by your meetup?

Each meetup will touch upon several parts of an application stack, from containerization all the way up to the browser.  For instance, our first meetup covered distributed systems, Lua, and how to compose components in a Backbone application. Our December 17 installment will cover APIs, Docker.io, and JavaScript.

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