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Software Development

Critical Gaps in Frontend Developer Skills – A CTO Perspective

Vasile Putina
Vasile Putina
Chief Technology Officer

It’s unrealistic to expect development teams to automatically excel in all areas, and technical leaders as well as developers need to be aware and decide accordingly. JavaScript Challenge allowed us to identify deficiency in Security and Architecture fundamentals among front-end profiles.

skills mirroring

Based on evaluations by Pentalog assessors, an ideal front-end candidate should achieve a 4-level proficiency in the assessed technologies. The findings indicate that there are vulnerabilities in Architecture and Security, which are crucial fundamental aspects for developers.

At Pentalog, our routine involves assessing individuals’ skills in various aspects of their work, whether it’s for promotions, recruitment, project assignments, or training. This practice ensures that we maintain a clear alignment between our expectations and the reality of client projects and internal satisfaction.

For technical leaders, especially when dealing with tech professionals, it’s imperative to evaluate their skills comprehensively. This evaluation helps in identifying areas that require improvement, enabling informed decision-making. Many companies outsource software development because firms like Pentalog have honed the skill of assessing and managing technical profiles effectively.

Over the past few months, we’ve been continuously enhancing our assessment system. During this time, my colleagues and I have discussed different ways to enable self-assessment and the integration of artificial intelligence to streamline the assessment of teams.

JavaScript Summer Challenge

In August, we launched the JavaScript Summer Challenge, an evaluation journey of JavaScript communities across several significant geographic regions. We had nearly 500 participants who went through the three-step assessment.

  • Stage 1: A Frontend Most Wanted Stack Quiz.
  • Stage 2: A Web Development Practices Quiz.
  • Stage 3: A JavaScript Self-Assessment, which highlighted areas requiring improvement and offered training and support recommendations to help individuals reach the next level.

The entire assessment process took about two hours, and with this I extend my congratulations to the winners because they have not only proven tech knowledge but also patience and dedication.

Countries of participants

The growing complexity of web applications, coupled with heightened performance and maintainability expectations, has driven advancements in frontend technologies. These advancements have introduced more structured development paradigms and encouraged the use of design patterns. These frameworks also demand a deeper understanding of data manipulation, necessitating stronger skills in areas such as architecture, algorithms, data structures, data privacy, and security.

The choice between two approaches—Foundation Building and Accelerated Learning—depends on individual and organizational goals. While there’s no definitive right or wrong choice, it’s crucial to tailor your approach to your unique context and requirements. Frontend developers increasingly recognize the importance of building a solid software engineering foundation.

Here’s my take on the JavaScript Summer challenge results:

The turquoise line in the chart below depicts an overall assessment of skill levels across different skill groups among all participants. The green line emphasizes areas requiring more attention. Notably, Security and Architecture are two areas with significantly lower scores, reflecting a trend we’ve observed over the past year when evaluating front-end profiles for recruitment purposes.

The reality is that it’s unrealistic to expect development teams to automatically excel in these areas, and technical leaders as well as developers need to be aware and decide accordingly.

skills mirroring

As technology leaders, it’s our responsibility to address these issues pragmatically. Both Architecture and Security have far-reaching implications for business success.

For Architecture:

  • It should align with business goals and strategies.
  • Poor architecture can lead to increased operational costs.
  • Well-designed architecture accelerates product development.
  • It impacts performance and user experience.
  • It can provide a competitive advantage.
  • Neglecting security can lead to breaches and legal issues.
  • Scalable architecture allows for seizing opportunities.
  • Avoiding excessive vendor dependence enhances flexibility.
  • Effective data architecture supports informed decisions.
  • It ensures adherence to legal and industry standards.

My recommendation for Architecture is to recognize when project complexity requires architectural guidance. You can either hire an experienced Software, Solution, or Enterprise Architect or promote someone internally with the right skills. Collaborating with the product and development teams is crucial to realizing their architectural vision.

Regarding Security:

  • Security breaches can harm a company’s reputation.
  • Non-compliance can result in hefty fines and legal issues.
  • Cyberattacks or data breaches can disrupt operations.
  • A secure system builds trust and fosters customer loyalty.
  • Safeguarding intellectual property is critical.
  • Demonstrating robust security can be a market differentiator.
  • Data privacy is essential for legal and ethical reasons.
  • Mitigating security risks is often cost-effective.
  • Security measures ensure uninterrupted employee productivity.

To enhance security, I recommend a two-pronged approach:

  • Policies & Governance: Engage a Chief (Information) Security Officer to evaluate your security posture, align it with business objectives, and establish policies and procedures.
  • Engineering: Collaborate with security experts to integrate security practices into your development team’s workflow early on (Shift Left approach).

Investing in learning can help build a strong software engineering foundation.

My advice regarding the foundations is that Frontend developers should consider expanding their skill sets in areas like Agile Engineering Practices, Algorithms and Data Structures, Tools & Configuration, MySQL/MariaDB, and Programming and Design Patterns. These skills complement their core responsibilities and contribute to the success of web development.

In conclusion, when working with frontend developers, it’s essential to assess their skills, identify areas for improvement, and provide opportunities for growth. Building strong, cross-functional teams should take precedence over seeking individual superstars. Fostering a collaborative culture centered around shared ownership and end-to-end responsibility ultimately leads to satisfied end users and customers.

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