Updating your outdated knowledge by moving to a new web stack

After a few years working with the same framework and language, you have stopped learning new ones. Life got in the way of learning and you let the habit die down, since the knowledge you have is enough to do your job well.

But now, you’re finding yourself worried about your skills and job prospects: your web stack is outdated and the market has moved on to something else. Change for the sake of change is absurd, but you’ve reached the point where putting some effort into it is warranted if you don’t want to stay stuck maintaining legacy ASP.NET WebForms or ColdFusion applications forever.

Fortunately, if you need to update your skills, you can pick up things where you left them and learn a new stack in a few months to a year depending on the free time you have. Many tools and frameworks have risen and fallen since you stopped learned, but the same patterns and practices are used. The tools are better, but nobody will mind if you missed a few frameworks along the way.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the choices available, but you don’t need to spend ages evaluating which web stack you’ll pick up: all the popular ones are worth learning. If you don’t have a preference, choose the one that’s most popular for the kind of job you want to do. For example, startups are more likely to use NodeJS and Ruby on Rails on the backend, but in big businesses ASP.NET MVC or Java is common.

When you start working on a new project, it’s doubtful that the stack is going to be identical, so you don’t worry about the details:. The point is to learn what a modern stack look like and not a specific set of tools: if your knowledge of JavaScript, HTML and CSS is solid, you won’t have trouble adapting.

I’ve written a lot about learning as a software developer, but if you already know what’s your specialty and you only want to update your skills, you can follow this quick and dirty plan:

  • Step 1: Follow a course or a book that describes a good development workflow using your new stack.
  • Step 2: Build a small application on your own to apply the concepts you learned.
  • Step 3: Work with others on a project. It’s not always possible, but this will cement your learning.

You won’t be comfortable with your new tools right away, and you need to keep an open mind to get the most out of your learning. But it’s worth putting in the time and effort to learn a new stack so you can take pride in your skills instead of just scrapping by with knowledge you know is obsolete.