Being a T-shaped Developer

A blog post appeared on my feed this morning, titled How to be T-Shaped.

“T-shaped Developers” is a term that I’ve also used before. Being T-shaped means that you have a deep knowledge in one particular area and a breadth of knowledge in other areas.

I would say that I’m T-shaped.

My main area of knowledge is PHP and Drupal software development - they’re the programming language and content management system that I’ve used throughout most of my career so far, since I started in 2007.

As I worked on my own personal and client projects, I needed to learn more complementary skills.

I needed to learn how to style websites and build themes so I started to learn front-end development with CSS and frameworks like Bootstrap, Bulma and Tailwind CSS, and JavaScript frameworks like Angular, Vue.js and Alpine, as well as TypeScript.

I also needed to host these projects somewhere, which introduced me to Linux servers, virtual hosts, (S)FTP and SSL, web servers like Apache, Nginx and Caddy, MySQL and MariaDB databases, and as projects got more complicated, I started using tools like Vagrant and Puppet, Ansible, and Docker for configuring environments to work in.

I don’t use Drupal for every project. I’ve used static site generators and frameworks like Symfony based on the project’s requirements, and have projects that use several different technologies at the same time.

The main benefits are that I can either deliver entire projects or projects with more complicated architectures, or work across different teams - mentoring a team of Front-End Developers in Drupal theming, or working with System Administrators to start hosting PHP applications. Having these additional skills is definitely valuable to employers and clients.

I’ve said that one of the best and worst things about software development is that there’s always something new to learn!