Fix Your Frontend

We discuss the evolution of front-end engineering roles and the emergence of design engineering, highlighting the challenges and complexities in job postings. Also traveling back in time to share personal experience with design and creativity in high school student council float designs.
  • job roles
  • frontend
  • careers


00:49Hey, good to see you.

00:50Thanks for coming.

00:51This is another episode of Wireframe, and today I’m going

00:54to be talking about job postings.

00:57Now, I wasn’t going to talk about this and I didn’t plan on talking about it.

01:00I had some other things lined up, but I happen to have been browsing

01:03around LinkedIn, and in that, you know, you see these cards that

01:08have the job postings in there, and definitely going to take a look, right?

01:11So, I’m popping in there, I’m looking, and I see this job posting,

01:16And it’s for a high level, front end engineering role at a company.

01:21I’m not gonna put the company’s name out there, because I’m about to put

01:24them on blast for a couple of reasons.

01:27By the way, because I’m a little fired up there’s definitely gonna be some

01:30explicit language in here, so hide your kids, hide your wife put those

01:33headphones on I might be cursing out here.

01:35But here’s the situation, right?

01:37I’m reading this job posting.


01:40And I’m, I already have a feeling.

01:42I know what’s coming just from my experience with the company previously.

01:46And what I’m about to read in terms of job titles, so I’m reading this thing

01:51and it’s it, this job posting is huge.

01:53They’re, they’re expecting all this stuff and granted it’s a high level role, right?

01:57We’re talking, you know, staff level principal, that kind of thing over here.


02:00So I’m reading this thing and going down.

02:02I’m so okay.


02:03Yes, that’s fine.

02:04Or whatever.

02:05And again, in that job title right there, the role, it says the word front end.


02:10. So I’m expecting Something to talk about.

02:14Frontend related technologies overall, you know, those kinds of expectations.

02:18So in the qualifications, alright, it’s at the top of the qualifications.

02:23I’m gonna, I’m gonna do this verbatim, so you can go ahead and

02:25just find it yourself if you want.

02:27Here is the bullet point that, that, you know, started me saying,

02:31oh, okay, maybe this is good.

02:33So it says strong systems architecture skills and experience working

02:38with multiple interconnected systems and their UIs at scale.


02:44Keywords here, UIs, user interfaces, right?

02:47So you need to be an expert in user interfaces, right?

02:50It’s the second bullet point.

02:51It’s that second bullet point right there.


02:54Now the next section talks about the technologies they’re going to use.


02:59I’m going to read off all of the technologies.


03:02And just pay attention and see if there’s anything that’s strange.

03:09Alright, here we go.

03:10We got React slash JavaScript, TypeScript, Vue.

03:15js, Ruby on Rails, Go, Kotlin, GraphQL, Kafka, MySQL, AWS, Git,

03:23Elasticsearch, Docker, CircleCI, Datadog.

03:29That’s it.

03:31Those are the technologies.

03:35Clearly, when you think about front end, especially when you

03:39mention that UI piece, is there something that’s missing in there?


03:45HTML and CSS.

03:47It’s missing.

03:48100 percent missing.

03:50No regard for the expertise That many of us in the field have in

03:57that mentioned here at all, right?

03:59Now, maybe that’s like table stakes, right?

04:01Because again, the high level engineer kind of situation here.

04:04And certainly in terms of the system level stuff they’re looking for.



04:08You’re going to be doing a lot of interconnection systems,

04:09but that UI piece, the top of the bullet points, right?

04:12Like I said, it’s the second bullet point.

04:13First one’s talking about years of experience.

04:15So where is it?

04:18And this is something we’re seeing over and over and over again.

04:23In our job postings out there about these roles, right?

04:27Now, this particular company, I’m going to tell you a story about that because

04:29years and years ago, I was looking for my next gig after my first one.

04:36So I got hired into a startup and I was having a good time in there, learning

04:40all this stuff, you know, being a part of a small team and just you

04:44know, shipping features and exploring all that stuff was really great.

04:49But You know, you want to grow, right?

04:51You want to go to the next thing.

04:52So this company, I, I was I don’t know if there was a recruiter that

04:55talked to me or if I talked to them initially, who initiated, but eventually

05:00I was going in for a, front end.

05:02Engineer role.


05:04It said, blah, blah, blah, front end, you know, engineer.

05:09It’s like, that’s me.

05:09I, you know, I, granted I wasn’t in the world long enough to really have, you

05:15know, the nuanced opinion I have now about it, but I knew what front end engineering

05:19was, that’s definitely what I was doing.

05:21HTML, CSS, JavaScript, you know, everything browser based

05:25that’s the front end, right?

05:27So talking with the in house recruiter for them, and in that conversation,

05:32you know, she mentioned that, Yeah, it’s a front end role, but

05:36everyone’s kind of full stack here.

05:39I said, okay, well, you know, I have some experience with, like, PHP and

05:44MySQL, But not enough for me to feel comfortable with any of that stuff.

05:48So, like, you know, if it’s gonna be like the on the job kind of learning

05:52scenario, Okay, maybe I could play around.

05:55So anyway, I do the phone screen with this company and It’s a

06:02front end focused phone screen.

06:04There’s you know, some algo question or whatever I don’t even remember these

06:06questions honestly But you know then we get to start the talking at the end of

06:10the interview and this person again Tells me, Hey, yeah, you know, it’s a, it’s

06:14a front end role, but it’s a full stack kind of, you know, thing for everybody.

06:17I said, okay, that’s interesting.

06:20I mean, it’s the second time I’ve heard that now.

06:23So I ended up going, you know, for their onsite after that.

06:26So it’s the usual, like, you know, gauntlet of five interviews, lots

06:30of different people that you’re gonna be talking to and in the

06:32morning was actually really good.

06:33Like I spoke with, I guess, I guess it was one of the hiring managers.

06:37I had another technical interview that was front and focused.

06:39Although that was good.

06:40Have a lunch and I come on back.

06:42I’m sitting in the room and these two engineers come in and they start saying,

06:49all right, so the task for now is we’re going to talk about how we might

06:53architect a set of database tables.

06:57I’m like, oh, okay.

07:01So, I tell him up front, I said, look, this is not what I do.

07:05Just letting you know, straight up, you know, this is, I was understanding

07:09this as a front end role, right?

07:10I know everybody’s full stack here.

07:12I keep hearing that I’m a front end person.

07:15I, my expertise is in the front end.

07:17So if you want me to come up here and fix your front end

07:20that’s what you’re hiring to do.

07:22You’re not, you know, a full stack person.

07:24If you want a full stack person that doesn’t have my expertise then that

07:28should have been the role, not this one.

07:30So that’s how I’m feeling about that time.

07:32I’m flopping around during that session, and I’m feeling like shit, right?

07:37I’m like, I’m second guessing myself, I got that imposter syndrome running

07:41around now, I’m just like, hold on a second, like, Am I mistaken about what

07:47my role is in all of this ecosystem?

07:49Like, am I not a front end engineer?

07:52You know, is it common for front end engineers to actually be full stack?

07:56Now we come to find out that, unfortunately, now in the year

08:002024, the answer is yes, actually.

08:03And Brad Frost has of course talked about the front of the front ends,

08:06like that’s Truly where we are.

08:08And it’s, it’s clearly front of the front end.

08:11You’ll never see in a job title that just doesn’t exist.


08:15But we are coming up to have these job titles, similar ones.

08:20I’ve been speaking a lot about that recently, but that’s the thing that’s

08:23grinding my gears right now, right?

08:24You see these titles that LinkedIn and other job posting sites, and

08:30they claim to be front end, and then you read down to the nitty gritty

08:36and you find out it’s actually.

08:39Either a full stack engineer that they’re looking for, right?

08:42Someone who’s looking for go and Kotlin and graph QL and my SQL Kafka.

08:47You’re looking for more than a full stack person, right?

08:49Because that’s, that’s, we’re talking about different

08:52platforms at that point, right?

08:54With things like Kotlin, right?

08:56That’s not the web at all.

08:59So they don’t know what they’re looking for.

09:01Bottom line, but.

09:05Even folks that are looking for front end in the job title, right?

09:11They might be looking for full stack or what this is really turning into

09:16these days is a JavaScript engineer.

09:19They sit in the JavaScript ecosystem and all they do is write JavaScript and maybe

09:25There’s some HTML and CSS that happens in there, but they’re not experts in that.

09:29No, they’ve been writing in frameworks like React or Angular or Vue and in that

09:34ecosystem, working with, you know, things like hooks or what’s the new one now.


09:39That’s the new one.

09:40So, all of these different JavaScript ecosystems, , that’s

09:44what front end is now.

09:46When people say front end, what they really mean, typically,

09:51is JavaScript engineer.


09:54If you are an expert in HTML and CSS and, you know, DOM manipulation

09:59kind of JavaScript, you are not a front end engineer anymore in

10:03the world of these job postings.

10:05In the world of these job postings, you are actually a, what has been

10:11called a couple of different things.

10:13What’s been getting a lot of traction recently is the title of Design Engineer.

10:18I have some feelings about that that I’ll share in a minute.

10:20But you’ll find things like Design Engineer, you’ll find things like UX

10:24Engineer, you’ll find UI Engineer.

10:27You’ll find a design technologist, or just, you know, of course,

10:30replacing engineer with technologist in many of those cases.

10:33So, those are the things that you are.

10:36You end up being this hybrid role between design and development.

10:41Even if you don’t associate yourself as being a designer.

10:46You sit there.

10:47And the reason that you end up sitting there is because With that expertise

10:50that you have with HTML and CSS, there is an innate quality about you.

10:57I’m, I’m, and I’m just blanking on everybody with this right now.

11:00There’s an innate quality about you that you care about that user interface.

11:05And because you care about that user interface, there is a

11:07design quality A user experience quality that you hold with you.


11:14That’s what you really are.


11:20How the industry has, has moved away from front end engineering, meaning what it

11:26used to mean, which again is really what we used to do as web development, right?

11:30Like that whole front end ecosystem.

11:32Now that the front end world has gotten so much more complicated with, you know

11:38npm packages and Webpack and eventually now Vite, which is much better, but

11:43that’s another side, but it became so much more complicated than it used to be.

11:48And that’s also for better or for worse.

11:50It’s that there’s a natural progression in there that I wholly have empathy for,

11:55but going back to these titles, right.

11:59The folks that are writing HTML and CSS as in this expert way.

12:04All right.

12:04These are the folks that are now design engineers, UX engineers,

12:08design technologists, and finding roles for us has been a challenge

12:15for lots of different reasons.

12:16Number one, we still haven’t really decided on this name yet.


12:21You got Google who’s got UX engineers, Microsoft’s got UX engineers, right?

12:25Those have been staples for a while, and design engineer is ended ending up being a

12:29more broad term that covers a lot more and Kind of encroaches a little bit in some

12:35other facets that are not necessarily UX.

12:38I think that’s what’s going on there.

12:39I mean, before design engineer was a role, it really just was UX engineer,

12:45design technologist, that those are the two roles and they were essentially

12:48the same person and the way that I disambiguated it was that a UX engineer.

12:55Was a person that was full time on a app development team.

12:59You would say like a, a, a Gmail or a notion or any of those like application

13:04development teams that, you know, we’re working on a singular application or

13:08singular platform that was meant to be grown over time and, and made better.


13:14And I would, On the flip side, see a design technologist and see that often

13:18be assigned to the same kind of role, but a person who had worked in agency work.

13:24So this is a person that’s looking at new technologies and trying to implement them

13:28in a fancy way, elegant way, gorgeous way.

13:31And it ends up being more of a churn kind of scenario where you end

13:36up not really growing necessarily a single product, but you’re.

13:40Affecting multiple products with a lot of you know, like I said, churn as it keeps

13:44coming out with different, different new and interesting ideas for these different

13:48brands that you might be working with.

13:49But effectively, again, the same role.

13:51It’s just whether you are an agency or in an app or platform team.

13:56But now, you know, this is merging a little bit.

13:59And I think that’s where the design engineer thing is coming in where we’re

14:01kind of merging those two things together.

14:03And that role has been getting a lot of traction, a lot of blog posts

14:07out there, a lot of people who are recognizing the amazing impact of

14:12what we do as design engineers.

14:14I mean, think about it, right?

14:16Think about some person who is not only able to think of.

14:24a novel idea or novel experience or novel concept that they Think would be really

14:29cool and then they are able to not only design it But also make it work make

14:36it come to life Imagine that imagine a person who could just go ahead and

14:39say oh, I have a really good idea Let me just build that that’s what we are.

14:46We are And I’m not going to, I don’t want to say better than designers, but we’re

14:51more formidable to be able to take this idea, this design idea that we might

14:57have and then see it all the way through.

15:03Right to launch, right?

15:05There is so much power in that, right?

15:08Meanwhile, again, that design vertical has to really kind of

15:12stop at the prototype phase.

15:15It’s as far as Figma can go, right?

15:17Or any other platform.

15:19And then those strict engineers, right?

15:20Those JavaScript engineers or the full stack ones.

15:23They don’t have the capability to of making something that

15:29a user really wants to use.

15:31Sure, maybe other engineers, certainly, yes.

15:33But when we’re talking about the masses, right, creating a product

15:38that is engaging, that’s a skill that the designers typically usually have,

15:44but not a lot of engineers, right?

15:46Those engineers typically, again, this is all just, You know, stereotypical kind of

15:49stuff, but the engineers, they’re really thinking about, you know, those big O

15:53notations and comp sci related stuff and trying to make things really performant

15:58and optimize and all that stuff, and there’s a lot of good qualities in that

16:01too, but that In the middle, right?

16:04Being able to have that idea and launch it, right?

16:07Just boom, it’s out there.

16:10I don’t understand why they’re not hiring us by the dozens, right?

16:15For folks that have some idea some inkling of a new startup idea, those

16:21people should be hiring UX engineers or design engineers immediately.

16:25It should be the first freaking hire, right?

16:27Just, what’s this idea?

16:28Boom, get it out there right now, right?

16:30I think that would be the most effective use of anybody’s resources.

16:35But again, it’s wild to me that, that it’s only really being recognized now.

16:39And I’ve wrote about this as a UX engineer.

16:42On my blog.

16:43And the title of that was UX engineer, a terminal career 1.

16:47And I’d speak about that in that post because as a UX engineer, I was in a

16:54situation where yes, I was believing to be able to create great value for

16:59the company I was working at, but the career ladder was non existent, right?

17:05Us UX engineers.

17:06Okay, great.

17:06You hire us and then you throw us either in a design org or the engineering org.

17:11And unfortunately, that manager is used to managing a particular kind of

17:18employee, a designer or an engineer.

17:22And what happens there is that, that manager looks at you and goes, Well,

17:28you’re not doing all the things that the designer would do, so I don’t

17:31know if you’re able to be promoted.

17:34You gotta do more stuff.

17:35You gotta be more designery Or, on the engineering side, you’re

17:38not engineer enough, right?

17:40You’re not, you’re not doing all the things the engineer, I can’t promote you.

17:43And we get stuck.

17:45We get stuck because these managers are stuck in their verticals.

17:49They all they know is design or they all they know is engineering.

17:52It takes a proper UX engineering track places like Google and

17:58Microsoft have these that are able to, to grow these people there.

18:05And it’s a challenge.

18:05It’s a challenge.

18:06It’s getting better out there slowly, but surely.

18:08But that’s the thing that drives me nuts.

18:11So, like I said, this job posting, just fired me the hell up.

18:17Just fires me the hell up there, you know, in terms of what I’m seeing in the

18:21world of our roles out there and trying to find something that fits us, right?

18:29And that’s, that’s what I’m gonna bring out today.

18:32If you’re out there and you have a conversation that you want to have

18:35about design engineering or the related fields, I’m absolutely able.

18:40And willing to talk about this stuff.

18:43I, as you could tell, I’m super passionate about this kind of field.

18:49This is what we do as being something incredible.

18:53And I have a great value for the rest of us in this industry.

18:57So, but like I said, I didn’t, I didn’t expect to talk about this tonight,

19:01but man, I just, I had a whole bunch of feelings that had to come out and

19:05I hope it resonates with some of you folks that are out there about the.

19:08The, the difficulties.

19:09I know there’s people that are out there that have, you know, lost

19:12their jobs on this kind of stuff.

19:14And I want you to know that, that if you’re doing this kind of stuff that

19:20I’m speaking about, you’re doing the right thing and keep doing it, right?

19:25Hang out on CodePen, make some cool shit, you know, find out

19:29about the newest, latest, greatest, you know, CSS properties, the

19:33new JavaScript APIs and just, you know, Check this stuff out, right?

19:38Because I think there will be more and more companies getting keen on what we

19:44do and recognizing the benefit of this, this particular role that I’m talking

19:51about, you know, design engineering.

19:52And I think it’s going to be great.

19:54I have actually one more anecdote, which is really cool.

19:56And I mentioned about this in that blog post.

20:00And in that blog post, I mention that I was given the title of

20:06design engineer back in 2001.

20:10So that was 23 years ago.

20:13And the context where I was given that title is interesting.

20:19And I’m gonna take the rest of the time for the episode right now to kind of

20:22explain it because I think it’s really So, back in high school, I was with the

20:29student council and I wasn’t elected into the student council, but I would

20:32do stuff with the student council.

20:35I loved having extracurricular activities.

20:37I was always after school doing something.

20:39And one of the things that was happening in the years that I was in

20:43high school is that the student council would create floats for homecoming.

20:48So they would be, you know, these different themes that

20:51all the grades would get.

20:53And in the workings of this, I ended up kind of taking charge as the person who

21:01would design the float and also begin executing the large portions of it.

21:06So the first year I got involved was my 10th grade year and the whole theme was

21:10cereals and my class got Fruit Loops.

21:15And I was just visiting them because I was like, Oh, I didn’t

21:17know what this was all about.

21:18So I was visiting them, and they were like, Yeah, we have Fruit

21:20Loops, and we’re trying to make, you know, A cereal box with chicken

21:24wire and, and wood, and, you know.

21:26So I’m looking at it and I go, You know, it would be really cool if like, Toucan

21:30Sam’s nose, like, came out of the box.

21:32And they’re like, We don’t know how you would possibly do that.

21:36I said, oh, that’s easy.

21:37Now, meanwhile, never working with chicken wire before.

21:40This is the first time we’re gonna work with chicken wire.

21:42And I’m like, oh, this should be easy.

21:44I just go ahead and make a cone out of chicken wire, slap it on the

21:46box, and then all the other students can fill it up with pretty colors.

21:51That’s exactly what we did.

21:53I think I also made like a spoon, a large spoon like that as well.

21:56And the class ended up getting fourth place out of the four.

21:59You know, classes there, but they really appreciated the ability

22:04that I had to go ahead and like, think of an idea and make it.

22:08So the following year they gave me full reign on designing the float.

22:13So I designed this float and the topic was cities.

22:18And the senior class got New York, of course.

22:20So us, as the junior class, we got Las Vegas.

22:23I was like, perfect, I know exactly what to do with Las Vegas.

22:25So I had three main attractions that I wanted to, to add in there.

22:29The first one that I I Remember doing was the slot machine.

22:36So the idea behind the slot machine was gonna be a big slot machine It’s

22:39probably about eight foot tall and in the slot machine would have space

22:43for two people and there would be these rollers that would have you know

22:48symbols on them and the person behind them would roll the you know, the you

22:52know, the sevens and the slots and all that stuff that would be going behind.

22:54So as the float’s going around, you could see the thing moving.

22:57But the really cool thing about that slot machine was that there was a

23:00bed of money that I printed out.

23:02Fake money, of course.

23:03And I had a person with a leaf blower there that when we were passing, like,

23:08basically where the judging area was gonna be, I told him to, you know,

23:11turn on the Leaf blower and the money just exploded out of the slot machine.

23:18So cool, right?

23:20so the other thing I had was I had the the sphinx from Luxor I think it was there at

23:26the time that I that I put on the end and I had a bulldog face on it because that

23:29Was our mascot so I made that completely out of papier mâché And chicken wire.

23:33So it actually looked like a bulldog.

23:35I wish I had pictures I’m sure they’re flying around somewhere.

23:37But so we made that on the one side and then the other side I think, they were

23:41designed to be playing cards, I think.

23:44Like all four sides, but, I don’t think we had enough time, so we

23:48ended up making like a big square, or cube die, right there on the end.

23:52So that’s what we had there, and, we did actually pretty good, we ended

23:56up getting second place for that one.

23:58The seniors got first place.

23:59And it was traditional, actually, for the seniors to get first place,

24:02because they’re on their way out anyway.

24:04Because we got second place they really, you know, put a lot of responsibility in

24:09me, and saying, you know, they gave me a lot of praise for all that design, and

24:12executing it, and, and having that happen.

24:15So The next year, as a senior year, you’d think, Oh, shoo in, right?

24:20We’re a senior year, we get to pick, you know, out of the theme, and, you

24:24know, Donnie’s here, he’s gonna go ahead and knock it out of the park, right?

24:28Well, this particular year, we had theme parks as the theme, and we

24:35were able to choose Disney World.

24:37I don’t think I actually chose myself, I don’t remember, but I think, you know,

24:40the class ended up choosing it somehow.

24:42So Walt Disney World.

24:43So I was gonna go ahead and design the three parks, right?

24:46I was gonna have Magic Kingdom Castle, I was gonna have the Epcot

24:49Ball, and then I think I was gonna do the Water Tower, that’s what was

24:53there at MGM Studios at the time.

24:55So I was gonna have the three things, it would be very clear about, you

24:57know, what was happening there.

24:58And, The thing that I really wanted to do, just like last year, was

25:04I wanted some very interactive kind of piece in the whole thing.

25:11Now, I was thinking about those, those three things, and I was like,

25:13the best thing that could be really cool as interactive is the Epcot

25:17ball opening up to present something like 2001, which was our class.

25:23So like, opening that up and then, you know, that would be really cool.

25:26Almost like a kind of, almost explosion like.


25:31I’m designing that.

25:32I had like even a prototype, physical prototype, a small

25:36scale of how that would work.

25:39It is actually using some tensegrity to make it so that the supports

25:43didn’t show up in the front because it was gonna go ahead and be

25:47in the way of the ball opening.

25:49And then I had the Magic Kingdom Castle and then the Water Tower.

25:52Those two things were stationary objects for the most part, so nothing crazy there.

25:56But it was that EPCOT ball that I was like focusing a lot of my attention on.

26:00So, we were getting to build, and some of the volunteers that were working

26:05with us in terms of like the adults that would do a lot more of the you know,

26:09the, I guess some of the stuff that we didn’t have the experience in doing,

26:13they’re looking at my designs and going, I don’t think this is going to work.

26:19And I’m like, I’m More than confident that this is going to work because like

26:23I said, I’ve done the research like I did prototype You know, I have drawings.

26:28I got you know, the physical like the physical prototype obviously

26:30as well It’s it’s gonna work.

26:32You got to trust me on this.

26:35I don’t trust you and I was so Disappointed so much so that I

26:45left I just went up and left and I didn’t come back to help them.

26:49I left them stranded and I feel bad about it.

26:51Looking back on it, I was, you know, teenager, right?

26:53I was 17 years old, you know, I, I don’t know how to handle my feelings.

26:59So but yeah, I left cause I, you know, they put so much trust in me over

27:03the number of years to get this done.

27:05Why, why would it change?


27:08That’s the thing, the thing that was really bothering me, but I say all

27:12this because At graduation, there’s a, like, the front row when you are,

27:19you know, getting your, your degrees and, and whatnot, your diplomas.

27:22That front row is dedicated to student council.

27:27And I was in the front row because the student council, Even after all that,

27:32even after leaving them, gave me the title of design engineer for our class.

27:38Made it up.

27:39And I didn’t give them that title, they did.

27:41They, they said that that was the thing that was most appropriate to,

27:45to give me as kind of a recognition for the stuff that I, I did.

27:51You know, and I felt really, you know, great about that particular piece.

27:56So clearly I feel passionate about this stuff.

28:00It’s in my blood.

28:00It’s been my DNA.

28:02So I’m super interested to know how you folks are feeling out there.

28:07When it comes to Your place in the world, you know, and the things that

28:12you’re passionate about, the things that you want to do, the things that

28:14you want to contribute to society, and hopefully get paid for that.

28:18So, let me know what you think.

28:19Tweet at me, WireframeFM.

28:21. And I hope to hear some cool stories, and thanks for joining me on this.

28:28See ya.


  1. https://blog.damato.design/posts/terminal-career/