Front end to back end: Making the switch [Interview]


Are you a front-end developer, thinking about switching from front end to back end? We talked with Arnav Luthra, a Back-End Software Engineer at Delivery Hero, to find out how he made the transition.

Making the switch from front end to back end can feel daunting. It means having to learn new frameworks, new languages, and mastering a different way of thinking. Luckily, having front-end experience can help set the foundation for becoming a back-end developer.

According to HackerRank, not only are back-end developers in high demand, but hiring managers  prioritize seeking developers who have a basic understanding of all layers of a tech stack. This means that having knowledge of the front end can help you become a more well-rounded back-end developer.

In our interview, Arnav shares why he decided to make the switch from front end to back end, and how he made the switch. He also shares tips for anyone looking to make the switch themselves.

What do you work on in your current job as a back-end engineer?

To kick off our interview, we asked Arnav to tell us more about what he does in his current role as a back-end engineer at Delivery Hero. “Most of what I do relates to implementing business logic on our applications,” Arnav explains. He works with his team to build new features and maintain existing ones that power their back-end services.

“There’s a lot of communication that has to happen between us and the Product Managers about what kind of logic we want to implement,” he adds. “There’s a lot of attention to detail to make sure everything we implement works to the degree that we need it to work.”

This means Arnav and his team regularly test what they build. “It’s a lot of QA (Quality Assurance) to make sure that the logic performs as necessary. We do a lot of testing of our infrastructure as well, to make sure that our applications perform to a certain level of load or demand.”

What is difference between what a front-end engineer works on vs. what a back-end engineer works on?

“Front-end engineering is focused more on what the end user sees in an application,” Arnav explains. “So on a primary level, it’s the user interface. The work itself is more aesthetic-based, you want more of an eye for how things are laid out on a page.”

“As a back-end engineer, your attention is focused more on the logic behind what’s happening in an application. You’re providing the data that would then be displayed by the front end.”

To learn more about the difference between front end vs. back end, check out our blog post on front end vs. back end.

Why did you make the switch from front end to back end?

Arnav got his start coding in JavaScript. “That was my first software engineering job. When I started looking for new jobs, I figured front-end made the most sense for me because JavaScript was the language that I was most comfortable with.” At the time, Arnav didn’t realize that his work with Javascript had spanned both front-end and back-end.

His search for front-end roles eventually led him to join Delivery Hero as a Front-End Developer. Arnav soon realized, however, that he wasn’t doing what he truly enjoyed from his last job.

“I didn’t quite know the distinction at first, but I realized that I tended to enjoy back-end tasks more. I wasn’t as interested in the aesthetic side of the application, but more so the underlying logic. I found that led to problems that were more interesting and fulfilling for me to solve.”

So, how did you make the switch?

“My manager was really supportive when I voiced to him that I wanted to switch from front end to back end,” Arnav explains.

“What that entailed was learning Go (Golang), which is what we use on our back end, working more closely with the back-end developers to see what they were doing, and learning more about those processes.”

“It was also switching the way I had to think about developing. On the front end, you see the results of your work right away because you’re working on the user interface, but with back-end it’s a lot more abstract numbers that you’re dealing with, so the way that you test your work and see the results of your work is more abstract, or less easy to see.”

Do you have any advice for someone who’s interested in a career in back-end?

“My advice would be to get experience with front-end as well, just to see the difference between the two, and to make sure that you’re truly more interested in back-end. For me, that was something I wasn’t sure of at the beginning, and I valued getting that experience in the front-end first to know that back-end was something that I was more interested in.”

Do you have any advice for front-end developers interested in switching to back end?

“I think a lot of it comes down to the organization you’re working at. Some have a very distinct separation between the front-end development teams and the back-end development teams, while some have people that go back and forth. In the case of my organization, talking to my manager and talking to the other back-ends that were working alongside me helped me to understand what they were doing.”

“The best thing is to just ask your manager or ask other back-end engineers that you might be working with, and see if there are any small tasks that you can start with.”

“The biggest hurdle really was just getting the back-end environment set up. Once I’d gotten that done, there were a lot of small things that I was able to start with that helped me build up my knowledge.”

What is your favorite part about back-end development?

“My favorite part about back-end development is the problems it throws at you. When you’re dealing with powering the logic behind an application, there are a lot more algorithms involved. It feels almost like you’re solving a puzzle.”

“The challenges that back-end development presents in terms of having to architect solutions and build efficient code challenges you in a different way than front-end development does. The challenge is a bit more fulfilling to me.”

Getting started

If you’re looking to learn more about the back end, our Back-End Engineer Career Path is a great place to start.

If you already know what back-end language you want to focus on, you can check out the Skill Paths below:

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