My colleague who leads engineering emphasizes the value of full-stack developers and their ability to navigate both front-end and back-end development, allowing our lean team to punch well above our weight class. And we have a high-performing team across the board. The attributes we value in our developers – intelligence, motivation, adaptability, and a hunger for learning – are shared by everyone, from our data scientists to our marketing experts.
Yet recently, the introduction of AI tools has amplified our team’s capabilities. Colleagues are venturing into areas previously outside their expertise. Data scientists are exploring marketing, while marketers are diving into data analysis. This evolution led to the term the “Fullstack Employee.”
The idea of a fullstack developer is now common parlance. However, what we’re witnessing is the rise of a different beast altogether, one that transcends the conventional understanding of roles and team boundaries. The Fullstack Employee isn’t just a professional skilled in a specific department, they’re proficient across the entire organizational landscape, thanks to their continuous learning mindset and the powerful toolkit AI technologies provide. This shift isn’t just reshaping our team—it’s redefining the entire work environment as we know it.
Our Chief of Technology for AVIA AI Labs, Aaron Diestelkamp, aptly observes, “AI is not just a tool, but a transformative force that’s redefining the way we work.” Amidst this tidal wave of AI-driven change, the professional sphere is undergoing a significant metamorphosis. The birth of what we dub the “Fullstack Employee” marks this evolution – professionals who, empowered by AI, can seamlessly traverse different functions and roles within an organization. Said differently, the Fullstack Employee is not an employee who does everything but one who is empowered to do anything.
As we delve deeper into the AI-driven landscape, we encounter what’s being termed the “Jagged Frontier.” This metaphorical boundary, as Ethan Mollick, professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania describes, represents the unpredictable capabilities of AI. On one side, AI excels, while on the other, it falters. The challenge lies in discerning where this invisible boundary exists, as tasks that seem equally complex might be on opposite sides of this frontier.
To navigate this unpredictable landscape, Mollick and co-authors suggest that professionals adopt one of two approaches: becoming a Centaur or a Cyborg. Centaurs maintain a clear division between human and machine tasks, strategically delegating based on strengths. Cyborgs, on the other hand, deeply integrate their efforts with AI, moving fluidly across the jagged frontier, blending human intuition with machine intelligence.
These approaches empower the Fullstack Employee to harness AI’s strengths while mitigating its weaknesses, and which one the Fullstack Employee chooses may depend on the task. The Fullstack Employee leverages AI to navigate tasks that require the nuances of human judgment, creativity, and insight, while also executing tasks that demand deep, specific knowledge.
4 Advantages of a Fullstack Employee
When it comes to the Fullstack Employee, the advantages are manifold. Here are some key ones:
One of the most compelling arguments for embracing the Fullstack Employee model is the significant boost in productivity and efficiency it can offer. With the power of AI tools, Fullstack Employees can offload a significant number of routine tasks. This automation provides them with more bandwidth to focus on tasks that require a higher level of expertise, creativity, or strategic thought. Where we’ve applied this model within AVIA Marketplace, our team isn’t spending their time on monotonous paperwork or performing repetitive tasks. They’re on the front lines, grappling with complex problems and spearheading our drive towards innovation. They can toggle between SEO, Bayesian Statistics, User Growth, and Journey Mapping because they have tools to support them in the work. This paradigm shift creates a work environment where both the employees and the company reap benefits.
Fullstack Employees, by nature, are agile and adaptable. Their cross-disciplinary skills allow them to pivot to new roles and responsibilities as required, enabling organizations to be more resilient in an ever-changing business environment. This adaptability of our employees was highlighted during the industry-wide shift to remote work amidst the pandemic, rapidly adjusting to changes in workflows and swiftly adopting new communication tools. A move toward Fullstack Employees recognizes this shift – elevating our team members by acknowledging their multifaceted skills, reinforcing their value within the organization, and empowering them to drive progress. Instead of being siloed within a single function, Fullstack Employees can fluidly navigate between roles, leveraging their diverse skill set to solve problems from various angles.
Exposure to different fields and processes can inspire innovative solutions and ideas. A Fullstack Employee working in marketing who understands data science, for example, might leverage that knowledge to develop a groundbreaking marketing strategy. Ultimately, this way of working fosters a culture of continuous learning and cross-pollination of ideas, stimulating innovation and growth. The move towards Fullstack Employees amplifies each person’s unique potential by equipping them with advanced AI tools, effectively enabling them to scale their capabilities and impact. Thus, a Fullstack Employee is not just a response to a shifting business environment, but a proactive strategy to stay ahead of the curve and harness the full power of our collective talent.
As the saying goes, ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket.’ This is particularly pertinent in a business setting. By fostering a team of Fullstack Employees powered by AI, businesses can break down information silos. Rather than having a few key personnel who hold a significant chunk of critical knowledge or skills, fostering Fullstack Employees helps disseminate this knowledge across the organization..This approach promotes a more robust framework for business continuity and growth, mitigating the risks associated with turnover or unavailability of key personnel. This is not about replacing specialists, but rather about creating a buffer, a safeguard against unforeseen circumstances that might otherwise put a dent in productivity.
While every new direction entails challenges, the rise of the Fullstack Employee is not exempt. We must navigate the accompanying obstacles with a clear view of the opportunities and potential pitfalls. A paramount consideration in the march towards Fullstack Employees is avoiding the trap of excessive expectations. We must be cautious that in our quest to create versatile employees, we don’t unintentionally overwhelm them. Managing workloads, setting realistic goals, and preserving a healthy work-life balance are crucial to prevent burnout and maintain high morale and productivity.
Moreover, in championing the cause of generalists, we must not neglect the invaluable contribution of specialists. There are areas where a deep well of expertise remains indispensable. For example, while AI-powered tools can assist in diagnosing health conditions, the importance of a highly trained physician’s judgment and experience in complex medical cases cannot be understated. Similarly, in the legal sector, although AI can help sift through cases and legal documents, nuanced interpretation of law and court proceedings still necessitates seasoned legal professionals.
As we embrace AI’s transformative capabilities, we must all be wary of the seductive allure to overreach. A phenomenon Mollick and team observed, akin to “falling asleep at the wheel,” emerges when professionals become overly reliant on AI. This over-dependence can lead to a form of complacency, where individuals, trusting the AI’s output implicitly, fail to critically assess or even notice its mistakes or shortcomings. It’s a subtle trap, one where the very tool designed to enhance productivity and innovation can inadvertently stifle human intuition and judgment.
This challenge underscores the importance of the Centaur and Cyborg approaches. Centaurs, with their clear demarcation between human and machine tasks, ensure that they remain engaged and critical, leveraging AI where it’s most effective but relying on human expertise where AI might falter. Cyborgs, with their integrated approach, maintain a continuous dialogue with AI, ensuring that they’re always in tune with its outputs and can quickly identify and rectify any discrepancies.
As Fullstack Employees, it’s essential to recognize that while AI is a powerful ally, it’s not infallible. By adopting the Centaur or Cyborg mindset, we can ensure that we harness the best of both worlds, combining AI’s computational prowess with human creativity, intuition, and judgment.
A final area of caution is the risk of underestimating the transformative power of AI. Often, there’s a tendency to downplay AI’s potential impact on our work – either from disbelief or misunderstanding. While it is true that AI is not about to replace humans, the augmentation it brings to various roles can’t be ignored. Advancements in AI tools mean that generalists equipped with these technologies can produce results that more closely approximate those of specialists than one might expect. For instance, a generalist leveraging AI tools might not match a seasoned data scientist’s capabilities in developing complex predictive models, but they could quite proficiently manage a range of analytic tasks that were previously the exclusive domain of specialists.
Striking the right balance between generalists and specialists, between human judgment and AI capabilities, and between transformation and stability is pivotal. Only then can we fully unlock the potential of the Fullstack Employee model and thrive in this exciting new paradigm.
We’re just scratching the surface of what AI can do for us. As AI and automation technologies continue to advance, the prominence of the Fullstack Employee is set to rise. This shift represents an exciting opportunity for employees to grow their skills and versatility and for businesses to maximize their internal capabilities.
The emergence of the Fullstack Employee, driven by AI, heralds a significant shift in the workforce dynamic. As the Jagged Frontier of AI continues to advance, the Fullstack Employee’s role becomes even more pivotal. They can stay ahead, ensuring they harness AI’s potential while remaining vigilant of its limitations. The future of work is not just about AI; it’s about how we, as Fullstack Employees, navigate this evolving landscape.