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Why I (probably) won't become a React Engineer


A career that I have been pursuing a while now is React Developer/Engineer. Why is that? I guess I like working with it and the component focussed development is right up my alley.

Also, the wages for an experienced developer seem to be pretty crazy, so that will be a factor.

However, as time drifts by, I accept this will probably never happen.

I am a WordPress developer. At the time of writing, I have about 6 years of experience working with WordPress and PHP (via proxy). Disposing of that knowledge for the blonde with big tits, which is how I see React, would probably be a terrible idea.

One of the issues you face as a WordPress developer is people immediately think all you do is tinker with themes. You visit a theme directory, purchase something for about £100, style it up and sell for a markup. The codebase of that theme will probably be shocking, but who cares?

At times, recruiters have told me I should not mention WordPress because of that theming/blog-building issue.

The reality is, WordPress has become an incredibly capable CMS, but people still look down on it as if it is only a blog templating system for those looking to start out. This perception makes me look elsewhere for satisfaction.

I digress, back to the topic of React.

I started using React through Gatsby. Before I was aware of Gatsby, the concepts in React made zero sense to me.

What is a component?

What is JSX?

What are dependencies and NPM?

Gatsby helped me understand these concepts better than I could with the React documentation and basic examples. In my spare time, I started building themes for the Gatsby repository. A few of them were accepted. Because they are Open Source, I have to actively maintain them. Again, in my spare time, which gradually has improved my understanding of working with React and its developer documentation.

This gave me a false idea of where I actually am with React.

Because I can only dedicate my spare time to the Gatsby projects, an hour here and there, the cumulative time spent developing using this library is minimal. Yes, I have what would be considered a basic understanding of the build of components, routing, data collection… and so on. This basic understanding is in the context of someone who has worked on a few personal projects. Very different to someone who may have had an entry role as a React developer, working around 8 hours a day.

I saw what I was facing in a recent tech test I received for a developer role. It included doing things like data collection and routing. However, because my knowledge is still significantly infant in terms of paid-for work, I found myself going to tutorials around the internet to complete the task.

In other words, plagiarism.

What chance would I have on real-world React applications if I relied on asking my mate to show me his work?

I would be found out in an instant. Straight to the back of the dole queue.

No, the idea of transferring into that world of glitz and glamour (as my mind has imagined it) was not going to be possible. Unless one of two things happened.

Either I took a pay cut to get a junior role and work up from there or dedicated every god-forsaken hour of my free time learning React. Hoping that I would eventually get up to speed.

At this stage of my life, neither of these are options. Taking a pay cut when you have the mid-life bills we all have is not really possible, and my free time holds a lot more value these days. It is the way to unwind and get away from the hassles of work.

So, what now?

The plan should be to continue focussing on WordPress but find a role that has enough growth that enable me to move into other areas within the business. I realise that as well as getting paid for what I do it is equally important that employers invest in growth. Not just in the business, but the employees. My current role is not offering this.

The great thing about WordPress developer roles is that they are (probably) going to be about for my entire working life. The sheer number of sites using it means there will always be work to get my hands on. If (younger) developers are switching to React, it hopefully reduces the overall pool of expert WordPress developers further down the road.

React could be a passing phase. Doubtful, but a possibility, and putting all of my eggs in that basket while rejecting the time spent with WordPress could be terrible.

It doesn’t mean I would stop working with React. I still have my Gatsby sites that require maintenance. They give me enough of a challenge to break away from PHP development. As well as those sites, my hope is that I can take on freelance work that would use headless WordPress and Gatsby/React. Doing things that way would hopefully relieve the itch I seem to get once or twice a year.

But as far as becoming a React developer. That idea is dead. The bar for entry is too high.

Anyway, WordPress is some nice butter for my bread.


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