I really like the post "The Designer’s Growth Model" by Dennis Hambeukers. Dennis just invented this model, but it's based on some existing ideas and it all rings true for me. Let me try to summarize the five stages as he lays them out for designers.
- Producers: You learn how to design. You learn fundamentals, you practice, you get good at doing design work and producing beautiful functional things. Then you have this "crisis" moment before the next stage where you find you can't do enough work on your own and that you need to be able to scale your efforts, with multiple human beings and working on systems — and that's an entirely new skill.
- Architects: Now that you've succeeded in scaling through team building and systems thinking, the next crisis moment is that that this the work still might be isolated, and too focused on internal thinking. To grow, you'll need to work with people outside the design bubble, and understand problems more holistically.
- Connectors: Now that you've succeeded in being more collaborative across an entire organization and being a real problem solver, the next crisis moment is when everything becomes organizationally complicated. Just delivering products isn't enough, because you're involved deeply across the organization and you're responsible for the success of what is delivered.
- Scientists: Now, you measure everything. You know what works and what doesn't because you test it and can prove it, along with using all the skills you've honed along the way. Your next crisis is figuring out how to translate your work into actual change.
- Visionaries: You're a leader now. You have an understanding of how the whole organization ticks, and you are a force for change.
I think this can applies just as well to web development, with very little change. I can relate in many ways. I started plucking away at building sites alone. I found more success and was able to build bigger things by working with other people. At some point, it was clear to me that things don't revolve around development. Development is merely one part of a car that doesn't drive at all without many other parts. Even today, it's clearer to me that I can be more effective and drive more positive change the more I know about all of the parts.
Not that I've completed my journey. If I had to map myself directly onto this model, I'm probably barely on step three — But a model is just a model. It's not meant to be a perfect roadmap for everybody. Your own career path will be twistier than this. You might even experience bits from all the levels in different doses along the way.