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Where to go from here in my career?

Tom Duffy
Greenhorn

Joined: Jun 12, 2008
Posts: 8
I have gotten myself in a little quandary with my career. I thought that I would post this here to see if anybody had any ideas of courses of action to help. First let me explain my background. I have about 14 years of experience and have been doing Java development for a large portion of that as well as several other technologies sprinkled in here and there. My problem is that I have been with the same company for about the last six years or so. The company is pretty much going nowhere and will most likely fold soon. Although I have lots of Java experience and was up to speed with the current trends and technologies at the time I joined this company, I find myself now in a position of being outdated and �stale� from a technology standpoint. I do have lots of core Java experience but lack lots of the enterprise Java skills that are in demand at this time like servlets, web services, Struts, Spring and web server development in general. My skills are primarily in the core Java language with heavy experience with Swing and other UI development. I do have some experience porting some of our stuff over to .net.

My questions is basically how should I prepare myself to be ready to get back in the job market to interview for jobs? Should I do projects on the side that utilize some of these skills that I lack? Get some applicable Sun certifications to bring me up to speed? Both? Something else? Any other suggestions would be welcome.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
The good news is that better hiring managers won't care about whether or not you know the flavor of the month. The bad news is better hiring managers are a small percentage of the total.

I would recommend the following, since I'm presuming you don't want to do a 6 month job search. Pick a few newer technologies and learn them (books, magazines, websites). Then actually contribute to an open source project in a way that uses those technologies. Be sure to list the technologies on your resume once you've learned them. (Unfortunately too many recruiters and hiring managers do keyword searches based on technology lists, but if you want to work with them you need to play their game.)

The keywords will help you get noticed and get calls. During interviews when asked about how you've used technologies you can focus on your open source work and even provide code samples for it to demonstrate your knowledge.

--Mark
arulk pillai
Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 31, 2007
Posts: 3220
In addition to what Mark suggested

-- Work on a self-taught project using sought-after technologies.

-- Market yourself as a well rounded Quick Learner with good problem solving and analytical skills in your resume.

E.g. Awarded outstanding achievement for coming in just 2 months before the deadline in a development effort that was going on for 18 months to contribute significantly to fast track development where some home grown Java based frameworks/technologies had to be quickly learned.

-- If you have any domain expertise that is in demand then mention it in your resume.


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Ayub ali khan
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 20, 2005
Posts: 380
    
    2
Hi Tom,

As mentioned above by Mark new flavours keep coming. So the point is to adapt to it quickly.

Your strong core java knowledge is BIG plus for you !!!

I have read in this forum about people moving from other technologies to java. You are definitely at an advanted as you are just upgrading in Java !!!

If you are good in Core Java its easy to pick any new frame work (JSF,Struts,Spring,Hibernate). I am sure you would not have to put lot of efforts learning Spring, hibernate once you know basics.

from a novice point of view just understand the problem which is being addressed by the new technology and then start learning it.

Start with simple projects tweak to your requirements. Practice thats the golden rule.

All the best!!



Best wishes
--Ayub
[ June 12, 2008: Message edited by: Ayub ali khan ]

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Tom Duffy
Greenhorn

Joined: Jun 12, 2008
Posts: 8
Thanks a lot of the great comments! I really appreciate it. I really like the open source idea. I had not thought of that.

Another question that comes to mind, since I am kind of "out of the loop" these days, is what technologies would be most beneficial to focus on? Also another note, how in demand is experience in the Eclipse framework/SWT these days? I think my skills with heavy Swing/UI would lend itself well to this.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by arulk pillai:

-- Work on a self-taught project using sought-after technologies.



I generally recommend open source over self-taught. The advantages of open source are:

1) Learning from others code (learning not just by reading, but rather by coding against it)
2) Having others give feedback on your code
3) Having others contribute to the project making the project itself seem more impressive should you want to demo it.
(and you help people ;-)

There are so many open source projects (and you can always start your own) that you can probably find something that you're both interested in and will give you sufficient free reign in the key area for your needs.


--Mark
Arvind Mahendra
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 14, 2007
Posts: 1162
I'm pretty new in this Industry myself. But I think you are not thinking about leveraging your existing skills. If you get into a web development role your swing UI knowledge all goes to waste. Instead why not try to learn a new area like say finance or something where you can leverage yourself better?


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Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Arvind Birla:
I'm pretty new in this Industry myself. But I think you are not thinking about leveraging your existing skills. If you get into a web development role your swing UI knowledge all goes to waste. Instead why not try to learn a new area like say finance or something where you can leverage yourself better?


I wholeheartedly disagree.

If you've done a lot of swing and move to web developer you lose maybe 5% of your "skills." If all you offer to your employer is knowledge of APIs plan for a very short lived career.


--Mark
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma
Marshal

Joined: Jan 10, 2002
Posts: 61224
    
  66

Originally posted by Arvind Birla:
If you get into a web development role your swing UI knowledge all goes to waste.

Hardly! All the programming skills and concepts learned to create Swing programs can be readily transferred to other areas. Yeah, there will be different APIs and new patterns, but basic programming skills can be applied to any area of programming.


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arulk pillai
Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 31, 2007
Posts: 3220
I generally recommend open source over self-taught. The advantages of open source are:

1) Learning from others code (learning not just by reading, but rather by coding against it)
2) Having others give feedback on your code
3) Having others contribute to the project making the project itself seem more impressive should you want to demo it.
(and you help people ;-)



Agree with your points. There are pros and cons in both approaches. Contrbuting to opensource projects can also involve submitting patches or just reporting bugs.

Self-taught projects can give you greater flexibility and visibility into end to end solution. This can give you a bigger picture. For example, you can build a simple Web application using sought after technologies like JSF, Spring, Hibernate, etc. Also you get to build everything from scratch. There is a big difference between building everything from scratch and enhancing existing code base.
Arjun Shastry
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 13, 2003
Posts: 1874
Originally posted by arulk pillai:

Also you get to build everything from scratch. There is a big difference between building everything from scratch and enhancing existing code base.

I agree.In former you get true experience and good to put on resume.Reading somebody else 5000 lines of code and then adding 4 lines,prospective employer won't be that happy.


MH
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by arulk pillai:

Agree with your points. There are pros and cons in both approaches. Contrbuting to opensource projects can also involve submitting patches or just reporting bugs.


I don't see any cons (unless you have issues with the licensing). Yes they can involve patches and bug submissions, but obviously someone looking for more would avoid the open source projects that need only bug submissions and patches and would focus on ones that need significant code contributions. There are ten of thousands (if not hundreds or evn millions) of open source Java projects; I have no doubt an eager contributor can find a project of interest that does require coding (or can start his or her own project). Additionally, if the developer doesn't know where to start, he or she can start with one that is mostly reviewing other code to help get accustomed to the structure of that code.



Originally posted by arulk pillai:

Self-taught projects can give you greater flexibility and visibility into end to end solution. This can give you a bigger picture. For example, you can build a simple Web application using sought after technologies like JSF, Spring, Hibernate, etc. Also you get to build everything from scratch. There is a big difference between building everything from scratch and enhancing existing code base.


They can, but they don't have to. You seem to be presuming that he gets involved with a project that is 90% complete. He can choose one that is 10% complete There really isn't a big a difference between starting from scratch and contribiting to one that's 5-10% complete.

What about one that already took care of the overhead (defined the DAO's, set up user accounts, logging, interfaces to RSS feeds, etc) and now needs to switch from the console interface to a web based one? Now the contirbutor can focus just on the specific area? That might be best for someone just learning because the problem space is now very narrow.

Since the contributor can pick the open source project he or she can find one at the right level, whereas with a personal project you always start at the same place.

(And remember your personal project can also be turned into an open source project where you do get feedback, input and contributions of others; the reverse is not true.)

--Mark
arulk pillai
Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 31, 2007
Posts: 3220
Good analysis Mark.
[ June 15, 2008: Message edited by: arulk pillai ]
Imran Jack
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 05, 2008
Posts: 31
Tom, Swing skills are highly valued, stick to it and try finding new job where you can use your experience... coming into web, well that is definitely an option but you might have to start at little junior position, as compared to what person with your experience deserves...

Best wishes...
Ajay Saxena
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 13, 2006
Posts: 154
The whole idea of working on open source project really appeals to me,but I was wondering on the following. I might sound too naive,but I'd expect some good comments on it.

Are there any legal implications of working on open source projects with respect to your regular employment contract with your employer?

I mean, is it OK to work on open source projects,while being employed as a permanent full time resource at some organization.
Ulf Dittmer
Marshal

Joined: Mar 22, 2005
Posts: 41873
    
  63
Are there any legal implications of working on open source projects with respect to your regular employment contract with your employer?

I mean, is it OK to work on open source projects,while being employed as a permanent full time resource at some organization.

Do you mean during your working hours? That depends on the contract you have with your employer. And even if you work on it during your spare time, your employer may have rights to it (Google for "alfke offer refuse" to read about such a case).

Talk with your company about it, and make sure you have something in writing.


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Ajay Saxena
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 13, 2006
Posts: 154
I mean working during non-office hrs.What if somebody pursues that as a hobby while taking care that none of the written clauses ,in terms of NDA,competition etc,in the employment contract are not violated?
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Ajay Saxena:
I mean working during non-office hrs.What if somebody pursues that as a hobby while taking care that none of the written clauses ,in terms of NDA,competition etc,in the employment contract are not violated?


Obviously this will vary depending on your contract and state of residence (contract laws and employment laws are at the state level).

Generally speaking your contract will have a clause stating that you cannot a) use proprietary knowledge, trade secrets, corporate IP when doing other work (this applies to moonlighting, your own garage startup, open source etc). This means, for example, if you company has a really great search algorithm, you should be very careful about working on search related products even if not directly competing with your company or using their secret sauce. There is also usually a clause b) that you cannot work against your company; if the open source project competes against your company's products or potential future products, you may be in violation.

And of course you can't use corporate property for this, e.g. the corporate laptop you have at home should not be used for open source projects, since the company owns all work punched out by that keyboard.

All this said, along with IANAL, working on open source in a different field from your employer is probably fine.

(Let's get back to Tom's original question and not let the post drift too far from his original need.)

--Mark
Ajay Saxena
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 13, 2006
Posts: 154
Thanks a lot Mark and Ulf for your valuable comments!!
 
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subject: Where to go from here in my career?