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Strngthen the existing skills or keep learning new ones?

Pushkar Choudhary
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Joined: May 21, 2006
Posts: 425

For someone with about 3+ years of experience, when you think you are just about reaching the desired level of expertise in a certain technology (say Java), should you then choose to work more in the same technology to further strengthen your skills or should you think about learning new skills that would not necessarily complement your existing skill set, but would help you in your career (since those skills are widely used at your workplace)?
Also, if you choose to learn new technologies, how and where does one draw a line and decide whether one wants to be (or should be) an expert in one technology by working in it for several years or switch to another one to widen his/her skill set?
arulk pillai
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Joined: May 31, 2007
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Do both, especially the new skills that would complement your existing skill set. It does not have to be only technical. you can pick other transferable soft-skills as well.

I normally check the job advertisements to see what skill I should acquire to make me more employable. Job advertisements should give a good indication what the prospective employers are looking for.

I will also do my research on http://www.google.com/trends and read industry specific articles at http://www.javalobby.com, http://www.theserverside.com, etc to see where the industry is heading.


Would like to hear what Jacquie has to say on this.


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Jeanne Boyarsky
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Pushkar,
Are you talking about whether to switch to .NET or Perl or focus on the business or ...

Soft skills can be learned and practiced concurrently. So can many languages - work with Java, play with Perl type things.


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Pushkar Choudhary
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Joined: May 21, 2006
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:Pushkar,
Are you talking about whether to switch to .NET or Perl or focus on the business or ...

Soft skills can be learned and practiced concurrently. So can many languages - work with Java, play with Perl type things.

Jeanne,
I'm not talking about soft skills here. I think soft skills should be learned and practiced concurrently with your existing work.

I'm talking about a scenario in my organization where I, as a Java developer, am in a minority group since there aren't too many assignments in Core Java/JEE. Most of the others are working on technologies that involve very little work in Java. And hence, I'm getting lesser work in Java day-by-day and am also being asked to learn the other technologies so that my profile would not only be a Java developer, but I would also be able to work on other things. The other work is also Application Development, but when I start working in that, I think I would lose touch with Java. In fact, that has happened slowly in the last couple of years. So, I'm not sure if I should move on from Java, because when I try to look for opportunities outside my current organization, I would be neither an expert in Java nor an expert in the other technologies (This is already happening).
Also, if I move on from Java, I would have to keep on learning new technologies that come along related to my current work and in the process, I think I would leave Java far behind.

So my original question was, should I try to somehow get more assignments in Java and stick to Java to become close to an expert in it (which I would love to do, since I like coding in Java) or should I try to learn the new technologies that are quite far from Java, but would help me in my current job (and would please the management )?

-Pushkar

arulk pillai
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Posts: 3219
So my original question was, should I try to somehow get more assignments in Java and stick to Java to become close to an expert in it (which I would love to do, since I like coding in Java) or should I try to learn the new technologies that are quite far from Java, but would help me in my current job (and would please the management )?


I think you have answered it yourself. Follow your heart. If Java is where your passion is then stay on it. If you get a short term assignment (say 1-3 months) in any other technlogies then do it to get some wider experience, but try to come back to Java if that is where your long term interest is in. Also, while working on other technologies, you can keep at Java by contributing to open-source projects, working on self-taught projects or tutorials. Try not to stay away from Java for too long if that is what you enjoy.
Jacquie Barker
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Joined: Dec 20, 2000
Posts: 201
Many of my colleagues are jumping from the Java/J2EE to the Ruby/Rails bandwagon ... I, on the other hand, am so proficient with Java/J2EE that it kills me to even think about switching. Nonetheless, I also know it would be foolish to totally ignore RoR because it has gained enough momentum with my customer base so that I need to at least be conversant in it. So, I compromised: I recently attended a two-day RoR jump-start class, which has demystified RoR for me. Do I now know enough to immediately build a RoR applicant? Probably not, but I know that if a year from now I'm asked to do so, I won't be intimidated -- rather, I'll dive in and learn the details of RoR as they exist then (which will undoubtedly have changed a lot!).

Meanwhile, as long as my mainstream skills (Java) are in high demand, and I don't see Java going the way of the dinosaurs, I'm content to stay happily engaged with Java.

In addition to my "Tidal Wave" book, another book that addresses a similar philosophy is "Who Moved My Cheese" -- to borrow their analogy, if the place in the maze where you live is flooded with cheese [your technical skills are in an area that is still mainstream], no need to worry! If the cheese is in short supply [your skills are in an area where few, if any, organizations wish to invest any longer], put on your sneakers and venture forth into the maze [retrain yourself in a newer paradigm].


Author of Beginning Java Objects, Beginning C# Objects, and Taming the Technology Tidal Wave
Kavita Tipnis
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Jacquie Barker wrote:In addition to my "Tidal Wave" book, another book that addresses a similar philosophy is "Who Moved My Cheese" -- to borrow their analogy, if the place in the maze where you live is flooded with cheese [your technical skills are in an area that is still mainstream], no need to worry! If the cheese is in short supply [your skills are in an area where few, if any, organizations wish to invest any longer], put on your sneakers and venture forth into the maze [retrain yourself in a newer paradigm].


A very helpful analogy, we did that, Netbeans Visual Web JSF framework was new and it did not quite pickup, so we decided to overhall all the applications to simple JSP apps.
Jacquie Barker
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Kavita Tipnis wrote:
A very helpful analogy, we did that, Netbeans Visual Web JSF framework was new and it did not quite pickup, so we decided to overhall all the applications to simple JSP apps.


GREAT move!!! I believe strongly in the KISS (keep it simple, stupid!) principle -- when EJBs first came out, everyone was trying to build apps to use them, but my colleagues and I stuck with simple servlets and JSPs (didn't need the horsepower of EJBs) ... six months to a year later, many of the EJB adopters were tearing their hair out at having created a monster!
Kavita Tipnis
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Moving to original poster's question, just learning new skills and not strengthening the existing skills,
how would you overrule the old adage of 'Jack of all trades and master of none'.[Did not notice this was another thread title!! -> Edited]
For instance, JSP,Servlets are the base of any Java web application development,
it does not matter how many frameworks you are conversant with, if you do not know difference between a get and a post.

Burk Hufnagel
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Kavita Tipnis wrote:Moving to original poster's question, just learning new skills and not strengthening the existing skills,
how would you overrule the old adage of 'Jack of all trades and master of none'.[Did not notice this was another thread title!! -> Edited]
For instance, JSP,Servlets are the base of any Java web application development,
it does not matter how many frameworks you are conversant with, if you do not know difference between a get and a post.


I think that goes back to Jacquie's suggestion of learning the underlying theory and principles. If you don't understand HTTP then you'll have problems with any implementation build on top of it.


SCJP, SCJD, SCEA 5 "Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science!" Agatha Heterodyne (Girl Genius)
Jacquie Barker
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Joined: Dec 20, 2000
Posts: 201
Agreed!

As an example, I teach a four-hour "Demystifying Objects, Java, and J2EE" seminar that covers the underlying principles behind these technologies ... it's amazing how often people who attend tell me that they've already been engaged in building J2EE apps, and yet never understood the big picture until attending my short-and-sweet seminar.
 
With a little knowledge, a cast iron skillet is non-stick and lasts a lifetime.
 
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