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career advice: no IT work experience, only OCJPSE5

Billy Sclater
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 18, 2012
Posts: 141

Hi guys! I'm Billy, before I dive in and ask you some career advise questions, I'll just give you a little background on myself:
As mentioned in the title I have no commercial experience programming in Java. I am an engineering graduate, and have some (10 yrs ago) academic experience
programming, C, VB, and various assembly languages. I also play around with php as a hobby. I have written a script that reads csv file stock data, draws daily charts, applies various
stock-trading indicators. The script automatically makes trades over X years according to those indicators, then finally calculates and prints out the results. I suppose it's a cross between
an E-trade type chart program and a trading robot. The script is very badly written, but it works! I live in the UK and am 40 years old, and have worked as a teacher for the last 15 years.

Ok here goes!

#1 I will take my OCJPSE5 exam soon, should this be sufficient considering the current job market to get me an entry level job in Java?
#2 Is SE5 too dated to be relevant as far as job-hunting is concerned?
#3 I have spoken to one agency. The agent said that he would be happy to offer me placements with some his clients providing I score well on his agency's Java test.
Is this plausible? I have friends who have warned me that agencies don't care whether I can program (they just want the finders fee from their clients), and that I may well be out of my depth considering my lack of
commercial experience.
#4 In the UK most of the jobs I look at are requesting general programmers who know a bit of VC, a bit of Java, a bit of php.Are there any jobs exclusively for 'Java-only' programmers?

Thanks in advance!!
chris webster
Bartender

Joined: Mar 01, 2009
Posts: 1871
    
  16

Billy Sclater wrote:#1 I will take my OCJPSE5 exam soon, should this be sufficient considering the current job market to get me an entry level job in Java?

The job market in the UK is very tough right now - don't believe all the hype about an alleged "IT skills shortage" in the UK: there is a shortage of some key skill sets, especially in the London area where a lot of the new jobs are concentrated these days, but nationally there are thousands of IT workers who are out of work, and companies continue to fire experienced staff as they move work offshore (or move offshore staff into the UK). A lot of the "skills shortage" BS is driven by a desire to justify offshore recruitment or suppress UK wages - salaries for experienced developers have stayed pretty constant (or even declined) over the last 10 or 15 years outside the London area, which suggests there isn't all that much of a skills shortage. And many businesses still refuse to consider cross-training their existing experienced staff in the skills they claim to need, and often ignore efforts by individuals to acquire those skills outside work.

That said, solid Java EE experience is still very marketable, and there seem to be plenty of jobs for architects in Java-land, but entry-level developer jobs are a lot harder to find (around 1 in 6 IT graduates in the UK can't find work either). You could look at graduate recruitment programmes with the big consultancies, as they might be interested in a mature candidate with experience of professional working life. Meanwhile, mid-tier companies might be more inclined to recruit in the UK rather than in India, while smaller companies and start-ups might offer good opportunities to develop a wider range of skills rapidly (provided you're up to it ). See if you can get some advice at your local university careers centre, and look out for any careers fairs at local colleges etc.

Ageism is a real problem in the UK IT industry, especially with some recruitment agencies who are simply looking for a quick way to filter out applications, but remember they're not allowed to discriminate openly against older candidates any more. Meanwhile, companies recruiting directly often explicitly state that they welcome candidates of all ages, and may well be more inclined to value the extra life-experience you would bring. Finally, in the unlikely event you see any jobs advertised in the public sector, these might offer a good first step, as they are typically far less likely to discriminate against older candidates and they often provide a lot more training than private sector employers.
Billy Sclater wrote:#2 Is SE5 too dated to be relevant as far as job-hunting is concerned?

Java 5SE is pretty old, so really you should probably be aiming to take the exam in the current version (Java 7) or at least Java 6. And the basic Java Programmer certification is not much help in the job market anyway. You might want to follow it up with something like the Java Web Component Developer exam, which would introduce you to servlets, JSPs and some of the webby stuff in Java-land.
Billy Sclater wrote:#3 I have spoken to one agency. The agent said that he would be happy to offer me placements with some his clients providing I score well on his agency's Java test.
Is this plausible? I have friends who have warned me that agencies don't care whether I can program (they just want the finders fee from their clients), and that I may well be out of my depth considering my lack of
commercial experience.

I share much of this cynicism regarding recruitment agents, but if they are advertising a job then you have to play ball with them. However, you don't see so many entry-level jobs being advertised via agencies, so look out for companies recruiting directly and see if you can get any contacts in the industry to advise you on approaching local companies directly.
Billy Sclater wrote:#4 In the UK most of the jobs I look at are requesting general programmers who know a bit of VC, a bit of Java, a bit of php. Are there any jobs exclusively for 'Java-only' programmers?

Check out sites like JobServe to get a sense of the skills combinations that people are looking for. Most commercial enterprise systems will be using a specific platform e.g. Java EE, so they will be using the skills appropriate for that platform e.g. Java in this case. If they were using .NET then C# might be the main programming language. It's rare to see jobs requiring Java plus C# or Java plus PHP, because these are different platforms. If you want to offer additional skills beyond Java, then HTML/CSS/JavaScript is handy (for web front ends), and database skills are very useful on many applications.

Familiarity with common development tools such as IDEs (e.g. Eclipse), testing tools (JUnit) and source control (e.g. Subversion) are worth mentioning on your CV. Also make sure you're comfortable using things like Unix command line - you don't need to be an expert in Unix scripts but make sure you know enough to move your files around, create directories, set your classpath etc. If you're using Windows you can still install Linux, either as dual-boot system or inside a virtual machine (using VirtualBox) to allow you to learn a bit about Unix.

Look out for trends in newer technologies e.g. "Big Data", NoSQL, functional programming, mobile technology (a lot of Android development is Java-based), Windows 8 applications, etc, where you might be able to acquire some skills and get ahead of the market to some extent. Could you re-write your stock trading application using a "cool" new technology, for example?

Incidentally, there seems to be a certain amount of work around (often short-term freelance contracts) for people with PHP and good Drupal experience (customisation and developing new modules etc), so that might be an area to explore if you're looking for a "Plan B". Although generally, PHP developer roles don't pay as well as Java.

Any development experience you can demonstrate e.g. from your previous work or via unpaid work, open source projects etc, will help. Also think about ways to present your previous experience as a teacher or studying engineering positively as being relevant to whatever role you're applying for e.g. good communications skills, teamwork, mentoring colleagues, self-starter, understanding of particular business sectors (engineering, public sector work etc).
Billy Sclater wrote:Thanks in advance!!

Don't thank me - I feel like I'm raining on your parade unfortunately. Best of luck anyway!


No more Blub for me, thank you, Vicar.
Campbell Ritchie
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 13, 2005
Posts: 40052
    
  28
Welcome to the Ranch

You will probably not get a better reply than CW has just given you. But I would dispute your thread title. If you have been teaching for 15+ years, how can you say no work experience?
Billy Sclater
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 18, 2012
Posts: 141

Thanks CW for your honesty (even if you rained on my parade!)

I have plenty of experience using Linux, writing bash scripts and so on. Actually, it's all I've used for the past 10 years.
Also, I always use Eclipse for programming, so I'm very familiar with that too. I just rang the recruitment agent I spoke of and flagged some of my concerns.
He says the OCJP SE5 is fine and that the it doesn't matter which version of the OCJP certification you have, as long as you have one.
His agency has a test, he says that he tests some of the employees of his clients, if I score higher, then he says I am capable of working with their company.
He also pointed out that my initial test score of 50% (I took the test before I had studied any Java) was actually better than some Java programmers used by his clients.
He also told me that their are plenty of entry level jobs/jobs for people of my level outside of London,
and that it is just London that is very demanding regarding having CS degrees and X years of experience.

Do you think what he says is true? Or is he just telling me what I want to hear as a dodgy agency guy?

chris webster
Bartender

Joined: Mar 01, 2009
Posts: 1871
    
  16

Well, your guy is telling a very different story from what I've been seeing and hearing over the last year or two (maybe I should talk to him as well!), but if he reckons he can get you into the kind of job you're looking for, what have you got to lose? Take him at his word and see where it leads, but don't put all your eggs in one basket - keep looking to see what opportunities you can turn up independently so you can make a more informed decision.

Good luck.
Billy Sclater
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 18, 2012
Posts: 141

I figure I'll take the SE5 exam, then study SE7, and work on the Java Web Development certification next.
I should be signing up with the agency I mentioned early next year. I guess in the mean time, as you said it may be prudent to
do some job-seeking independently, I'll certainly get onto that.

Thanks for the advice (:

Jeanne Boyarsky
author & internet detective
Marshal

Joined: May 26, 2003
Posts: 31057
    
232

Make sure that your resume states that you only have experience with core Java. Don't let him add experience you don't have.

If you interview for a job you are underqualified for and your resume indicates this, it is the company's fault for not reading it. They won't hold this against you. (Although some companies have a rule you can't interview again for X months.) If your resume says you have experience with something that you don't, a company may hold that against you for many years. As in "I remember that guy. He said he's worked with web, but had no clue!"

What I'm saying is you want it to be clear you are looking for entry level and still learning Java.

Good luck!


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Billy Sclater
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 18, 2012
Posts: 141

Thanks JB, I'll certainly be clear about that.
 
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