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The Gap Make That Canyon Between Java Jobs and Skilled Practitioners : Page 3

More and more Java-related projects are on the drawing boards, but the number of qualified programmers is not keeping pace.


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Why 'Deep' Java Skills Are at a Premium
Paul Neto, HR manager for Covalent Technologies, one of the leading producers of products and services for the popular open-source Apache Web server, says he's being more selective now of whom he hires because of the complexity of new development projects.

We're looking at those (we'll hire perhaps 20 over the next year) who have a good foundation in C, C++ or Java, can build an app from start to finish, who know the development cycle, and who know UML and use best practices.  

"At Covalent, we're looking for deeper Java skills, such as those used to build business logic modules, EJBs and deep development within protocols, such as communications. At the moment, there are plenty of Web-page developers available, and there's not that much work for them. We're looking at those (we'll hire perhaps 20 over the next year) who have a good foundation in C, C++ or Java, can build an app from start to finish, who know the development cycle, and who know UML and use best practices.

"If you're from an extreme programming (XP) shop, you're not going to find work here, because I won't hire you. XP work doesn't scale; there could be too many loose ends. It might be suitable for some short-term projects on hard deadline, but not for the kinds of things we're doing."



David Knight, CTO of Portera Systems in Campbell, Calif., a professional services application service provider with its own propriety software, is in charge of 255 developers—about 50 of which work solely in Java.

  If you can write good, modular code that is reasonably complex—like a typical e-commerce business invoice, for instance—then you're the type that will always have work."

"Although we're not hiring quite as briskly as we were, say, eight months ago, we're always on the lookout for good talent," Knight said. "A developer with good server-side Java skills who's done some hosted application work is always ideal for us. Somebody with good e-commerce site skills and sysadmin development experience also is in demand. If you can write good, modular code that is reasonably complex—like a typical e-commerce business invoice, for instance—then you're the type that will always have work."

Database skills are always in high demand, Knight said, especially familiarity with Oracle, SQL, and JDBC programming.

Certification: How Important Is It?
Companies, programmers and training vendors all value Java certification, but for different reasons. "Enterprises must understand what value certification holds for them—e.g., it can serve as one measure by which to compare developers' relative skill levels. However, certification does not guarantee that a candidate can effectively complete a Java development project," analyst Mark Driver wrote in a 1999 Gartner report. Those decisions must be made by individual hiring managers or project directors, he said.

There is a high number of qualified—but not necessarily certified—Java developers out there, in both the corporate and contracting sectors. There are also plenty of developers in both areas who don't specialize in Java but know enough about how to use it to "get by." In fact, a DevX research study (see our article in Part I, "Six Years and Counting: Developers Weigh in on the State of the Java Market") shows that only about one in four Java developers actually have earned certification. In addition, most Java developers don't work exclusively in Java; they use at least one or two other programming languages on a day-to-day basis—most often Visual Basic, C++, and XML.

"There are benefits to getting certified in Java," Rob Petigo, director of certification programs at Sun Educational Services, said recently in Java World. Petigo said that certification provides "a clear-cut demonstration of collective confidence." Self-educated students can never be entirely certain if their knowledge of the program is correct.

Sun, which won't reveal the number of certified developers trained in Java, says there has been a 550 percent increase in the ranks of certified Java and Solaris developers since the program began in 1996.

Sun introduced the language to the development community in May 1995. When developers heard that Java could be "written once and run anywhere," they were skeptical but drawn to it in droves; its popularity quickly went skyward. For the next two years, the growth of worldwide Java developer seats continued at a fast pace, expanding 62.9 percent, according to the 1999 IDC Worldwide Professional Developer Model. The IDC Worldwide Developer Model is a detailed study of the number of professional developers in 195 countries and professional developer seats for 13 language classes and five geographic regions from 1996 through 2003. The same report forecast continuing Java developer growth in years to come. Java usage, for example, is expected to continue to grow at a slower but still-impressive 29.4 percent in 2003.



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