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How Can Java Developers Stay Relevant?

Are Java Developers, Architects, and Technical Managers Becoming Java Dinosaurs?

With the rapid evolution that Java and open source frameworks have made since the release of J2EE, enterprise Java IT seems to be producing too many Java dinosaurs. Developers, technical managers, or architects who no longer pursue their technical skills don't understand the evolution of JEE in comparison to J2EE, persistence frameworks, IOC frameworks, Web frameworks, or Web 2.0 and its effects on enterprise Java. Yet decisions are made based on out-of-date J2EE experience.

To understand this better, we need to understand relevance. Wikipedia defines relevance (the philosophical concept of relevance) as "a term used to describe how pertinent, connected, or applicable some information is to a given matter." We need to ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Are we relevant?
  • Do we need to be relevant?
  • What are the implications of not being relevant?
  • How do we stay relevant?

Are We Relevant?
I've been working on third-party applications for my company for sometime now and have been swept into the old paradigm of pure XML-based applications that rely heavily on DOM and XSLT as an architectural solution. You don't have to ask how well it performs as it passes around XML messages that are larger than a few megabytes to multiple layers of an architecture that utilize DOM on different layers and XSLT transformation on other layers, without any XSLT caching. At one time, when XML became the industry standard for message exchange and configuration, a proliferation of misuse was produced where XML and its adjacent technologies like XSLT were abused. I have to wonder as I work on this application if I should proliferate these old architectural methodologies regarding the usage of DOM, XML, and XSLT in this application. Is it my responsibility to stay ahead of the technical curve and better understand the evolution of alternate solutions such as data binding achievements and new parser strategies, and provide a better introduction of alternate technologies?

The funny flipside of this is that by the time I pulled my eyes away from this and other J2EE applications that I was working, there was an onslaught of SOA and Web 2.0 articles. I remember reading one of the first LAMP articles and thinking that this was not something I had to be concerned with and so I lost myself back in research on persistence frameworks. Of course, the next thing I knew, about two years later there is all this talk about SOA and Web 2.0. So I searched for articles on Web 2.0 and found some of the articles were almost two-years-old and that I had fallen behind these new methodologies. I was shocked that the development paradigm had changed, shifted, or expanded in what seemed like a blink of an eye. Then I had to ask myself: Was I still relevant? Am I becoming a Java dinosaur?

More Stories By Jay Blanton

Jay Blanton is a Java/XML developer with over 8 years of experience working on JEE applications and currently SOA applications. He also has experience with architectural development with multiple APIs like iBatis, Freemarker, Hibernate, Struts, XQuery, XSLT, and ESB.

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Most Recent Comments
rdgrimes 08/18/08 11:28:36 AM EDT

The main problem, to which you allude, is not becoming irrelevant, but imposing that irrelevance on others, once such a person gets into management. This, by extension, makes the entire software development strategy of the company out-dated. But, it's even worse than you state. There aren't just managers out there with yesterday's J2EE skills, but many corporations have software directors whose "skills" were formed 30 years ago, during procedural language days, and have no clue about OO concepts, much less today's developments. And they are unfortunately calling the shots. Based on what? I don't know. Worse yet, many do not have the intelligence, nor humility, to defer to those who are up-to-date.

R. Grimes