Dec 4, 2009

Seniors among Java engineers

If you were to trust what you read on the Net you would think Java is a brain-dead language and people who develop in Java are the alternatively gifted among software engineers. While the former is a multidimensional question the latter could make you nervous if you've been in the Java land for many years. Allegedly, in some circles a decade of predominantly Java experience raises a red flag.

I am inclined to think that Java is mostly infamous for its enterprise branch. Surely once fashionable J2EE technologies are good for outsourcing but the damage they inflict on developers is very real. But if you ask me, I'd rather do EJB2 than any kind of web UI from JSP to ajax. Luckily I have not had to deal with either for a long time.

Occasionally I participate in interviewing potential future coworkers. And some of them position themselves as Sr Java engineers and even have CS major backgrounds. You would think that in the Bay Area developers are likely to be a uniformly enlighten group. After all, this is arguably the most expensive place to hire and an international magnet for software engineers.

Not really if my experience is representative. I have interviewed and even worked here with people who demonstrated almost appalling lack of professional skills (e.g. decent OO design with proper decoupling and meaningful responsibility assignment) or relatively basic knowledge (the role of hashCode/equals in the HashMap context, anyone? optimistic/pessimistic locking strategies? ACID? mapping of class hierarchies on relational DB tables?). On a few occasions after a decade or two in the industry.

Or is it just me? Probably I am supposed to ask candidates to implement a RW lock (unless your name is Doug or Brian I'd rather know you are intimately familiar with the util.concurrent package) or recursive tree scanning? But those look like more advanced concepts to me than the difference between volatile and synchronized in protecting a long variable. And it's not like in their defense they could show years of non-OO (although I am pretty sure FP folks are into good design, only by different means) or non-Java/C++ experience (then again, what makes him a Sr Java engineer?).

Could it be the case that Java is merely so dominant that it covers wildly different domains (e.g. util.concurrent/NIO v J2EE; telecoms or financial middleware v a web UI for DB access) and we do not have specific terms for people with the corresponding expertise?

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