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Top 5 mistakes that Java developers make that can cause their career to stall

IT is a dynamic sector of our economy. It is important that you are an adaptable employee. At its core, being complacent and resistant to change can drastically decrease your career prospects.

Being in the industry for over 30 years, I have helped many senior and mid-level Java developers. Based on what I have learned over the years from these developers across all industries and company sizes, here are top 5 mistakes I have seen Java developers make.

1. Poor communication skills

One of the most common career missteps I have seen over the past 30 year in Java developers is the lack of softs skills, particularly effective communication skills.

In today’s business world, IT touches everyone.

That is why it is essential to always keep leaders and other company stakeholders informed of potential challenges, bottlenecks, and suggestions on how to get a head of issues before they crop up. This shows your employer that you can navigate through complex challenges that have the potential to disrupt the business, which in turn demonstrates your ability to handle more complex and high level responsibilities.
Failing to communicate efficiently and effectively is often cited by hiring managers as the number one reason a developer wasn’t selected to high profile projects.

Another important aspect of your communication skills is how you communicate with your boss and other employees. Especially those that fall outside of the IT realm (e.g. finance, marketing, sales, etc). The nature of IT work at times is complex to understand. The ability to communicate a complex technical issue in simple easy to understand terms is a skill that takes work, training and years of experience. You may have some of the best ideas in your organization, but if you don’t spend time properly communicating your ideas in a simple and easy to understand format they may never get off the ground. We’ve all been there before. It can be easy to get frustrated and have a short fuse when someone does not pick up quickly on what you are saying. But, it is crucial to develop a communication style that makes sense to users. If your boss is able to see you as someone that can communicate your solutions effectively, efficiently, and passionately you will set yourself miles ahead of your IT peers. 

My experience over the years in helping hiring managers fill Java developer roles is that those with strong communication skills are hard to find and are elevated in their career much quicker than most. 

2. Not being a self-starter

As we all know, the only thing that is constant is change. The IT industry is constantly evolving. In order to keep pace and advance your career you need to always be learning and developing new skills while you are not on the clock. A good habit is to pick one new skill you’re going to train yourself on each year and come up with a schedule.  Some examples of skills to learn such as increasing your full stack abilities, learning cloud platforms, scripting languages, and Kotlin are discussed in our article: top ways for Java developer’s can stay competitive in today’s market. 

Hiring managers look for employees that can demonstrate the ability to learn new skills on their own long after their formal training has ended.   

By not over relying on your employer to teach you new technologies, it can allow you to teach yourself things you’re personally interested in and keep your job fresh. This also will allow you to introduce new technologies that can help the business and your career.

Taking time each year to learn about new tools or platforms will keep you actively engaged in your own career while also setting yourself apart from others in your company. Some new technology that CIO’s look for their Java developers to have include:

3. Being resistant to change

Resistance to any technological advancement is a detrimental habit in any career especially in IT. But, recently there have been many technological innovations that have made significant impacts in the Java development space. Some of these innovations that hiring managers desire their new developers to have experience with are Kotlin and advanced automation and scripting languages.

According to GitHub, Kotlin is the fastest growing programming language and it has been said to be the “Facebook for programming languages.” This is because the language has grown over 300% over the past 18 months. Based on what I have heard  from CIOs and CTOs, many organizations have a goal to increase their utilization of Kotlin.

In order to stay competitive in the IT marketplace (especially one rocked by a pandemic and a recession), a Java developer should make the effort to learn advanced automation and scripting languages.

We’re seeing many Java shops in the Northeast Ohio area utilizing python and advanced shelling scripting more and more to automate devices and applications.

I wrote an article for Computerworld magazine on how Java developers can stay competitive in today’s market. In the article, I write about a few resources in which Java developers can learn scripting languages.

4. Overlooking the importance of various frameworks and front-end languages

As a Java developer, you may not feel that you’re strong on the design or the creative side. But that is okay. You don’t need to become an expert on front-end and back-end. 

I have worked with many Java developers who have refused to embrace some of the front-end development trends. This mistake has caused multiple developers’ careers to stall.

A CIO from a mid-size company recently told me that he had to replace a Java developer because she refused to learn front-end frameworks.    

Some of the specific front end frameworks and languages CIOs and CTOs look for in their Java developers include:

  • HTML / CSS
  • React
  • Node.JS
  • JavaScript
  • JavaScript Libraries such as jQuery
  • Vue.JS

How can you start to learn the front-end in order to assist more in the completion a full business concept all the way through? 

A good place to start learning the front end is with books, courses, and real work experience.
Here is a list of some good courses to help you learn the front-end:

 In my 30 years of experience, I found that Java developers who go above and beyond to learn full stack development and then to apply their new skills in a current company project or a personal side project saw that more career opportunities open up for them.

5. Failing to develop a career roadmap

One way to help you in making thoughtful career decisions and in avoiding job hopping is developing a career road map. A career road map is a tool that you can use to develop a framework of how you want your career to go. A great exercise to conduct is to think about where you want to be short term (3-5 years from now) and long term  (10-20 years from now) What is your end goal?
 
Once you have that drawn up, come up with a couple different paths based on what kind of skills you need, what kind of promotions you aspire to, and what kind of companies you want to work for. All of these factors go into shaping your career. 
 
An important note is that you need to remain flexible while traversing your roadmap. It should act as a gyroscope that can keep you pointed in the right direction. A career roadmap can also allow you to measure your progress and identify the right opportunities, but not as a rigid structure that must be followed to a T. Think of it as a map of the US. There are many routes you can take to get from the east coast to the west coast, but as long as you have a sense of where you’re going you can make it to your destination.

Emerald’s suggestions

When it comes down to it, slight adjustments can have big positive results on career trajectory and prospects. Avoid these mistakes by investing into yourself, following your passions, by reading books, getting a mentor/coach, and being mindful of your work. Happy coding!

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