Category Archives: Guest Post

Preparing the Next Generation of Developers

This week’s guest post, from the venerable Christopher Judd, shows how he and others are fixing a shortcoming with new developers in central Ohio. Please contact the magazine at mashedcodemag@gmail.com or Manifest Solutions for more information.

As we all know, America is suffering from an unprecedented shortage of good and qualified IT talent. We regularly read articles or see news reports of how many IT jobs go unfilled. While most other fields are suffering from high unemployment, IT has remained relatively unaffected. Yet there are still many recent college grads with computer science (CS) or equivalent degrees finding it difficult to become employed in the field. So why are we experiencing such a discrepancy? From my experience based on interviewing nearly a hundred recent grads in the past two years, I  have repeatedly seen recent grads lacking the skills and experience necessary to meet the challenging demand of today’s competitive IT environment.

Colleges are doing a decent job of giving their respective student’s a foundation in computer science. However, as the technology continues to rapidly grow and change, a chasm is growing wider between what students learn in school and what employers are expecting. Unfortunately there is not one simple answer to solving this problem. I think preparing students requires a combined effort from educators, students and employers. But effort from any of them could have significant impact.

Unfortunately students don’t have enough knowledge to know what questions to ask, so educators have to be the first line of defense. Educators need to pay attention to what skills and frameworks employers are looking for. This can be accomplished by looking at the job postings that recent grads are applying for and/or talking to recruiters. Then it means keeping their skills up to date with those needs as well as adjusting curriculum appropriately.

I routinely interview recent grads whose entire Java experience is in developing simple Swing applications or possibly writing socket code. Personally I haven’t written a swing application professionally in over 12 years and I have only had to write socket code once. In addition, I know of only two organizations in my market who are looking for Swing resources and I don’t know of any targeting socket skills. Most recent grads I interview have never interacted with a database via code or written a complex, dynamic website which are skills highly in demand.

I often hear from recent college grads; “I have never even heard of unit testing, continuous integration, Struts, Spring, Hibernate, etc let alone have experience with them”.

For students hoping to go into the IT field, they can’t wait until after graduation to start looking for opportunities or preparing for the work force. Students who want to be competitive should start trying to determine what employers are looking for using the same techniques mentioned earlier for educators. Then they should start writing code that utilizes what employers are looking for. A great way to get this experience is with internships. The most impressive candidates I interview almost always have had an internship during the summer and possibly an entire semester actually writing code for a large organization. Getting an internship often provides the additional benefit of making money. Another great opportunity is to contribute to open source projects. This has the benefit of having lots of people review and comment on your code and begins a portfolio you can point employers to.

Finally, employers have to change their expectations. Instead of expecting to find junior talent with 2 years of experience with framework X, plan to higher recent college grads and train them. At Manifest Solutions (www.manifestcorp.com) we are doing just that. For the past two years we have been hiring batches of three to six recent college grads and putting them through a six week bootcamp. The bootcamp is designed to produce enterprise Java developers, acceptance test driven testers as well as Agile practitioners. The bootcamp consists of four hours of instructor lead training on relevant topics Java, Eclipse, unit testing and mocking, JavaScript, jQuery, patterns, performance, Agile and craftsman practices, etc with the remainder of the day spent working on a real project in an Agile environment. Our students frequently tell us they learned more in six weeks then they did in four years of college. More importantly they are prepared for the fun and fast paced world of IT consulting.

Christopher Judd is the CTO and a partner at Manifest Solutions, an international speaker, an open source evangelist, the Central Ohio Java Users Group and Columbus iPhone Developer User Group leader, and the co-author of Beginning Groovy and Grails (Apress, 2008), Enterprise Java Development on a Budget (Apress, 2003) and Pro Eclipse JST (Apress, 2005) as well as the author of the children’s book Bearable Moments. He has spent 16 years architecting and developing software for Fortune 500 companies in various industries, including insurance, retail, government, manufacturing, service, and transportation. His current focus is on consulting, mentoring, and training with Java, Java EE, Groovy, Grails, Cloud Computing and mobile platforms like iPhone, Android, Java ME and mobile web.

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Guest Post: Celebrating Entrepreneurial Spirit in the Central Ohio IT Community

Today we have a new guest post for you from Steve Gruetter of Expedient. Steve is an active and well known force in the Columbus, Ohio IT community.

In the current economic climate, with bad news being delivered nearly every day, the time seems right to spotlight what is positive in the Central Ohio IT community.  Our community has been blessed with tools that encourage entrepreneurs to create new and better ways of doing business in technology; TechColumbus and the numerous seed funds offered through their organization, TechLifeOhio and their ability to create awareness about particular firms and events, Ohio State, Battelle and the local city governments and their willingness to invest to grow our community; the State of Ohio and their various Third Frontier initiatives.

The net result is more jobs and more opportunities for wealth creation in our community. Arguably, the most successful local firm to emerge has been CallCopy, a contact center software firm based in downtown Columbus. CallCopy, launched in 2005 at TechColumbus, is committed to creating a better way to gather business intelligence around the contact center experience in order to drive end-user client satisfaction.  Today, CallCopy has grown to over 150 employees, and has customers in 37 countries. CallCopy was recently recognized in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Workforce Optimization.

The success of CallCopy validates the entrepreneurship model and encourages others in our local market to launch technology businesses of their own. Steve Gruetter of Expedient – who has worked with CallCopy since its beginning – comments

This is what the model of success looks like for an entrepreneur in our industry… a great idea, commitment of time and energy, continued smart choices, continued commitment to quality, continued growth.  I know that the Central Ohio IT community is a better place with CallCopy in it.

CallCopy  chief information officer Ray Bohac states

One of the key aspects to growth is accurate anticipation of risk, reward and investment. We enjoy working with Steve and the team at Expedient because we get the reliability and flexibility that we need to grow our various lines of business in a smart fashion… and also have the scalability to ramp quickly when we find something is working well for us and our clients. Our customers demand excellence from us and with Expedient we’re able to meet that demand.

To learn more about CallCopy and their growth, please see http://www.callcopy.com/ and to learn about Expedient in Central Ohio, please see http://www.expedient.com/products/columbus-data-center.php

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Guest Post: Celebrating Thought Leadership in the Central Ohio IT Community

Today we have a new guest post for you from Steve Gruetter of Expedient. Steve is an active and well known force in the Columbus, Ohio IT community.

Here in Central Ohio, where our local economy is driven by insurance and healthcare—two industries that are recession-proof, but do not lead us to cutting edge technology—we need to have smart business leaders who find paths to new ways of doing business.

Recently, the Central Ohio IT community received a boost with the opening of The Forge by Pillar. The Forge is an Agile Development software studio that breaks the mold to engage the community as a resource for solving technology problems and achieving business goals through value focus, improved quality, and reduced waste. The space is conducive to creating innovative solutions by breaking away from the tedium of personal and professional constraints. This type of thought leadership by a local consulting company will help drive the entire Central Ohio IT community forward.

As other like-minded organizations begin to make similar commitments to excellence, the community can grow together to achieve success. The team at Pillar has put in place specific guiding principles for business and software solutions that lead to success. As the high tide comes in, all boats are raised.

The team at Expedient believes in these principles as well. By making the commitment to excellence in the data center industry by building facilities and processes to provide 100% uptime, Expedient allows their clients and partners to focus on the part of their business that matters most – the activities that provide value and drive revenue. Expedient is proud to be utilized by the team at Pillar.

Steve Gruetter, of Expedient’s Columbus facility, says

We are thankful for the community investment that Pillar is making and their positive impact in creating a center of excellence in Agile Development, right here in Central Ohio.

Angelo Mazzocco, President at Pillar and a respected leader in the Central Ohio IT community comments,

We are on an aggressive path of growth and require that our partners have the capability and commitment to match. We have a smart and secure partner with Expedient.

To get involved with Pillar and The Forge, please see http://pillartechnology.com/forge and to learn about Expedient in Central Ohio, please see http://www.expedient.com/products/columbus-data-center.php.

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Guest Post: The Human Side of Software Craftsmanship

This week at MCM we’re going to start posting guest posts from developers in the community. The honor of first post goes to Jon Kruger. Thanks for contributing Jon!

If you want to become a future guest blogger, just send an email to mashedcodemag@gmail.com.

The Manifesto for Software Craftsmanship states that they “are raising the bar of professional software development by practicing it and helping others learn the craft.” As a software developer, I take pride in my work and have high standards for myself, and I appreciate it when others do the same. But if those high standards turn into arrogance toward others, then maybe we’ve gone astray.

They told us back in grade school that you shouldn’t pull yourself up by putting others down, but even today that wisdom can be hard to remember. I admit that I’m guilty. If you work at a company that has any code that has been around for a few years, you’re going to find some horrible code, and it’s really easy to make fun of it. I still do it all the time, but I’m trying to stop.

Arrogance and software craftsmanship don’t mix. While the technical aspect of software development is extremely important, the human side of things is just as important. It doesn’t matter how good your code is if the software doesn’t meet the needs of the users. If you refer to people in the business as “stupid users”, how are you going to be able to understand what life is like in their shoes? If you know all of the SOLID principles but you have a bad attitude, your teammates would probably rather work with someone else.

People who don’t know what we do sometimes think of software developers as a bunch of people who sit in front of a computer all day and never interact with anyone. In my experience, that hardly ever happens, and in fact, we often get rid of cubicles in favor of more collaborative workspaces where we can communicate easier with other team members, and sometimes even have business users come sit near us so that we can have their constant feedback.

I remember a situation several months ago where I had to meet with some users to design some functionality. After the first few meetings, I had to present a potential design idea to them. Before I went into the meeting I had already thought of potential issues that the users might bring up and the rebuttals that I would give. The users expressed some concerns and I wasn’t winning them over.

I stopped after that meeting and took a step back. Maybe I was listening to the words coming out of their mouth but not actually hearing what it was that they were really saying. Maybe their concerns weren’t petty after all and they had good reason for bringing them up.

The next time we met, I tried to go in and just listen. I mean really listen, like let them talk without thinking about what I’m going to say next. I tried looking them in the eye and processing every word that they say, the feelings they were expressing, and the reasons why they believed that way. Then when they were done talking, then I would think about how I’m going to respond. And this time I finally saw what they were talking about. It really hit home when one of the users (who was excited about me finally getting it), said excitedly, “That’s what we’ve been saying for the last month!”

I’m glad that I finally got it right, but I’m disappointed that it took me so long to get there.

In my mind, in order to really consider yourself a craftsman (or craftswoman), we need to not only value technical expertise but skilled human interaction and communication skills, and that starts with having an empathetic attitude toward others instead of finding ways to put them down.

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