Tag Archives: software development

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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1DevDay Detroit

Coming from near Columbus, OH we drove I-75 north to get to Detroit to get to the 1DevDay conference. It’s a smooth, easy drive that, in the absence of our talkative toddler, allowed my wife and I to have the longest real discussion we’ve had in months. Talking through Bowling Green and Toledo, the conversation waned as we finally neared Detroit leaving us to watch as an increasing number of giant auto manufacturing plants rolled by. Falling to complete silence to listen to the GPS guide us to the Courtyard Marriot facing the GM building, we slipped through downtown Detroit easily. The only real action we detected was the line of gamblers and diners waiting to get parked in Greektown and the automated, mostly vacant People Mover rumbling past overhead. I asked my wife “see what I mean, it seems so empty doesn’t it?”

The truth is that I was wrong. Detroit has problems but it is not devoid of all life. 1DevDay organizer David McKinnon, a corps of dedicated volunteers, a healthy roster of sponsors and 650 local software developers meeting in Detroit on a Saturday combined to demonstrate to me that there is vibrancy in Detroit.

1DevDay is a multi-platform conference for software developers and so it came with all the technical trimmings. I poured over the schedule making hard decisions like skipping Magnus Stahre’s “Git Gone Wild: Recover from Common Git Mistakes” talk, Jessica Kerr’s “Functional Principles for OO Development” talk and even having to pass on seeing Dean Wampler talk about “Map Reduce”.  I get to attend many conferences in a typical year, so I skipped the gold-mine of technical know-how collected at 1DevDay and looked for something more.

What I found was a community. Throughout the day I kept running into examples of people who are working hard “to build a software developer community in the Detroit area that is regarded as the best in the world”, as is included in the mission of 1DevDay Detroit.

David McKinnon is bold to publicize this grand goal but he does have support. The conference brought in many others who have an urgent need to attract more and better software developers. In the afternoon, I listened to Prabodh Deshmukh and Vani Yalamanchili  boast about the massive IT transformation that is happening at GM. Through their upbeat yet detailed presentation they proved that GM is using industry standard development practices on the desktop, on the web and on mobile devices and invited developers to consider working with them. In the morning Paul Czarnik, CTO of Compuware, walked me and thirty other enthusiastic people through a vibrant panel discussion on growing and educating software developers that spilled into a double session. I witnessed Erika Carlson and Michelle Srbinovich, founders of the Detroit chapter of Girl Develop It, handle equal parts managing their sponsor booth, attending sessions and discussing their work, passionately, with many conference attendees. Even the keynote speakers—the internationally acclaimed Ted Neward and Chad Fowler—were synchronized with the community in Detroit, capping the conference in speeches that offered advice on what Detroit developers need to become more competitive.

So I found people deeply involved with building a community of software developers every where I looked at 1DevDay Detroit. I found this in spite of the hardcore technical sessions, vendors and job recruiters that usually keep all of my attention at conferences. The feel of community was too strong in Detroit to ignore. So if you haven’t attended 1DevDay Detroit before, consider going this year. It’s worth the trip for the technical content alone, yet pays out (unlike the casinos in Greektown) winnings once you encounter the community surrounding and supporting the conference.

NOTE: My apologies to David McKinnon and crew for not publishing this closer to the conference. See the post Hiatus for more on why there was a delay.

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Time to Rehash CodeMash (2012), Conference Video on InfoQ

It’s that time of the year when software developers, mostly in Ohio, Michigan and the surrounding states but all throughout the country too, start getting ready for CodeMash. The call for talk abstracts has already opened and runs through September 15th and the conference organizers are now also taking on sponsors. So if you are endowed with either the talent and desire to speak at CodeMash or the capital to help underwrite it, we encourage you to do so, heartily. Otherwise, all of you eager would-be attendees (you know it’s going to be a mad rush at registration again) can get ready by watching the suite of videos from the 2012 conference that have been uploaded to InfoQ.

If you go looking on InfoQ for the videos you might have a little trouble being sure that you’ve found them all. Unfortunately, the site does not provide a convenient means of finding videos by conference. However, searching for “codemash” produces this page, http://www.infoq.com/codemash,  which appears to be as complete a list as you can get. The last time I hit that link it showed that the newest video, uploaded on June 18th, 2012, is “Erlang for C# Developers” and there were a total of 17 videos listed.  I’m not sure how many videos were recorded in total or if the plan is to upload all of them to InfoQ.

So if you got to the registration page too late this year or you just need to revisit one of your favorite sessions, head over to InfoQ and rehash CodeMash.

And not that you should be surprised, but the infamous Ted Neward keynote is not on InfoQ. Nonetheless, the thoroughly entertaining keynote from the multi-talented Barry Hawkins is there (and below) for your edification.

Barry Hawkins Keynote @ CodeMash 2012

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Summer Issue Published

The Summer issue is ready and, as always, this issue is free!

Obtaining the issue can be anywhere from a benign act to a feat of sheer geekery. Here are the methods at your disposal and the geek point boost you get for using each one:

+0 – Novice

Just click on a link….this one.

+10 – Novice, with account setup skills

Go to MagCloud to get the PDF as a download or on your iPad (with the MagCloud iPad app). Print versions are also available at MagCloud for $12.99.

+100 – Hip Git User

git clone https://github.com/mashedcodemag/issues

+1000 – Command Line Fu Master

wget --no-check-certificate --progress=bar \
https://github.com/mashedcodemag/issues/zipball/master \
--output-document=mcm-june-2012.zip

We sincerely hope that you enjoy the magazine and find it useful. If you have any comments or questions, or want to report errata, comment below or send an email to mashedcodemag@gmail.com.

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