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Next move: How can I develop my Java skills?

I have worked in IT for 12 years, and currently work for an insurance company. The major skills involved are Powerbuilder,...

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I have worked in IT for 12 years, and currently work for an insurance company. The major skills involved are Powerbuilder, Oracle, Sybase and Informix, and the minor ones are C/C++, and Unix shell script. Two years ago I started learning Java/J2EE, UML, Java/J2EE Design Pattern, and XML/XSLT. Unfortunately, my employer has no plans to develop any Java/J2EE applications. I really want to enhance my Java/J2EE knowledge. What should I do?

The first thing I would advise you to do is get certification in either Java or J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition). The easiest way to go about this is to go through Sun (visit www.sun.co.uk for details of how to get started). If you are serious about developing your Java skills, this is essential.

The dotcom crash means there are a lot of IT professionals with Java experience and certification currently looking for work, so you need to make yourself as qualified as possible if you are going to compete.

While opportunities are currently limited, Java and J2EE continue to be the languages of the future and they are the most well-established of the newer languages in the market. Many projects have been put on hold due to market conditions, but these are becoming increasingly business-critical as time goes by, meaning that slowly, more positions will become available.

However, in view of the current market slowdown, I would advise against making a radical career move at the moment. Your best bet would be to get certified, then look for a position that promotes and uses the skills you already have but also entails a small amount of Java/J2EE programming. This way your new employer benefits from your existing skills, while you get the chance to develop in Java/J2EE.
This was first published in October 2002

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