For many of us, daily activities now include updating our calendar online, checking into Facebook a few times a day, using LinkedIn for business networking, getting directions from Google Maps, and sneaking in a few games of Words with Friends. This proliferation of software applications means high demand for the software developers who write the code -- people like Kevin Schultz, a Java software developer.
Java is actually one of two hot software languages right now, Schultz said. The other is .Net (pronounced "dot-net"). Java was developed by Sun Microsystems, which has since been purchased by Oracle. Microsoft created and owns .Net. Sun's Larry Ellison and Microsoft's Bill Gates plotted for dominance like generals of competing armies. As of 2012, both codes are alive and well. Google's many applications -- including Android -- are based on Java. Windows continues to be the major operating system for personal and corporate computers.
"Many large organizations are using both," according to Isaac Hagen, Business Development Manager at Experis IT. "It's helpful to have both if a company has a strategy to grow through acquisition, since sometimes you can't avoid the technology stack you're taking on. It's very expensive to rewrite applications in another code."
"I definitely see Java winning in the long run," Schultz said. Long-term viability is important for developers, whose careers can be derailed if there is no longer a demand for the code they've mastered.
"I don't see Java going away," Hagen agreed. "We see many more openings than there are resources to fill them, which often times creates a challenge. I think one of the biggest barriers is the perception that IT jobs are for nerds. A lot of people think they can't do it. That's not the case. It's a math-driven role, but there are a lot of things you can do with general business schooling and add technology to it. Most people today are pretty technical."
Schultz landed his first Java gig even before he finished college back in Virginia. The company offered him full-time employment after graduation, but Schultz's then-girlfriend (now his wife) decided to move home to Minnesota. In 2009, a recruiter persuaded him to try contracting, and he's been steadily employed ever since, with no downtime, at engagements ranging from 6 months to 2 years, in everything from the healthcare industry to retail website development. ""It was cool to be working in something where I could see my own work," he said.
After several years as a Java developer, do you still have things to learn?
You have to continually be learning. There is not one day on the job that I don't search online for the answer to something. StackOverflow is a good tool -- it's a site where a bunch of developers ask and answer questions, and people rate the answers.
Are most developers contractors rather than employees?
There are definitely full-time positions. Google is the Java developer's dream job. I'm a consultant because of my life situation. The wage is what drives me right now. I get benefits through my wife's job, so it makes sense. I've also developed my business acumen through working at multiple businesses.
Where would you like to go next?
I don't want to be writing code at age 45. I wouldn't mind the sales side, or maybe management. But the mobile market is what everybody wants to be in. I'd like to get an app or two in the store. The possibilities are huge.
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