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Career Advisor by Edgar Saadi

The Java-tized career

Java is no gimmick. Ignore it at your career's peril

May  1996
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Java is more than spinning graphics and animated cartoons. This month Edgar explains the complexities, business potential, and services that have opened up with the advent of Intranet and Java technology. (1,000 words)

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Dear Edgar,
Java, Java, Java! I'm so sick of all the hype when this is just a fancy way to get animation and cartoons on a Web page. Everyone in my department is talking about it. Why do I need to learn about this? It just seems like a gimmick to me. Do you agree? Signed,

Dear Java'd-Out: Sorry pal, but you couldn't be more off the mark. And that could translate into serious career consequences for you in one to two years. I will devote this column to explaining the important business applications that are surfacing from this new technology and the kinds of job specialties that are emerging. Although the new multimedia uses of Java are fun, and may bring about a lot of real income from sites that can draw 'Netizens looking for the cutting edge in Web design, the language will make its real impact in more behind-the-scenes applications in corporate Intranets.

First let's start with some basics. The Intranet refers to the use of Web-based technologies to pass around corporate data internally. The Web is booming in great part because of the browser interface -- its point-and-click navigation and ease of use. And it is relatively easy to set up and configure on the systems side. It makes sense that huge corporations, which live and die by the successful exchange of information, are looking to the Web as a way to communicate internally.

Now with Java, distributed code comes to the Web and the entire paradigm changes. As I described in my February column ( "Should I go with Java?"), this new language brings dynamism to a previously static Web. Rather than rely on browser extensions or CGI server-push technology, Web designers can now bring down little animation programs, sound players, and ticker tapes that call out to other computers for updated information.


Why the huge corporate interest?
Well, for the first time, corporate end-users and power users can access important sales and business information in a fast, low-cost, and easy manner. Prior to this, they had to build proprietary systems that were not very flexible. With the building blocks of HTML, CGI, and Java in a client/server environment, there is endless room to add, expand, and extend.

Currently big companies hire programmers to develop massive in-house applications in C or C++. They bring aboard database developers to set up relational databases and then build attractive, useful, graphical interfaces. They also buy workflow applications like Lotus Notes to take advantage of internal networks. At the same time they are realizing the power of Web technology, setting up internal servers to house and archive data which can be altered and added to instantly.

How Intranets can affect your career
Just as business models are evolving in the world of Internet companies, so too are the kinds of jobs and job descriptions. In the corporate subset of Intranet development, our recruiters at Pencom are seeing interesting careers suddenly popping up in four main areas: Web Application Development, Project Analysis, Web Design, and Training.

  1. Web application development One of the most lucrative opportunities for object-oriented programmers today is building Java applications which will tie HTML-based front ends to corporate databases, allow users to pass around sensitive data, and give off-site employees the ability to dynamically interact with the system through an Internet connection. We see Wall Street banks, new-media companies, and major publishing houses all hiring firms to develop such programs. They are looking for programmers with object experience -- preferably Java or C++ -- and a good understanding of Web technologies.

  2. Project analysis In this new niche of Intranet development, there is a new breed of project leader emerging. Typically this person must be a senior object programmer, preferably with experience in Java or C++ and the ability to lead a team with hands-on experience. This person must have a solid understanding of networks, protocols, and relational databases. In addition, this team leader must be capable of bringing together the programmers, designers, and system administrators.

  3. Web design Whereas many corporations are traditionally compelled to hire programmers to design complex front ends, many are now bringing aboard graphic designers with a grasp of HTML. The title for this position can range from art director to web designer. These people are well versed in the latest tags and extensions and can develop pleasing, intuitive interfaces for end users. They must work closely with both the OO programmers and system administrators in transforming a concept into a finished product.

  4. Training Since this entire marketplace is booming and quickly evolving, there is a huge demand for training in these technologies. Companies are hiring competent OO programmers, then looking for Java gurus to get them up to speed in the new language. They are also hiring system administrators and graphic designers and then training them in HTML and CGI scripting.

In the same way that system administrators are more valuable when they understand a wide range of systems and scripting languages, so too are Web people valued for their ability to design, configure, and roll out a Web site. Although the job categories described above are beginning to gel, it still remains to be seen what further specialties will be carved out as these departments and Web development firms continue grow.

New Intranet businesses emerging
Because our recruiting offices and research department track all emerging technologies, Pencom often recognizes hot areas before they explode. The management at Pencom is so impressed with the demand we see in Intranet services, we launched our sixth business unit -- Pencom Web Works (PWW) -- at the iEC trade show in New York last month. Headed by Jonathan Wallace, PWW specializes in Java development for Intranets. The response at the show was impressive and confirms our belief that this facet of the industry has only just begun to move.

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