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Yakov Fain

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RIA & Ajax: Article

Corporate Java Training

"The Java community is exciting and vibrant and something is happening all the time."

Back in the '90s, we became accustomed to receiving half-inch thick glossy brochures from various training companies. Five days of such instructor-led training would cost more than $2,000. For corporate employees this was "other people's money," and usually employees were entitled to at least one week of such training annually.

In '98, I was finishing my PowerBuilder career working as an independent contractor and decided to switch to Java. I had learned the language by reading dozens of books (yes, we used to buy technical books in the last century). But when you switch from one language to another, the most valuable knowledge is not in the books. I needed to know how real-world Java projects were designed and developed, so I paid $2,500 for a week of WebLogic training, and it was worth every penny. The instructor was a knowledgeable guy and this course was an eye-opener. I figured out what had to go in servlets and what went into EJBs, what is a Façade pattern, and what to watch for. This training worked out well, because of my motivation: I needed to pay my bills, and when you apply for a Java position, your previous PowerBuilder experience (other than an understanding of OOP) doesn't count.

In 2001, the U.S. economy went into a long recession. When an enterprise goes through difficult times, its management lays off some people and immediately cuts the training budget. The mandatory trainings like Six Sigma or CMM will always survive, but the real stuff gets frozen. In the beginning of this millennium, those training companies that managed to survive reduced tuition costs and their fat brochures turned into flyers. Course enrollment dropped drastically. They would even run classes for just three students. If the course was designed for five days, the corporate clients would ask for it to be delivered in three days.

Less expensive online training came into the picture, but it proved to be boring and less effective than classroom training. However, since the economy remained in recession for three years, many people suspended their computer education and started to whine about outsourcing.

It's now 2005 and instructor-led training is back, and tuition is getting higher again. Guess what the most expensive training is these days? Some companies that make open source (free) software, charge a premium for training: $3,000 for a four-day course. Well, they need to make money somehow, but I'm sure this won't last long; a new breed of startups that sells support of the open source tools will balance supply and demand by offering more reasonably priced training.

Who Is Teaching
When I was doing contract training, it worked as follows: I was getting an e-mail with the title of the class, airplane tickets, an overnight package with a training manual, and a CD with code samples. Smaller training providers don't develop their own manuals, but purchase the courseware from third parties. Once I had to deliver a one-day, MQ Series training. The manual was poorly written, but since I was right off a messaging project, I had lots of things to say on the subject. The students were happy and the class was saved. But I have to admit that in some cases, I've also taught technologies of which I have only book knowledge. Some instructors just read the manual aloud. Their version of the manual may include additional comments that you don't see, so it looks as if they know more than you.

Finding Quality Java Training
Most of the large corporations have a list of approved training vendors and courses to choose from, and it seems that there is nothing you can do about it. Wrong. Instead of using training vendors, find a Java-related conference or a seminar. Such seminars always have technical sessions on Java technologies with first-class speakers who are practitioners, and many of them are book authors as well. These seminars usually run training over parallel tracks so you can pick the classes that match your objectives. These events are less expensive than comparable vendor training, and the quality is better (just try to avoid marketing presentations, unless you are really interested in a particular product).

Here's the list of some of the training events to consider for Java developers and architects:

Pick a conference and remind your boss about all those long hours you've spent on the project. You need and deserve quality Java training! In some cases your company can even invite the entire seminar to your town.

Recently I've asked a couple of seasoned Java programmers what the acronyms AJAX, AOP, and JBI mean. They didn't know. How about you? Ask your colleagues the same question and see for yourself. There are plenty of great programmers who just write Java code for their employer day in and day out. Raise your head and look around. The Java community is exciting and vibrant and something is happening all the time. Be a part of it.

More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay. He wrote a thousand blogs (http://yakovfain.com) and several books about software development. Yakov authored and co-authored such books as "Angular 2 Development with TypeScript", "Java 24-Hour Trainer", and "Enterprise Web Development". His Twitter tag is @yfain

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Most Recent Comments
Yakov 10/12/05 10:57:06 AM EDT

I was right! Just now ran into an ad offering a two-day JBoss training for $1000. Now we're talking. Let's see if JBoss will reduce their prices (http://www.jboss.org/services/training/java)

Bernard Dy 09/27/05 09:07:40 AM EDT

Yes, training is important, and the quality of the instructor is a big part of making the class a strong complement to book training. Book training is good, but I agree with your point that most books tend to use oversimplified examples and need to be augmented with experience.

Unfortunately sometimes book training is the only affordable training you can get (fortunately, there are a lot of books available and some of them are good). I can't speak for everyone, but in the companies I've worked for, training was hard to come by. Management in most IT shops is reluctant to pay for it. In some cases, I've had to bite the bullet and pay for it myself. That didn't improve my morale with that company :)

But even taking training isn't enough...one of the other problems I've noticed is that if you don't use it, you begin to forget it. More IT shops need to be open to letting people apply what they've learned in real projects. This would maximize the value of their training costs and potentially keep their systems evolving and improving. Everything doesn't need to be in the latest and greatest language, it all depends, but if a company is going to invest in training, it ought to put that knowledge to work.

Thanks for the article (and for the training you have offered on this site).

Yakov Fain 09/23/05 10:03:52 AM EDT

The backPlan's comment is interesting because it reflects the way of thinking of a vast majority of people. They prefer to pray that things will not get worse and they'll keep their jobs forever. They do not want to irritate their bosses by even asking to send them for training. Sure, I can do it for you. Just send me the name/phone of your boss, and I'll ask him to think about your career and send you for tech training :)

Recently I spoke to a guy from a large corp where employees are entitled for two weeks of free training, but most of them do not use it! He also said that on the conferences, he won't listen to a technical presentation, unless they give hime a T-shirt.

Your fallback plan is keeping yout technical skills in a good shape even if it conflicts with your boss's interests. At the end of the day, it's you and not your boss will have to pay your bills. If your skills are not rusty, you and your boss become a loosly-coupled objects, which is good according to OOP and SOA principles :)

Thanks for the comment, anyway!