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4 top tips to becoming an outstanding Java developer

A Picture of Carlos Neira
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March 18, 2020 | Topic: Software development  
4 top tips to becoming an outstanding Java developer

Java is a programming language that has been around for over two decades. It has a myriad of libraries and utilities that allow it to run on a wide range of operating systems and processors. In addition, there’s a huge community of nearly 8 million developers around the world. This figure makes it possible for companies to easily find developers with a solid 5 to 7 years of experience and who have both theoretical and conceptual Java skills.

However, standing out as a Java developer can be a challenge. As a result, in this article I want to provide four tips to becoming a better Java professional and help you stand-out amongst your peers.

Tip 1: Know and use the “SOLID” principles

There is a lot of debate regarding these basic programming principles. I have heard people criticizing them – considering them ambiguous and confusing, and saying they complicate coding. However, others believe that they are good practices that help developers write better, cleaner, more sustainable, and more scalable code.

The key point is that these principles are not rules, laws or absolute truths. A good developer should know them and use them when they deem it appropriate – particularly when looking to write neat and flexible code, that allows for escalation, and has high cohesion and low coupling.

Tip 2: Focus on the performance of your app

The performance of an app is one of the key issues that developers need to work on to achieve the best possible result. Here are some tips that will help you write a high-performance app:

  • Manage Strings by using StringBuilder or StringBuffer if you need the app to be thread-safe with regards to concurrency.
  • Use primitive types when possible.
  • Avoid types such as BigInteger and BigDecimal, which, despite being highly precise, consume a lot of memory.
  • Verify the logging level before creating strings that will never be shown in the log file.
  • Implement a cache strategy for costly resources such as a connection pool or design patterns, like the singleton.
  • Review Java Virtual Machine (JVM) configurations, such as the configuration of the number of cores.
  • Tune the assigned memory in the container, although this would be a measure of last resort if the app has performance problems.
  • Learn to use profiles, which help us count the number of resources consumed during the running of our classes to find bottlenecks.

Tip 3: Get used to Java Development Kit (JDK) updates

Since the ninth version of Java, which was launched in September 2017, a new philosophy has been adopted with regards to version releases. Firstly, every six months a new version is released. Every year and a half, Oracle releases a new version of LTS (long-term support) with paid support for three years. That is why it is highly likely that companies may choose to migrate to openJDK, which has been equated with Java’s JDK since version 11.

Theoretically, openJDK also releases versions every six months. However, it is supported by the openJDK community for the same period of time (six months). It has no long-term support, and the most viable option is to change versions every six months. This is an issue for many companies because constantly switching versions can cause problems and instability.

That is the reason why most companies still use Java 8 despite the fact that more up-to-date versions are available. This poses a challenge for developers because it is necessary for them to stay up-to-date with regards to new versions and their characteristics. They need to be able to migrate from version to version, getting support for six months if we are working with openJDK, or, in the case of JDK, migrating to version 11, which has 3-year support. In either case, it is important to emphasize good unit test coverage in our code to make sure everything works correctly after a version migration.

Tip 4: Understand the complex world of microservices

Microservices emerged as a solution to the problems that monoliths have. Microservices have faster and more independent development, more horizontal scalability, agile deployments and high availability. As a consequence, most companies have already started migrating their monoliths and are adopting architectures for microservices development.

While there are many cases of successful migrations, some organizations have struggled. Many of these challenges occurred, primarily, because there was no need to migrate the monolith. In some cases companies would have had better results had they resorted to a more complex architecture more aligned to their needs. In other occasions, the equipment and tools available for the implementation were not ideal because they hadn’t defined reference, implementation and deployment models.

That is why developers need to understand the whole ecosystem of an architecture for microservices development. It is worth mentioning that using microservices is not just about making functionalities and databases independent in smaller services that communicate with APIs. For developers to use this architecture effectively, we need to bear the following in mind:

  • Understand the characteristics of your organization and choose the appropriate tools to guarantee data consistency in services that are dependent on each other.
  • Implement error monitoring to prevent cascading propagation.
  • Use reactive patterns to generate states only when necessary.
  • Guarantee the integrity of a transaction throughout an operation.

It is important to note that this is just a high-level overview of some of the factors that will determine the success of microservice applications. There are many other circumstances and factors that developers will need to consider depending on their specific situation.

A final thought

I have highlighted four key tips that will help you on your journey to becoming an advanced developer. However, these key tips should be accompanied by other activities, such as:

  • Reading books about programming (such as the famous Clean Code).
  • Revising code, as this will help you learn from other developers.
    Playing with algorithms and data structures, a skill that will make you stand out from the crowd.
  • Improving your Java 8 and Spring Boot skills. These are two of the most important skills that Java developers should master nowadays.
  • Looking for new challenges that will push you to program and feel the satisfaction of finding innovative solutions.

Last but not least, never stop learning. Becoming a better developer requires a lot of work, continuous training, and persistence. Good luck!

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