First of all, I wish you a very happy new year, guys. It’s that time of year when we start afresh, make plans, set goals, and make resolutions for the new year.
Being a Java developer and the author of a Java blog, I frequently receive requests from Java programmers from all over the world asking how they can improve themselves.
In the past, I have shared my 10 tips to become a better programmer, and every tip in that article still holds true, but given that it’s a new year, I have decided to jot down new resolutions for Java programmers to improve themselves, enhance their knowledge of Java programming, and increase their value for future career growth.
So without wasting any more time, let’s see my nine ideas for Java programmers in the new year, 2016. You can take inspiration from these ideas to create your own goals and resolutions.
Learn Java Performance Tuning
In the last a couple of years, I have taken more than 50 interviews for senior Java developers, and one skill that I clearly see lacking is knowledge and understanding about JVM internals, GC behavior, and Java performance tuning.
As your Java experience grows and you become a senior Java developer with more than 5-6 years of experience, it’s expected from you to know both the big picture and the small details about Java’s fundamentals.
If you can’t profile an application or cannot figure out why it’s slow or how to make it fast, then you should read a good book on JVM internals and performance tuning, e.g Scott Oaks’ best seller Java Performance the Definitive Guide.
I have been reading it for years and still refer it whenever I get time. My goal is to read it again this year.
If you prefer online courses over books, then I suggest you take a look at Understanding the Java Virtual Machine series of courses on Pluarlsight, which explains memory management, class loading, Security, and Reflection.
Everyday Coding for 2 hours
Another thing I noticed last year is that as your experience grows, you spend your time on coordination, replying to emails, being a catalyst, troubleshooting, mentoring, and generally being a project manager kind of person.
What you left behind is coding, which is the single most important skill for a programmer.
If you feel that you are not doing enough coding, then make a resolution to code every day. At least, write something, be it on your project, an open source framework, a library, or a utility.
Since starting is the most difficult thing, I suggest that any time you feel resistance, start reading and refactoring code for fun. You will enjoy that and, in the process, you will also write code.
You can also solve problems given in Cracking the Coding Interview, 150 Programming Questions. This will not only make sure you’re ready for an interview, but also improve your knowledge of data structures, algorithms, and programming logic.
Profile Your Java application Once a Month
This resolution is attached with the first resolution about reading a good book on JVM internals and performance tuning. Just reading the book will not be enough. You have to apply that knowledge in your live project.
I suggest you profile your Java application, at least once a month and spend a good amount of time understanding and analyzing the results.
You can also take a heap dump of your Java process or, if you had a recent crash, then take that heap dump and find out which object is taking most of your memory. Is there a memory leak in your Java application?
What is the cause? What will happen if another 100K new clients access your application? If you can answer all these questions comfortably, then you are in good shape. If you need some guidance on solving memory and CPU issues, I suggest you take a look at Understanding and Solving Java Memory Problems by Richard Warburton.
Participate in Coding Challenges
This goal is, again, somewhat related to our second resolution — write code every day for 2 hours. Let’s face it, sometimes, you don’t have enough chances in your live project to code.
If you are starving for challenging code, then there is nothing better than participating in programming and coding challenge.
There are many websites on the internet that host programming challenges and give you the opportunity to test your skills, but TopCoder is simply the best.
If you are looking for some tough programming challenges, then you can also check out my list of good websites to practice coding.
Learn Network Programming in Java
One more thing I have learned from interviewing people is that Java developers need to improve their socket programming and networking fundamentals.
I have asked many questions from my list of Java networking programming questions, but most developers fail to answer most of them.
Some of them even struggle to outline the key differences between TCP and UDP, which I thought was too basic to ask any Java developer of 2-5 years of experience.
If you feel that you have not gotten enough opportunity to learn socket programming in Java or that you don’t need to because you are Java web developer working with JSP, Servlet, and JSF, then I suggest you read at least one good book on Java networking, NIO, and socket programming.
One book I highly recommend is TCP/IP Sockets in Java, Second Edition, Practical Guide for Programmers. It’s easy to read, interesting, and a good way to learn the fundamentals of socket programming.
The year of 2017 saw a couple of big releases, and one of them was JDK 9. I have yet to start with JDK 9, but this is the first thing I am going to look into in 2018. If you want to learn new features of Java 9, e.g. Jigsaw, Reactive Streams, API enhancements, etc., then the Java 9 MasterClass is a good course to start with.
Another big release for the Java world in 2017 was Spring Framework 5.0. With lots of exciting features, e.g. reactive programming model and adoption of Java 8 and 9, Spring 5.0 adoption is going to speed up in 2018, and that’s why every Java developer should learn it. If you need some help, Spring 5.0: Beginner to Guru is a good course to start with.
Spring Security 5.0
Another interesting release of 2017, which I am going to learn in 2018, is Spring Security 5.0. Spring Security 5.0 was a major release, and they rewrote a couple of modules and fixed several hundred bugs. The most interesting part is the OAuth 2.0 module. Unfortunately, there are not many resources to learn Spring Security 5.0 at the moment, but thankfully, Eugen has updated his Learn Spring Security to cover version 5.0 and also added a new module on OAuth 2.0.
If you want to become a better developer in 2018, then you should work on your unit testing skills. And not just unit testing, but automated testing in general. This also includes integration testing. You can learn JUnit 5 and other advance unit testing libraries like Mockito, PowerMock, Cucumber, and Robot to take your unit testing skill to next level. Mockito is really powerful and allows you to write a unit test for complex classes by mocking dependencies and just focusing on the objects under test. If you a beginner in unit testing and want to learn it in 2018, then the JUnit and Mockito Crash Coursefrom Udemy is a good starting point.
That’s my advice! If you are a Java programmer with a couple of years of experience, you can also take inspiration from this list to set your goal. Some other things you can add to this list are learning Android, Docker, and Spark, as those are essential for any Java programmers.
I have purposefully kept this simple and achievable because I personally believe that small successes lead to big successes. Setting small goals and achieving them is better than setting big, impractical goals and failing before kick-off.
So what are you waiting for? Write down your resolutions for the new year and share them with us. At the end of the year, you can come back here and tell us about how much you achieved.