Saturday, November 22, 2008

Recession Proof Java Programmers

For the purpose of being recession proof, Java programmers should diversify what they spend their time learning. Specifically, Java programmers should add business topics to their learning diet.

My Learning Diet Backstory

Before starting my Crosby MBA Program two and half years ago, I was an avid Java programmer with an intense appetite for technology knowledge. I spent a lot of time reading Java newsletters and articles from sites such as the (even wrote a couple articles),, and In addition, I earned four Sun Java Certifications and attended the JavaOne technology conference from 2004 to 2006. I focused on learning about new frameworks (e.g., Apache projects), APIs, and methodologies (e.g., Agile, XP). I was so engrossed in the learning things to help me be a better programmer that I could not have told you whether the company I worked for was going to achieve long-term profitability or how much my programmer team contributed to its profits. On the other hand, recession proof programmers have a pulse on both technology and business.

Recession Proof Learning for Java Programmers

Recession proof learning includes a mix of technology and business such that an understanding of industry trends and profitability can be gained. If you are a technology-only learner like I was before, then I recommend easing yourself into business with the subsequent action items.
  1. Start with TechCrunch - Subscribing to TechCrunch's e-mail should be an easy thing for any Java programmer to do since it is solely concerned with business news within technology industries. Particularly, TechCrunch generates a steady stream of comprehensive news and reviews from a broad range of tech industries. I recommend skimming TechCrunch's daily e-mail to read only what is of interest. As time passes, you can begin to build a sense of which tech industries are hot, cold, and saturated (i.e., highly competitive).
  2. Listen to WSJ Podcasts - The Wall Street Journal What's News and Tech News Briefing are three to six minute podcasts that can expose you to industry news and trends that you would not be exposed to otherwise. For example, you can learn which companies and industries are failing due to the recession and, thus, plan a job change to a different industry before your company fails.
  3. Review the most profitable industries - I advocate reading Fortune 500's most profitable industries on an annual basis. The 2008 list of most profitable industries (from end of year 2007 data) was lead by Network and Other Communications Equipment, Mining/ Crude-Oil Production, and Pharmaceuticals. Working in an industry that is among the most profitable is an excellent strategy for increasing job security. Important questions to ask yourself are: what industry is my company competing in? Is the industry trending towards an increase or decrease in profitability? Is the industry growing such that there is room for new companies to make a profit without incurring tough competition from established companies?
Benefits of Business Learning

Benefits I have experienced from following business news and trends include the following.
  1. Business news stimulates ideas - A great way to get your creative and entrepreneurial juices flowing is to hear about what other entrepreneurs are doing, why some are successful, and why others fail.
  2. Visualize your career path - Having a pulse on your industry and other industries can help you plan career moves. In the short-term, it can give you a better understanding what is affecting the profitability of your current employer.
  3. Identify new opportunities - Subscribing to industry news and trends can put you in position to pounce on new opportunities. For example, in summer 2007, Facebook released the Facebook Platform allowing developers to build applications inside Facebook. Programmers that acted quickly experienced success while slow movers got lost in the shuffle. The same thing is now happening with mobile platforms. For example, developers can earn money developing applications for the iPhone that are sold at Apple's iPhone App Store or for Google's Android platform in the Android Marketplace. Success in these evolving markets requires continual monitoring so you can understand their market size and potential.
In sum, diversifying your knowledge can reduce your risk of unemployment and, thus, improve your chances of being a recession proof Java programmer.

How do you get your technology and business news? Which topics do you follow?


  1. I think this ain't apply only for Java programmers but for programmers of all platforms.

  2. as human beings we tend to self-actualization, i.e., we are naturally interested in expanding our horizon - and that may include learning about business concepts and trends. or it may mean making music or painting.

    however, learning about business trends doesn't make us better java programmers. i assume that employers in times of recession will be particularly interested in retaining and hiring java programmers with good java programming skills - irrespective of how good they are in other areas such as business management.

    studying business news at the expense of java development skills will make you something other than a java programmer - not a better java programmer.

    but you're right: it may allow you to spot profitable industries. but doing a quick scan of industry profitability before looking for a new job will achieve the same goal with much less effort.


  3. Hi Robert,

    Great advice! Any skill diversification helps improve your employability and while I agree with infyynxx that it is advice that isn't exclusive to Java programmers, it's the kind of advice that those of us who'd rather set up camp in our cubicle all day with Eclipse and ignore the outside world need reminding of every once in awhile.

    Pete Johnson
    Hewlett-Packard Company
    Marketing and Internet Platform Services IT
    Portals and Applications Chief Architect
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