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Best Approaches for J2EE Certification? 46

facetiousprogrammer writes "I have been working for several years at the same company. As part of the 2007 goal, my team is required to get the Brainbench J2EE certification. We have a good knowledge of the Java programming language itself but very little exposure to J2EE. Other teams in the company are using J2EE daily — hence the push for certification. What would be the best approach to be successful in getting the J2EE certification knowing that we won't work or get formal training on J2EE? Is it a desperate cause?"
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Best Approaches for J2EE Certification?

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  • by theangryfool ( 1049608 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @11:50PM (#17551594)
    While I'm a fan of brainbench, I have to say that getting certified is of dubious value. We've been interviewing for a while and there is almost zero correlation between school, certification, and ability. If anything, there is almost a negative correlation between certification and ability. It's as if people who don't know what they are doing get a certification to offset that minor problem.
    • I disagree. From personal experience, I've found that job applicants who are Sun Certified Java Programmers at least know Java syntax and SDK libraries. For those without the certification, you just have to hope they didn't get hired by bullshiting their way through the technical questions.

      Illustrative annecdote:

      Recently I had to work with a very bright Comp Sci graduate of a prestigious Ivy League school. He did well in the interview and professed to know Ruby, Lisp and Perl in addition to Java (which had been "coding since version 1.1"). He knew enough about OOP and patterns to sound like a Java expert and so we hired him. For his first project (a web application) he wrote the following bit of code:

      servletContext.setAttribute("SomeAttribute", "TRUE");
      When I asked him why he had used a String constant for true, he patiently explained that Java didn't have object versions of its primitives(!).

      I've seen this one from multiple un-certified Java programmers: what if getInvoiceDate() returns null?

      Date date = getInvoiceDate();
      String output = ""+amt;
      This is fine as long as your functional spec allows "null" as a valid value for output. Ours didn't. Oops!

      On large projects you don't have time to make every code review an impromptu "Java basics" tutorial. Knowing your team members have a Java Certification that guarantees they're not spending hours learning how to use (or re-implementing!) Integer, StringBuffer and HashMap. This can add a comfort level that makes a big difference in terms of team productivity.
      • As someone with SCJP and SCWCD certs, I agree :). Many times at work I've used the knowledge gained from studying for the certifications. I know some people can pick up a technical book and read it from cover to cover just for the knowledge it contains, but unfortunately I am not one of them. I need something like the certification examinations to force me to study, otherwise I just end up using the books as on-demand references for "how should I do this particular thing" which usually leaves gaping whol
        • by Retric ( 704075 )
          My guess is amt was defined as an Integer vs int so amt could have a Null value. Thus output might = "null" which is probably not intended.

          PS: "" + amt is also vary slow
          • That's reminds me of another fun story. A Comp Sci degreed co-worker had written the following code inside the critical path of a rather performance-sensitive application:

            private void String buildMessage(List<String> list) {
            String msg = "";
            for(String item : list) {
            msg += item;
            return msg;

            When I tried to explain that his code was creating list.size() StringBuffers (in Java 1.4.2), he assured me that some old s

            • Heh, yeah, though I prefer to use DJ Java Decompiler (good old free 3.6.6 version before they added all the spywarelike crap)

              private String buildMessage(List list)
              String msg = "";
              for(Iterator iterator = list.iterator(); iterator.hasNext();)
              String item = (String);
              msg = (new StringBuilder(String
        • Yes, it was a typo. It should read:

          Date date = getInvoiceDate();
          String output = ""+date;
      • It sounds like the problem lies in your interviewing process and particularly your bullshit detector. A real expert can sniff out faux "experts" with little effort. In your defense, it sounds like you may not have personally interviewed this guy. If you did, work on your interview questions. Ask candidates things that can only be learned through experience. Most people will bullshit at great length on high-level concepts, impressing management, but will fall apart at the smallest test of real-world cod
        • Agreed - I've learned through these last few experiences to do my own mini-tech interview for appplicants that claim to know Java. Instead of having them write code, I show them some particularly ugly Java code (taken from real examples I've encountered) and ask them how they would refactor it and what bugs they can find. Works just about as well, especially since most of our projects involve maintanence, not new applications.

      • And this is what they're getting with degreed hirees? lol.
      • Those who can't teach themselves get a Comp Sci BS

        Tell me about it - I am so tired of the bias against the self educated. I read all of "Open Heart Surgery for Dummies" and the hospital still keeps telling me to get out of the OR.

    • If anything, there is almost a negative correlation between certification and ability. It's as if people who don't know what they are doing get a certification to offset that minor problem.

      Surely that would depend on what certification you are talking about? If someone gets a high score in, for example, the Sun Certified Java Programmer exam, then you at least know that they are familiar with many of the intricacies of the Java language, and a SCJD qualification means that they have written a networked
      • When the MCSE tests started getting popular in late 98, early 99 - I worked at an ISP and started getting all kinds of idiots that said after our initial thank you for calling..., and I quote(yes, MANY said this): "I'm an MCSE, don't treat me like a baby/idiot, I know what I'm doing. I can connect, but I cant get websites." Anyone with a twig of knowledge about networking should immediately think DNS settings... Well, here's how we handled these bright people:

        "Go to your connectoid DNS settings and read the
    • I wholeheartedly agree. If I get a CV (resume) in that has the certifications at the top above the experience, it goes in the bin. If they're at the end, then I'll carry on reading. It's all about emphasis. Any candidate that emphasises their certification is always hiding something about their ability in my experience. This isn't just a knee-jerk reaction either, it's definitely a trend I've gradually noticed over the years.

    • I have most of the Sun Java J2EE developer stack (just missing web services) and I'll be the first to admit that I'm a mid-level J2EE developer. The cert just says you understand the concepts, but in the real world you'll need to deal with numerous third-party libraries and their interactions, plus volumes of legacy code written by people who DIDN't understand the concepts. And that's before you get into how the party line is sometimes crap -- nobody voluntarily uses EJB but that's all the "business compo
  • The book that helped make it clear to me (in spite of the at-first-simplistic style) is Head First Servlets and JSP by Basham, Sierra and Bates. The book makes a specific point of highlighting what will (and won't) be on the J2EE certification.

    TBH, you either love or hate the Head First books.

  • Is it a desperate cause?

  • ... Brainbench was free. I don't know what the deal with it is at all now, but I got a ton certifications from them in things I barely knew anything about. Even put them on the resume for the first job I got in college. Good times.

    If it's still that way, I would say you could -- at worst -- pick up a book and ace the thing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by VGPowerlord ( 621254 )
      You mean, you didn't get the nasty email from they saying that all your certifications were null and void back in... 2001, I think it was?

      I did.
  • We have a good knowledge of the Java programming language itself but very little exposure to J2EE. Other teams in the company are using J2EE daily -- hence the push for certification. What would be the best approach to be successful in getting the J2EE certification knowing that we won't work or get formal training on J2EE? Is it a desperate cause?"

    Er, get a new job? A company that cares about certification, especially in a technology that you're not even using, doesn't sound like a good one to work for.

    • by dubl-u ( 51156 ) *
      Er, get a new job? A company that cares about certification, especially in a technology that you're not even using, doesn't sound like a good one to work for. When I see it on a resume, my first thought isn't "Wow, here's an expert!"; it's "Why did this person need to get certification?"

      Amen. When I'm screening resumes, having certifications, especially a bunch of them, is a warning sign. It doesn't guarantee a trip to the trash can, but as with LauraW, it makes me suspicious. I'm hiring people to get thing
    • You and me and a lot of people know that a vendor certification means only that you passed a set of tests. Heck, some CompSci graduates know nothing about anything.

      The truth is, sometimes, big customers require that you employer has a certain number of certified staff members before signing up for a contract/product. What are you gonna do, quit when they tell you "Hey Joe, can you pass some tests so we can get some more contracts?

      But your employer should provide you with everything you need to get ce
      • But your employer should provide you with everything you need to get certified: books, time, good courses if required.


        If your company is not willing to give your team either time or training towards gaining J2EE proficiency, but have set that as a goal you must achieve in 2007, that's a problem. They're either clueless, or expecting you to fail so they can get rid of you all. I'm leaning towards the latter. Maybe those of you that do manage to pass certification by studying on evenings and weekends
    • Er, get a new job? A company that cares about certification, especially in a technology that you're not even using, doesn't sound like a good one to work for.

      It depends. If they do a lot of work that touches on what the other developers at the company (who, apparently, do use a lot of J2EE) do, it might well make sense to get those developers more familiar with the basic architecture and terms that the others are using.

      Potentially, it could bring more opportunities for the teams to collaborate, o
      • A better answer is to accept certification for what it is, and not try to make more or less of it than that. It's a reasonably good assurance that the person has been exposed to the basics of what the cert is supposed to cover and has some knowledge of the tools or technologies involved.

        This is uaually true but not always. If you are interviewing for position X, then have a bunch of questions that apply to position X. Use those as the basis to make your desision for hiring someone. I interviwed at a place,
      • by LauraW ( 662560 )

        It's not the sign of an expert programmer (something I'd say is very hard to discern from a resume or even an interview period) and it's not the sign of a bozo with no useful experience or skills, either. I've worked with my fair share of people who were, generally, smart programmers but who also spent weeks reinventing the wheel....

        Good point. At work, I'm in the middle of writing a document on how to write Java code in our environment, because I got tired of seeing people reinvent the wheel when I re

  • Personally, if you claim to have a comp sci degree, then you should have at least moderate to expert knowledge of at least one major, industry-used programming language when you graduate. It should be enough to get you through the door at some company. Then, after you get your feet wet, make the case that it would be beneficial to the company to send you to Sun J2EE training where you can get the expensive certs for free.

    I see these Sun certs as a way of keeping up to date on the most recent technology be
  • The shop I work at used to recruit techs from the local vocational "school". You've seen the sort advertising on your local commercials. It was a disaster. The best {and worst} case was some poor shlub who not only graduated their "Computer Repair Specialist" training, but had somehow managed to score a CompTia A+ certification the school also offered. I'd considered getting A+'d in the past until he came in to work his first day. As service manager, I need to find out what they know pretty quick, and so I
  • If a goal for 2007 is for the all the team to get brainbench certification, then it might be a good idea. Some team work and co-ordination is involved. You all could organise for regular training sessions supplemented by practical examples. Your organisation and the persons in your team can't lose by that. end
  • Get the name right.

    It is called Java Enterprise Edition now!
    Java EE for short.

    • Considering the certification is for J2EE 1.3.1, you know the one with the awful EJB 2.0 spec, J2EE is the right term. On the other hand, this certification would only be useful for maintaining legacy systems.
  • Since you say you have no experience, I would recommend two parts: First, go to my Free Java Lectures website: (no ads or any other crap) [] And use them to learn J2EE fast (the later lectures are most of J2EE) Then, build yourself at least one complex application that includes a webapp, JDBC using a DataSource and possibly even Stateless Session beans (sorry no lecture from me on EJB) The act of doing a project will fix in your mind what you have learned f
    • I've been interviewing Java EE experts for Java EE architect roles lately, and I'm getting these self-styled Java EE "experts" who can't even tell me what an EJB is.

      I don't want to get into a holy war about whether or not people like EJB, but if you are a Java EE expert, then you better be able to at least tell me what one is, the different types, etc. If you don't like em, tell me why you don't like 'em... that's fine. But you better know what one is.
      • I'll take that bait. I had tried to write up a lecture for EJBs but they were so goofy--especially the original version--that I abandoned trying to teach them. You can't do a class on EJBs unless you do all of them and CMP beans were a mess. EJBs: Stateless session beans (useful in SOA, and for that I recommend them highly). Stateful session beans (never used them, can't imagine needing them. Smacks of poor design.) CMP--began to use these once at HP but had to abandon them. Was stuck on an WebLogic 5.1 a
        • Like I said, you don't have to like them. But you'd better know what they are if you are calling yourself a Java EE expert. Last I checked, EJB is a pretty big part of the Java EE spec.

          The reason I responded to you to begin with was my amusement at a "J2EE course" that didn't include anything on EJBs. The amusement comes from people who wrote a few JSPs and since JSP is part of Java EE, they are suddenly experts on Java EE.
          • I don't know if you have ever tried to create a course that is taught in a university setting, but it takes a tremendous amount of work. Each of those lectures has at least 60 hours of work in the planning, creation and tweaking phases. As you well know, the EJB standard is huge. I cannot do a lecture that is half assed, okay? I just have not gotten around to completing the one on EJBs. I have the session beans part long done but the CMP part of the spec is so detailed, I just have not had time to finish
            • Despite the flaw of lacking a lecture on EJBs, the usage of that Free Java Lectures sight is through the roof. In January 2007 alone, here are the stats: Total hits this month: 748 Total hits yesterday: 71 Total hits today: 97 More importantly, people are not just hitting and running. They are doing something very rare on the web: staying for long times: 97 hits today, some of the longer visitors. 8 hours 41 mins 0 secs Poland 8 mins 38 secs Tennessee 15 mins 4 secs Canada 3 hours 23 mins 3 secs Ist
    • Folks, Popularity has its price. Google has temporarily shut down my "Free Java Lectures" website due to popularity. Should be fixed in a few days. By the way, that website is now listed as having a google page ranking of 6/10. I guess that means free stuff is always valued. Anybody wants the content while the page is shut down, just email me and I will send you a zip of all the content on the site. --Tom
  • When Brainbench started it's business I got "spam" from them to register me and let em get certificated. I assume they mined e.g. Slashdot for email addresses. For the registration you could do one free certification. So I did a C++ certification just for fun. That must have been in the time around 1998/1999, but I'm not sure.

    the certification consisted off about 30 multiple choice questions. At least 10 questions where either:

    a) so stupid you did not understand what the matter of the question was
    b) misslea
    • I don't know about the Brainbench tests, but I know the Java certification tests from Sun (I did SCJP 5.0 last year, currently, I'm preparing for SCWCD, and I also also read preparation books for SCBCD).

      Overall, I have a relatively good impression about these tests. I would say that there are hardly any questions that are so stupid that you cannot understand what the matter of the question is. But misleading questions are definitely quite frequent. I think typically when you do mock exams in an early stage

There's no such thing as a free lunch. -- Milton Friendman