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Choosing a path, Oracle certifications?

 
Sergi Oca
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Hello everyone,

I'm new here and I need some guidance, I would really appreciate if someone could give me their 2 cents on this,

I'm from Spain and degrees are different here than in the US and different in every european country, basically I'm about to finish a 2-3 year education that grants you title of technician in informatic systems and networks. It's too wide and doesn't really focus on a specific subject so I didn't really learn anything in a deep level. I've learned a little bit about LANs, HTML and CSS,hardware repair, etc.

My idea is to follow up with the high degree that comes after on "web applications" but I have some free time now. I've been looking at some of those Oracle certifications and I'm wondering if I should even try, the thing is that I'm a bit discouraged, first off because of the wide arrange of options and because I have no idea which path I should choose. The one certification that got my attention is the "Java Foundations (novice-level exam) 1Z0-811". My level of Java or any other language is completelly 0, so I'm confused as if I should even try to study this...

And to finish, is programming and learning language something a creative person could enjoy? Is it to late to start learning this today? Should I even start when I'm aleady 29 years old? Thank you all for any answer.
 
Stevens Miller
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Sergi Oca wrote:I've been looking at some of those Oracle certifications and I'm wondering if I should even try...

Welcome to the Ranch Sergi.

This question comes up a lot here and you will get as many different answers to it as you can think of. I believe most of them fit into one of these forms:

1. Yes, certifications prove you know something.
2. Yes, no one will care, but you will learn a lot of good stuff by studying for the tests.
3. No, no one will care and there are much better ways to learn a lot of good stuff.

My answer, which is utterly unhelpful, is this:

4. It depends. If what you want to do requires understanding what's on the tests, studying for them might help. If not, studying for them might waste your time and bore you enough that you decide not to pursue programming at all.

Professionally, employers are just as mixed as the answers. Raytheon, for example, flatly states that they are not interested in any certifications applicants for programming jobs have. Some job offerings, on the other hand, say that certain certifications are a plus (then again, some of those are written by the same non-technical Human Resources departments that famously do things like post openings requiring five years of experience in some new product that only came out a year ago but, hey, if it gets you in the door...).

In my own case, when I read a resume, I utterly do not care about schooling, either purely academic or professional. I care about experience. What have you done with the programming language you will be using if you work for me? Show me some of you best code. If I think it reflects competence and I can understand it, that will do more to convince me you are the right guy than any number of tests you've passed.

As kind of an example, I used to work with a programmer who was unsurpassed in his ability to create tight, fast, bug-free code. But no one else could understand it. If most programmers had to write a snippet to, say, take the average of some numbers, decent code might look like this:



My colleague's version would probably have looked more like this:

I'm not really doing the person I'm thinking of full justice, as that second version is probably not as efficient as the first, and he really did write fast, compact programs. But, what I am trying to emphasize is that his code was incomprehensible to the rest of us. In my opinion, that matters a great deal and, though I may be mistaken, I don't think certification exams do much to test for things like that.

In the end, if two programmers walk into my office, and the first says, "Let me show you this list of all the certification exams I have passed," while the second says, "Let me show you this program I wrote," I will talk to the second programmer first.

...is programming and learning language something a creative person could enjoy?


Yes. "Could," however, is a very lenient standard. I find programming the greatest creative outlet in my life, and I love it for that reason. But I get to pick what I do, as I am self-employed. When I programmed for banks on Wall Street in New York, I learned something I did not expect to learn, which was that counting other people's money gets old very fast. How boring did programming become for me? Well, I went to law school to get out of the programming business, does that tell you?

However, I am back in the programming business and (mostly) loving it. (I am coping right now with a dastardly multi-threaded coding problem that only causes a detectable error after my program has been running for several hours, so, no, I don't love every second of this work.)

Give it a try. Java is a great language for a newcomer to learn first, and the Ranch is a great place for a newcomer (and an old hand) to get help and support when you need it.

Good luck!
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Stevens Miller wrote:. . . . But no one else could understand it. . . .
That would only work in C, I should think. It is x ^= x; surely?
. . . Good luck!
Agree, and welcome to the Ranch
 
Sergi Oca
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Thank you both,

I was looking more at the certifications as an entry point for them to point me at which book should I get to start. I took the book for the OCA Java SE 8 for the 1Z0-808 exam as i read it covers everything on the level I wanted to do.
 
Stevens Miller
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It is x ^= x; surely?

Ah, yes.
 
Stevens Miller
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Sergi Oca wrote:I was looking more at the certifications as an entry point for them to point me at which book should I get to start.

That's another question we get here a lot, "Which books should I start with?"

I definitly do not like the exam-oriented books, because their success in the marketplace relies on people telling each other they passed the exam after reading the book. Nothing wrong with that, if passing the exam is your goal. But if you want to learn how to be a good Java programmer, I think the exam books focus too much on the exam and not enough on general topics.

I started with Cadenhead's "Teach yourself Java in 24 hours," and I used to recommend it, but I don't anymore. You'll write programs that run, but I think it emphasizes speed over practical learning.

I got a lot out of "Head First Java," once I got over its loony format (all the Head First books use the same crazy style, but I've come to like it). Alas, it is now over ten years old and, much as I hate to say it, I think it has crossed the line into obsolescence. Wish they'd put out a third edition. I'd recommend it instantly.

I couldn't get through a week without "Core Java," but it's thick and would be daunting for a beginner. You will probably end up wanting to have it (both volumes), but it's not what I'd recommend for a beginner to start with.

Now, they're a bit rambly and can feel slow, but the online tutorials from Oracle are frequently updated to be current, and have the distinct advantage of not costing anything. Certainly worth a try.

If you are going to use an IDE (a controversial topic for beginners, but I recommend moving to one as soon as you can), consider the books by Joel Murach. There are a couple devoted to beginning Java with IDEs (one for Eclipse, and one for my choice, NetBeans). Those are pretty good and you can use the "Look Inside" feature at amazon.com to see if they might appeal to you.

Keep us posted on your progress.
 
Dor Burd
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Maybe I can help - I sat the Java Foundations exam a couple of months ago and am currently prepping for the OCA.

80% of the Java Foundations topics seem to be the same as on the OCA. Where they do overlap, the OCA is a bit more in depth, a bit more fiddly - the Foundations exam had quite a lot of theoretical questions about concepts rather than code, along with some pointless theory about java itself (such as knowing what the characteristics of Java are). The extra bits on the OCA have been Interfaces and Abstract classes, and there's been much more about Polymorphism and access modifiers.

From my personal perspective, doing the Foundations exam was really helpful for several reasons.

1) I knew no code. I have an A level (the British exam we sat at 18) in Computing as well as one in Maths, so I studied TurboPascal but I remember very little. It was a long time ago. I honestly didn't know if I was going to be able to learn to code or pass an exam in it because I'm now *ancient* (okay, 35) and I went to Art School. The Foundations exam felt like a low risk introduction to these things. If I failed it, I'd be wasting something like 80 euro instead of the 200-odd on the OCA.

2) It gave me a really solid base to learn from. What I'm finding with the mock exam questions is that they are evil and fiddly on the OCA in a way they're weren't on the Foundations. Because I have a pretty strong understanding of the basic concepts, I find I spot places where problems might be in code. The OCA feels much less overwhelming because of that.

3)On a purely personal level, I'm going to feel much less nervous about the OCA exam as I know where the test centre is, what to expect etc. I think either exam is easy to fail, however much you know, so that's really important - I don't want to get brain-melt from the terror. The Foundations was a low cost/risk way for me to assess myself and it has been a really good place to start for *me* to move up to the OCA.

Looking at it from the other end, I wouldn't say a Java Foundations qualification is very impressive. It's more like having a GCSE (the exams sat at 16) than something which leaves you workplace ready. I'm not sure that the OCA will leave me workplace ready (unless it's as a debugger) either, but I feel like somebody a company could invest in and teach. My view is that for somebody with 0 experience, it's a great introduction to the OCA, but there's not much point in doing it unless you want to follow through with the other qualifications. As others have said, a portfolio of programs is better than a sheet of paper.

As you have some knowledge of HTML and CSS, maybe JavaScript? I've dipped in and out of FreeCodeCamp's course, and I know there are others out there. Would something like that suit you better?




 
Sergi Oca
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Hi Dor,

I choose that exam for the exact same reasons, it's a low risk introduction as it has the lowest price and you are studying anyway the same materials you would use for the OCA one as I understand.

I choose Java because it will appear on my higher education course next year and I want to know a bit of it ahead, but yea I was wondering if javaScript would be better for me but I guess at some point not knowing much at all you have to settle for one and start there.

Can I ask you what did you use to prepare for the exam?
 
Mel Reams
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Sergi Oca wrote: is programming and learning language something a creative person could enjoy?


Absolutely! It just so happens I wrote a blog post about that a little while ago called Programming is actually a creative field.  I'm pretty wordy so I'll summarize it quickly here: programming is building stuff, which is definitely creative. It's a bit more like building with lego blocks than it is like painting, but that doesn't mean it's not creative. It takes a lot of creative problem solving too. Even in the most boring looking inventory tracker (for example), you will have to find creative ways to add new features or fix bugs without breaking things and while leaving yourself room to change it when you get asked to add another feature.

As for certifications, I'm personally pretty skeptical about them - of the two people I know who have java certifications, one is great and the other is.... really not. But what I think doesn't matter, what matters is what employers in your area think. I recommend looking at job postings and see if any local companies even mention certifications. It won't hurt you to have a certification and if having one would make you feel more confident in interviews that's not a bad reason to get one, but if you're good at getting things done on your own building projects you can show employers could be just as helpful.
 
Dor Burd
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Sergi - I've been able to it as an online course over here. Our main textbook was Java For Dummies, which isn't bad. I'm not a fan of the "For Dummies" books in general (I just don't like the style), but it's fairly accessible and happens to cover much of what's in the exam and then some. We also had access to some Skillsoft content which was mixed - there were slideshows which were *terrible*, difficult to follow, didn't go into things in depth, and at times it felt like somebody had just taken words and strung them together at random. There were also some videos which weren't bad, generally very clear but also very short, 2-3 minutes typically, and there'd often be repeat content between them, but they were good as introductions to a particular topic or aspect of a topic but you'd need.

We also got pointed at YouTube occasionally and I liked Cave Of Programming there. The guy is English so he speaks slowly and clearly and it's very easy to follow what he's doing. (I've just looked him up and he's also got a website I'm going to be poking around later: https://www.caveofprogramming.com/).

The most valuable part of my course was the tutor set assignments. You can read the books and watch the videos, but you really need to code (and code in a text editor, compiling and running from the command line rather than using an IDE) to understand. There aren't a lot of resources for the Foundations test - I'm not even sure there's an mock exam yet, our tutor wrote some for us, so I did end up using some of the OCA revision material. For you, this might cause problems because as I said, it's an easy exam to fail. There's lots of "What is the output of this code" type questions, so you need to be able to spot if it won't compile even before you work out what it does.

I don't think there's a single source to go to for this exam but I suspect that most free online courses will break the back of it (Udacity has one, but I don't know anything about it), so I'd say start there, or somewhere like there, and see how you get on with it. Google, JavaRanch, and StackOverflow are your friends.

I'll also mention it took me about 14 weeks from start to passing the exam. 2 weeks of that was pure revision and getting exam ready, then a week of last minute prep for the exam itself. I don't know if you're intending to get this done before the start of the academic year in September, but I'd consider that a challenge unless you've got a brain like a sponge. It's not just learning the stuff, it's learning how to answer the exam questions.

I'd say have a go at learning it if you want to get prepared for your course, but I don't know that the Foundations official qualification is going to give you anything extra on top of your course. Maybe hold out for the OCA? It seems to be much better regarded, and it's a pre-requisite for the OCP. Really though, it depends where you want to end up and what you want to do.
 
Sergi Oca
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Thanks again Dor, that's all great info. I don't have any rush with this so I'll take it easy. I'll just keep on going with the book that I got that it's for the OCA 8 exam and check other resources as well and see at what pace I can learn, maybe by the time I feel ready (if ever) I can find more resources about the exam. I'm definatelly checking videos too.


Mel that is encouraging, I consider creativity to be my main strength, maybe this is a good outlet for it, cheers.
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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I think you should take the regular OCA and not the Foundation exam. I wrote a blog postas to why.

I took the foundations exam to confirm my theory that you could use an OCA 8 book to study for it with a small amount of extra material. I posted that extra material online as well.

Dor: The OCA and Foudnations exams are offered at the same test centers so "knowing where the test center is" shouldn't be a differentiator.
 
Julian West
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Sergi Oca wrote:Should I even start when I'm aleady 29 years old?


heh, cute.

I'm 45, retired 6 years ago and I'm taking the 1Z0-808 exam in 4 weeks, after having used the published works from the authors on this site.  So, no, age 29 is a non-issue.

For creativity, programming is an art and a science--it is designing and building something after all.  I don't have an artistically (like painting and poetry and all that frilly foo-foo stuff) bone in my body (but I have a healthy appreciation and awe for those who do) but I am creative with solutions (which is what coding is: providing a solution) and methods thereof.  How you may or may not relate to this only you can answer by giving it a go.  Even if you decide it isn't your forte, you will still benefit in all aspects of your life: coding teaches you how to think and solve.  Besides, front-end development has more of that foo-foo creativity element to it.

As far as certifications go, they show that you were taught and can regurgitate the "right" way of doing things and checked all the fundamental learning boxes and gives your mentor something to build on.

We can't confuse "competency" and "proficiency" and certs are a springboard--not a guarantee--to both.

 
Julian West
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nuts..I can't edit my post.

P.S.  On the IDE vs. "going commando" for beginners.  I am using a glorified Notepad (HippoEDIT, with hints, etc. turned off, Notepad++ probably has the same functionality) and, sparingly, NetBeans and Eclipse.  It gives me a nice tabbed text editor and the ability to make hotkey/toolbar buttons for compile and run and a nice input/output window.  It's NetBeans/Eclipse without the training wheels/gutter pads.

IDEs have very nice training wheels.  Learning coding, you don't want training wheels; you want to crash and burn every time so you learn from your own mistakes.  Clicking on the IDE's objections to correct your errors isn't very memorable as compile-gaspAtErrorList-compile-whatMoreErrors-compile-ohIseeNow-compile-sweetVictory.

I use NetBeans, Eclipse sparingly and only when I am looking to experiment without needing to compile/run by looking for immediate compiler feedback (like, "If I change this to that, would this still be an override?").
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Welcome to the Ranch

We restrict editing of posts because in the past people have so edited their posts that the replies become incomprehensible.

Agree about avoiding IDEs at a beginning stage. Maybe they don't have training wheels so much as put you on a 1 in 5 descent after your first 20 yards' experience. Lots of people get so caught up in the IDE that they use all their brainpower on the IDE and have no cognitive capacity left for the Java┬«.
 
Julian West
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TY for the welcome.

Campbell Ritchie wrote:
We restrict editing of posts because in the past people have so edited their posts that the replies become incomprehensible.


I understand; a 5-min grace period may accommodate both situations.

Campbell Ritchie wrote:
Lots of people get so caught up in the IDE that they use all their brainpower on the IDE and have no cognitive capacity left for the Java®.

haha, I have to agree with this.  I've done that already with configuring/updating/scrapping/starting over with Eclipse (*nix...keeping the tradition of keeping even the most trivial of tasks a complicated process).
 
Dor Burd
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:

Dor: The OCA and Foundations exams are offered at the same test centers so "knowing where the test center is" shouldn't be a differentiator.


I meant that because I've sat the Foundations, sitting the OCA will have less logistical stress associated with it. I'm a couple of hours drive from my nearest test centre (which probably isn't much in some countries but here, on these roads, it's a long way), but now now I know where it is, I know where I can stop for a cup of tea before I get there, I know where I can park. For me it's a valuable thing but others' mileage will undoubtedly vary.

I absolutely agree with you about the *value* of the test, but personally I did find sitting the Foundations helpful for those reasons, along with giving me a confidence boost for the OCA.
 
Dave Tolls
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Dor Burd wrote:... but now now I know where it is, I know where I can stop for a cup of tea before I get there, I know where I can park. For me it's a valuable thing but others' mileage will undoubtedly vary.


I know exactly what you mean.
I contract, and my contracts are normally a good 2-3 hours drive away.
The initial week (and any prior interview) are always the worst, with no fixed idea of how the journey works or (as you say) where you should be parking.

I'm a creature of habit...which of course begs the question of why I do this job!
 
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