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By Bob Rhubart | April 2020
In a Java developer career that spans more than 20 years, Oracle Groundbreaker Ambassador and Java Champion Ivar Grimstad says, the biggest challenge he has faced is staying on top of the technologies. “You can never lean back and say, ‘OK, I know this, so now I can relax.’ You have to learn all the time,” he advises.
Learning about technology began for Grimstad in Kristiansand, Norway, when, as a 12-year-old, he wrote a program in BASIC to aid in his English language class. In high school, he selected computer programming as an elective, programming on IBM 286 or 386 computers with Pascal.
His programming education continued at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, and there, in 1996, he discovered David Flanagan’s Java in a Nutshell 1.0. “I bought that book and tried out programming in my spare time,” Grimstad says. “I wrote my ‘Hello, World’ in the computer lab, and it kind of stuck with me. Java has been my language of choice since then.”
A summer job at a consulting company in Oslo provided the opportunity to get started developing Java applets. “I was on a project with a team that created a Norwegian bank’s first internet bank, using applets and Swing. We saw that we could create user interfaces pretty easily.”
After graduation Grimstad landed a job as a consultant with Anderson Consulting (which later became Accenture). “The office in Oslo was a good place to learn, with a large group of Java developers. We had all these people who were writing books, and we were having monthly meetings to discuss what was new and what was happening in technology. And we were allowed to go to JavaOne, so I went to JavaOne every year, [starting in] 1999. When we came back from JavaOne, we would give a short lecture to share what we had learned there.”
Those short presentations were the genesis of Grimstad’s evolution as a developer advocate. After moving to Sweden in 2005 to take a job at Cybercom, Grimstad started a Java user group and gradually began presenting at local meetups and submitting presentations to conferences. His first conference presentation was at the 2011 Smidig conference, an Agile event held in Oslo. He admits to being nervous, “but I rehearsed really well, so it was pretty good.”
Grimstad left Cybercom late in 2019 to take a job as a Jakarta EE developer advocate with the Eclipse Foundation. This position is a natural extension of his 12-year involvement with the Java Community Process, where he continues to serve, as a JSR 371 specification lead.
In his role as a developer advocate, Grimstad presents at as many as 20 conferences each year, still with a heavy focus on Java. But his strategy for staying on top of the rapid changes in technology involves maintaining a broad perspective. “It’s important to not be stuck in a bubble where you only listen to your peers and the same thing,” he advises. “You have to be searching out new new things. That’s where conferences come in.”
Grimstad confesses that he rarely plans in advance which sessions he will attend at any conference. ”I go to the conference, and then I kind of catch up on the buzz and talk to people and just drop into a room. That way I get a kind of cross-pollination of new things. I don’t end up going to the same talks all the time.”
Early in his career, Grimstad had to split his time between consulting responsibilities and developer advocacy, but in his role at the Eclipse Foundation, developer advocacy is his full-time focus—and his future. “I really enjoy it,” he says. “It gives me energy to be up there and build community and participate in open source projects.”
“Never stop learning,” Grimstad advises those just starting out as developers. “If you think you’ve learned enough, you’re wrong. Read, go to meetups, and use all of the resources available to you.”
Photograph: Jeppe Carlson/Getty Images for Oracle