Nicolas Fränkel is a Developer Advocate with with 15+ years experience consulting for many different customers, in a wide range of contexts (such as telecoms, banking, insurances, large retail and public sector). Usually working on Java/Java EE and Spring technologies, but with focused interests like Rich Internet Applications, Testing, CI/CD and DevOps. Currently working for Hazelcast, he’s also a teacher in universities and higher education schools, a trainer and book author.
Sounds like he can do anything he sets his mind to, right? So, with such an inspirational background & achievements, we couldn’t help ourselves and reached to Nicolas for a good ol’ interview to find out more about his work experience, vision and why he chose to join us at DevCon Live.
Can you introduce yourself in a few words?
I’m Nicolas Fränkel. This year is my 20th year working in IT in different technical roles. I’ve been working for consulting companies for more than 15 years. Two years ago, I realized I didn’t want to work in project mode anymore, and changed my career path to become a developer advocate.
What is a day in the life of a Developer Advocate at Hazelcast?
Nicolas Fränkel: The beauty of it is that no two days are the same. Of course, I do a lot of conference speaking and technical blog post writing. But I can also be found helping my colleagues write a CfP, answering questions for the community, organizing Google Summer of Code, talking to product managers about the next features, etc.
Before the pandemics, I was often in a plane, but the best plan of mice and men…
What do you think is the most important skill in the Java industry?
Nicolas Fränkel: “It depends”. It depends on your position – junior developer, senior developer, architect, etc. It depends on your industry. It depends on how you work – consultant vs. in-house. etc.
As a long time consultant working in project teams, I tend to value two things which are not tech-related:
The ability to question requirements from the business people. Most people think they understand the nature of our work, and so come up with a solution rather than a problem, asking us to implement the solution. Most of the time, this is not the right problem to solve. Hence, there’s the rule of the 3 whys. When someone asks you to implement a solution, you should trace it back to the root problem by asking the reason 3 times successively. It’s an over-simplification, but you can read the whole reasoning here.
The ability to uncover implicits. There’s a human tendency to assume that the person you talk to knows what you know, be it business or tech-related. Do I need to point out that this is wrong? In projects, you can save man-weeks or months of work by taking 5 minutes and asking “What do you mean by X in this context?”. Slightly related: using a word that has slightly different meanings for the people who use it.
I always have a good plan to…?
Nicolas Fränkel: Find a nice place to eat in the city I’m in. I’m French after all!
What about your work-life balance?
Nicolas Fränkel: I’m a very bad example, I work a lot to try to keep up with all changes that happen in our industry. But I always try to practice sports. In general, it’s running or biking. During winter, I try to ski at least once as I’m lucky to live one hour by car from some very nice ski resorts in the Alps. During summer, I like to do some via ferrata – a kind of mountaineering but with already existing holds and ladders. When nothing of the sort is possible, I take time off the computer to walk at least one hour a day.
Interestingly enough, in the past, I’ve solved multiple coding-related problems while running/walking. It’s as if there’s thread working in the background to solve those issues. Tell your employer that sport is work too!
Can you give us a short overview about your keynote at DevCon Live 2020?
Nicolas Fränkel: My talk is about migrating your legacy Java application “to the Cloud”. It’s quite easy to shift-and-lift it, but there won’t be any advantage. Even worse, monitoring will probably degrade, and the billing might be way over what you planned. The opposite would be to rewrite the app to be Cloud-native. In general, it’s a project in its own right, and organizations don’t have a budget for projects that have no business added value. Is there a middle path? Come to my talk to hear about it.
What is your message for the Romanian IT community?
Nicolas Fränkel: I’ve worked with several engineers from Romania in the past. All (all!) of them were brilliant. I think you’ve a great education system: keep up the good work!
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