A day in the life of a java developer and a tip for new applicants

What does the job of a Java developer in msg life Slovakia look like? Our long-time colleague and clever Java developer Jožko told us about his agenda, how his work has changed after the corona crisis, and added some tips for job seekers as a developer.

Hi, Jožko. Let’s start a little unconventionally. Before you tell us what you normally do during the day, tell us another thing: how has the corona crisis changed your work and how has it affected your attendance?

In fact, this also applies to the normal working day. With the corona crisis it changed, we used to go to work every day, then we switched to homeoffice. The company was skeptical at first because of productivity, but there was nothing to be done about government regulations.

Concerns about productivity vanished immediately, the opposite turned out to be true. I know there are quite conflicting opinions on this, but our homeoffice has shown higher productivity. Saved time while traveling, minimized distractions, and made communication more efficient through MS Teams. The company was impressed, and the employees appreciated it, creating a win-win situation. (Also read the article Home Office – Tips for Efficiency.)

After the lockdown ended and restrictions were lifted, it served as a springboard for further changes. The company gave us the option to choose between a fixed workplace and a flexible one. As a Java developer, I chose a fixed workplace.

What are fixed workstations and flex workstations?

It’s basically a hybrid attendance model. It emerged also because we have a family culture and enjoy getting together, but many of us have families and need to take care of children. Another reason why the company utilizes it is growth.

As the company expands and its capacities would not endlessly suffice, the hybrid model brought more space. We have flexible desks, which are assigned to multiple people and rotate as needed and agreed upon. They come to the office twice a week, so they can make a schedule to determine who comes in when. And then we have fixed desks reserved for people who come in at least 3 times a week.

Home office is often a requirement for new applicants when selecting a position. Does the developer career at a company like msg life Slovakia have a smooth transition to a hybrid model and home office, or does it require some technical preparation?

Working from home is almost identical to working in the office, as we use the same technologies. When I have a homeoffice, I can sleep half an hour longer, otherwise I would spend that half an hour travelling. And, of course, there is a difference in terms of socialization, but technically, the transition is seamless.

So what does a typical working day of a Java developer look like?

It starts by looking at the messages on Teams and emails. We are in different working groups. We often organise meetings, so we have to allocate time at the beginning of the day for executive and meeting time according to compulsory or optional attendance. Meetings also depend on how the project is being worked on, whether it’s done agilely with Scrum or differently. If you work with Scrum, there are more meetings, of course.

Our company deals with life insurance and offers customized software to customers. We have a standard, a common set of product features that is the same for all customers. And then we have customization for specific customer problems. And that’s my job too, customizing software for specific needs.

The customer request is analyzed, issues are created in Jira, and a plan is made on how to proceed. If we have 3-week sprints between releases, a certain amount of work will be scheduled. We then choose the tasks in the team. We are divided into several categories, some working on the GUI, others with models for insurance.

What is your specialisation in this process and what tools do you use for your work?

I specialize in the business logic behind life insurance. We program in Java, use Jira by default to manage issues, use Maven to build environments, and use Jenkins to integrate packages. For database systems, we use DB2 or Oracle.

Java developer looking into the code in the monitor on the table with a msg life mug
The position of Java developer at msg life requires experience and knowledge of German.

For junior applicants, a developer’s salary is probably the biggest attraction. Expectations are high, but this position probably requires some experience. What do you think would be a good fit for the department?

The ideal candidate for the Java position is a programmer with experience and preferably with knowledge of German. Although your German doesn’t have to be at such a high level. More or less, English is quite sufficient here, but there are also German courses available, and it’s expected that one reaches a certain level of communication in German.

It’s mainly because we work on projects with German colleagues, and not every team is English-speaking. If the whole team had to adapt to one colleague, it wouldn’t make sense. This is one of the reasons to learn German.

Those experiences are, of course, different for a senior Java developer and different for a junior Java developer. During the initial interview, you need to have certain theoretical knowledge on both fronts. I would recommend reviewing the main object-oriented principles. Every Java programmer takes an initial test with a colleague who specializes in that area. It’s not a difficult test; it’s designed more to reveal the thought process of the candidate.

When you came to msg life Slovakia, did you already have experience with programming?

Yes, I have had the experience. I started in a company where we were building human resource management software, working first in C++. When we started to integrate new functionalities into the HR system, we switched to Java, which was my first experience with this language. In another company we were building a portfolio management system in C#, it was actually a system for managing traded positions on the stock exchange. It all fitted together and gave me a comprehensive view of languages, so a very good school.

When I finished there, I was looking for a smaller company with a family atmosphere. I don’t like open-spaces, I prefer smaller offices where I don’t have to muffle the noise with headphones. My sister was working at msg at the time and told me about an open position. In my first contact with them, I was immediately impressed by how open they were. That was about 8 years ago, and I’ve been here ever since, so I guess they’re doing well, and so am I.

So you also have experience in the corporate world of developers. What impresses you most in msg life Slovakia?

I like the fact that we can influence the content of our work and are valued for it. For example, we have half-yearly reviews, for which we set some targets, and we get bonuses when we achieve them. The goal can be, for example, a certificate in English, or an analysis of the working environment – that’s what I did. I provided our IT department with a hardware analysis, pointing out the potential for increased performance and cost savings.

I also perceive the employee benefits quite differently than in other companies. It’s not just some item on an employer’s subpage, they are functional. Several examples. The newer one will be from the beginning of the corona. During the lockdown, the offices began to change: equipment, furnishings, beautification of the environment. Apart from the fact that we work better now, we have better chairs and desks, I also like the efficiency – the company has used the lockdown situation to improve the working environment.

We have table football, gym, massage options, thematic lectures on health, spinal examinations. Those are other great things. As developers, we spend a lot of time sitting, and our backs often bear the brunt of it.

Table football is another social activity we have here. When I first joined the company and didn’t know anyone, it was thanks to table football that I got to know a lot of colleagues. I used to walk around the office, looking for teammates. If I couldn’t find any in one department, I’d try another. And that’s how, over the weeks, several of us took turns at the table, gradually getting to know each other.

So you also know colleagues from other departments?

At the beginning, we had 5 floors, and people were more or less isolated from each other. We have development teams, testers on different floors, managers on others. The company came up with a great solution on how to metaphorically break down those walls and floors. It started organizing joint lunch meetings. When the weather is nice, we usually go for a big group lunch.

Through these events, people started to get to know each other, to “integrate.” And also, thanks to that, when someone encountered a problem, they already knew who to turn to. He knew a colleague from another department by name, or at least had an idea of where they sit. From my perspective, another effective solution.

What would you advise potential applicants in conclusion?

Luck is not enough, you also need to know something. But you don’t have to stress, potential is evaluated. It’s important to stay human. The reason why msg life Slovakia is so good is also because they look at character and how the person fits into the team when selecting. Minimum conflicts, good team atmosphere – it reflects on the work as well.

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