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Java without semicolons

craignicol
Originally published at craignicol.wordpress.com on ・2 min read

When I was a tutor at university I remember one student who I only saw towards the end of the year. I think computer science was their additional course. They came in after apparently spending the best part of a year learning Java, and sat down to complete their assignment.

It didn’t take long before I was called over to help. Their code wouldn’t compile. A fairly standard console application, with some output. And no semicolons.

I was incredulous, and as a young eejit, I’m not sure how well I hid that. I couldn’t believe someone could have completed the lectures, read the books, and completed the previous 29 assignments without using semicolons.

How could they spend a year on a Java course and not learn anything?

Regrettably, I refused to help them and pointed them towards the obvious and clear error messages that they’d obviously been looking at before they called me over.

I wasn’t going to build it for them. I couldn’t teach them 1 year’s coding in 15 minutes.

And yet, they turned up. They asked for help instead of struggling on. Exactly the things I’d wish for in my new starts when I started leading teams and onboarding staff.

They knew the shape of the solution and they knew where their talents were. If I’d been a little more patient, I could have nudged them gently on. But I don’t know if that would have been enough.

If you are mentoring or leading developers, are you stepping in early enough? Are you praising effort and being vulnerable enough to ask for help? Can you see their strengths and weaknesses? Are you giving yourself enough time with them?

Are you being the senior that you wish you’d had when you were a junior?

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