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Java pro learns middleware engineer role on the fly for TCI

After 15 years as a software engineer and Java developer, Bernard Mesa joined TCI as a database administrator and middleware engineer. Both roles were new to him and to TCI, a K-12 textbook publishing company in Mountain View, Calif.

"I just got plunged into the fire and learned on the fly," Mesa said. "There were bumps and bruises along the way, but I learned what I needed to get and keep everything up and running."

In this time of rapid technology change, both software pros and their employers are hungry for modern skill sets. From his own experience, Mesa believes that adaptability is the most important skill any software pro can offer today. It's also an ability IT employers should seek in candidates, in his opinion.

"Being able to adapt and adapt quickly has been my most valuable talent," said Mesa. After all, he said, "I didn't come into TCI knowing how to use Jitterbit Harmony or [Amazon] RDS, EC2 and S3."

As a manager who interviews tech candidates, Mesa looks for people who can solve problems. "Programmers, designers -- it doesn't matter who they are, it doesn't matter what skills they came with originally, if they know how to think logically and solve problems, I want them." he said.

That's not to say that Mesa's Java development skills have been put aside. If TCI's tech team needs a formula or small script written, he does it. "The other developers can, but they'd have to go learn it," Mesa said. "We work with NetSuite, Salesforce and Jitterbit, and each has its own variant of JavaScript. I know what the constraints are for that, but they'd have to learn it."

Check out this video to see Mesa describe his life as a middleware engineer, as well as the tools and platforms he uses.

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What are the biggest challenges you've had to overcome as an engineer?
That learning about context of a project, understanding how things currently work and need to work, how customers expect them to work versus how they are designed are critical to producing the right thing
That a product can be designed "correctly", have all the necessary features, follow the workflows as described, and still totally miss the mark with our customers due to a poor user experience. More recently, coming to the conclusion that products are designed for the healthy, young and fit, and the further away one moves from that ideal, the less friendly and inviting technology is. To this end, the ideals of Inclusive Design have become very important to me, and I'm dedicating a fairly large chunk of my personal study time to understand and advocate for it.