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How I switched from Java to JavaScript

A year ago, I was using Java for everything. Although I had previously used languages such as C/C++, Haskell, JavaScript, Pascal, and PHP for several school, hobby, and contract projects, I was not really good at any single one of them. At that time, the only language I felt pretty confident writing code in was Java. I had already been using this language for almost five years and knew both the ecosystem and the language quite well so it seemed like a good idea to dive deeper into it and become an expert in this area. But then something changed.

I graduated university and realized that although working for a corporation during my studies was a good experience as well as an easy source of moderate income, it was not something I would like to do in the near future. At the same time, I was asked to join a team forming a new company as a co-founder and technical lead and since I had always wanted to start my own company I could not have said no to that offer.

They had already been developing Lumeer, a modern data definition and processing platform, for a few months when I joined the team. The back-end of this application was written purely in Java so I was able to start contributing almost immediately. However, the application was intended to be used by non-technical end-users which meant that the vast majority of the work would need to be done on the front-end side. A simple user interface based on the latest version of Angular was already being developed. Since I was supposed to be the technical lead responsible for the whole development process but did not have much experience with front-end, I knew I had to become pretty good at it in order to do my job well.

As I was quite familiar with the Java ecosystem, I could remember what huge amount of technical problems I had already solved in this area and was still far from being an expert. When I though of going through similar problems in the JavaScript world once again and imagined how much time it would take just to get to the point where I was with Java at that moment, I was a little bit worried if that was the best investment of my time. But I said to myself if a lawyer was able to become a front-end developer, I could do it as well and it would probably be a lot easier for me since I had already been familiar with many principles which can be reused across different programming languages.

So I started reading a lot. I somehow found JavaScript Weekly, a weekly digest of the JavaScript news and articles, which was and still is for me a great way how to keep up to date with all the changes in the JavaScript ecosystem. I was always looking forward to the next week so I would be able to further broaden my knowledge of this whole new world. I read many articles about the language and new useful JavaScript libraries. At the same time, I started reading Angular documentation and took a course at Udemy in order to develop better understanding of the framework we were using. However, I think the best investment of my time was reading two great books, Speaking JavaScript and Exploring ES6, which are available online for free and go really into the depth on various language features. Had I not read them, I would have probably wasted a lot of time debugging problems caused by unexpected language behavior.

Fast forward nine months and (luckily I am not a father but) I feel quite confident with my JavaScript skills so much that I can even fix a bug in a popular library. Last year, I read much more about the JavaScript ecosystem than I had ever read about Java and related technologies before. Although I am still learning and dealing with new problems, I can say that the worst part is over and there is a bright future ahead of me. But more on that next time.

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