Interviews with our VCIs: Jeroen Sterken

As you know, we like putting our trainers in the spotlight from time to time. That’s why we decided to interview all of our VCIs, allowing them to share their experiences and expertise around Spring. Today it’s time to introduce you to our third VCI, Jeroen Sterken. Jeroen is an IT-coordinator at Faros and has over 15 years of experience in Java enterprise and web development.

Jeroen, when was the first time you came into contact with the Spring framework? And what was the context in which you started using Spring?

“That must have been around 2006. Spring was not that old yet around that time. The very first time I came into contact with Spring was while I was working on a project for a client. We were looking to switch from the Java Enterprise Edition to something that was a better fit for the development team. We needed something that allowed us to work more efficiently, something hassle-free. At a certain point, we suggested transferring an existing project to Spring to see how that would go. It was the first time we worked with Spring, and we had to try and figure things out by ourselves. That actually went quite smoothly. That immediately proved Spring would make things easier for us as developers.”

What was your first impression of the Spring Framework at the time?

“It was something new, something that was on the rise, and you could feel that developers around the world were enthusiastic. So I was very curious to try it out myself. I was convinced right away. I found Spring very pleasant to work with because it allowed us to focus on what we should really be doing: creating business value. We saved time because we didn’t have to configure everything ourselves. Spring is really a framework from and for developers, whereas the Java Enterprise Framework was cumbersome with lots of configurations and XML. With Spring, that was all a lot easier. I remember I immediately was quite enthusiastic about it.”

How do you experience working with Spring during your day-to-day job? Do you see certain advantages or disadvantages?

“The Spring Framework has evolved enormously since I started working with it. What was a basic framework back then, has now become a whole ecosystem. But that growth has also become the biggest pitfall: there’s so many features available that it’s hard to know where to start, or which ones can help you. Spring has become so big that it’s easy to lose sight of the overall picture. But it still exists, and that’s an accomplishment. Spring still exists because the framework keeps up with the trends in the development industry, and keeps evolving. What are companies doing? Which problems are they facing? What do they need help with? It’s comparable to the Java-language. Java constantly adapts to developer’s needs, and they’re not afraid to check with their competitors how they can make developers’ lives easier, and to start collaborating with them. I think that is Spring’s biggest strength: it’s a framework that’s constantly evolving. They keep sticking to their philosophy of wanting to help developers build things, and that helps.”

If you had to pick a favourite feature of the Spring Framework, which one would it be?

“Hmm, interesting. (laughs) I need to think about this one… I’m still quite enthusiastic about Spring Boot. It has been a real game changer, and it shows in all of Spring’s components. It’s unbelievable how Spring managed to build this from the ground up, and how it keeps on evolving. The most recent features in Spring Boot support containers, so now you can build a container from Spring right away by using buildpacks. That shows how they try to keep up with the latest developments in the industry. I’m quite impressed with all the features they implemented.”

How do you see the Spring Framework evolve in the future?

“Spring’s biggest challenges have been clear for a few years now, and they revolve around Java. The Java ecosystem is constantly evolving, so Spring is making efforts to keep up with those changes in order to execute code efficiently. That’s something I’ve seen in Java with GraalVM, and Spring recently began working on an integration with GraalVM as well. I think that’s an evolution that will continue in the coming months and years. Next to that, I think Spring will need to try to be an ecosystem that allows you to keep a better overview of things. That will be a big challenge the coming years, because the framework will keep on growing. Spring needs to ensure that the framework stays lightweight, and that its users won’t get lost in all the available features.”

Can you give us a useful tip for people who want to get started with Spring?

“I would certainly recommend attending the Spring Core course at The Campus. (laughs) The thing is, it’s actually not that hard to get started with Spring because you can find lots of information about the framework online, but the difficulty lies in discovering best practices and do’s and don’ts, simply because you can do so many things with Spring. I would recommend beginners to not just copy a piece of code you found online. Try to understand what’s behind that piece of code and discover how it works. Take a look at Spring’s documentation, it’s very insightful. Spring also also offers Spring tutorials that allow you to get started with certain functionalities very quickly. For example, when you want to build a REST webservice, you will have a number of tutorials available that will help you on your way, and they will show you the best practices. So I would recommend you to not just blindly copy code, but read Spring’s documentation, follow some tutorials, discover best practices and try to get some background information. I think that’s very important.”

Before we wrap up, could you give us one last tip for people who have worked with Spring before, but want to take their knowledge to the next level?

“It all depends on the context in which you’re using Spring, of course. For people who are more experienced, I would recommend looking for ways to contribute to the Spring Framework. Spring is open source and all projects are available online, so take a look on Stack Overflow or the project pages on GitHub, and think about how you can contribute. Maybe there are certain bugs you can help fix? Or maybe you’ve come across a certain problem while working on a project that Spring hasn’t addressed yet? Then tell them! There are multiple chat channels available, and you can also find Spring on Twitter. They’re very approachable. As I said before, Spring is a framework from and for developers, so sharing your own experiences from the field can only help improve the framework.”

The Campus, Charlotte Van Rompaey 25 May, 2021
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