My Journey to and as a Java Champion

Donald Raab
6 min readNov 23, 2023

Reflecting on my Java Champion story and its evolution after five years.

Walking the Path to Balos Beach, Crete with JCrete attendees— July 2016

A marker along the journey, not the destination

It was truly a great honor for me to be selected as a Java Champion in July 2018. By the time I was selected, there were around 265 Java Champions, out of an estimated 9–12 million Java developers.

Tweet announcing several Java Champion selections

Today, there are about 380 Java Champions globally. The members of this prestigious group share a lot of knowledge, experience, inspiration, and time with the global Java community. I think of a Java Champion as someone who is a champion for Java, and not just a champion of Java. Giving back to the Java Community in the form of blogs, articles, books, conference talks, JUG meetups, open source contributions, expert group, and committee participation are all important aspects of being a Java Champion.

My recipe for success? Passion, Patience, and Persistence. I did not set out with a goal of becoming a Java Champion. I have always wanted to help make Java a better language for developers to develop in. I knew this would be a long road. I started down this path in 2001 when I first began programming in Java full time. It wasn’t until the end of 2017 that I though perhaps I might eventually qualify to be selected into the Java Champions community.

I found this blog by Vlad Mihalcea to be both informative and inspiring on my own journey.

My Journey as a Mind Map

Every Java Champion’s story is different. There were thousands of little important moments that edged me closer to being nominated and accepted into the Java Champions community since I started getting involved publicly in the Java Community in 2010. The most important moment was when Leonardo de Moura Rocha Lima nominated me as a Java Champion. I am extremely thankful for the honor Leo bestowed upon me with this nomination. Thank you!

Anyone who has read many of my blogs will probably know that I love mind maps. The following is a mind map of all of the things I had been involved with publicly before I was finally selected as a Java Champion in 2018.

A visual representation of my public impact and influence before selected as aJava Champion in 2018

Top five events along my journey

The following are the top five events that I believe set the stage for me to eventually be nominated as a Java Champion.

  1. Joining the JSR 335 Expert Group — 2011
  2. Open Sourcing GS Collections at Goldman Sachs — 2012
  3. JavaOne 2014 — Strategy Keynote, first JavaOne talk, Face-2-Face meeting of JCP EC at Twitter Headquarters where I created my Twitter account
  4. Moving GS Collections to the Eclipse Foundation to become Eclipse Collections — 2015
  5. Attending JCrete — 2016

The events were not only important for the impact I was having, they were formative in me building important long-lasting relationships in the Java Community.

My Journey as a JavaOne Conference Badge

At the time of JavaOne in 2016, I was a speaker, an exhibitor, a JavaOne Alumni, a Java Community Process (JCP) Member, a JSR 335 Expert Group (EG) Member, had helped out with the Adopt-a-JSR effort and was also a member of the JCP Executive Committee (EC).

This was my JavaOne 2016 badge. I think it nicely captures the things I was actively doing in the Java Community at the time.

The stuff that didn’t matter

I’ve had a successful career in Financial Services working at two different banks for the past 22 years. I‘ve been a Managing Director and Tech Fellow at one bank, and am a Managing Director and Distinguished Engineer at another. None of my impressive enterprise scale proprietary work inside of the banks or the corporate titles I accumulated along the way mattered even a tiny bit for my Java Championship nomination and selection. However, the impressive enterprise scale stuff that I created and contributed to open source while at these Financial Services firms on the other hand, definitely made a difference.

All of the stuff in the mind map above was public facing. This is something to think about if you are suddenly inspired and motivated to begin a journey to Java Champion.

My rule of thumb — If you can’t link to it from a web browser outside of your current company, it doesn’t matter on your journey to Java Champion.

Five Years Later

A lot has happened in the five plus year I have been a member of the Java Champions. I think a comparison of some of the stats from the mind map comparing 2018 and 2023 will summarize how my impact and influence in the Java Community has grown.

  • Measure 2018 value ➡️ 2023 value
  • Medium Blogs — 29 ➡️ 174
  • Medium Followers — 154 ➡️ 1,523
  • Twitter Followers — 727 ➡️️️ 9,178
  • LinkedIn Connections— 1,300 ➡️ 2,632
  • StackOverflow Answers— 120 ➡️ 197
  • StackOverflow Reputation — 3,881 ➡️ 6,528
  • Eclipse Collections (EC) GitHub Stars— 726 ➡️ 2,284
  • Maven Central EC Monthly Downloads — 40,000+ ➡️ 300,000+

This year marked a new achievement for me. I presented at four Java Conferences in six months. I really felt like a Developer 🥑 for the first time. Two of the conferences I spoke at were in Europe. This was my first time speaking at European Tech Conferences. I hope to continue this trend in 2024 and beyond.

My Top five in five

If I had to name the top five memorable things that happened to me on my journey the past five years as a Java Champion, they would be as follows.

  1. My wife and daughter seeing me speak for the first time at JavaOne 2022
  2. Contributing author to “97 Things Every Java Programmer Should Know” book
  3. Eclipse Collections named one of the 25 greatest Java apps ever written in Java Magazine
  4. Co-presenting with Rustam Mehmandarov at four Java conferences in 2023
  5. Delivering the virtual keynote for IntelliJ IDEA Conf 2022 with Mala Gupta hosting

It’s a beginning, not the end

I hope you find this blog helpful in understanding my journey to becoming a Java Champion. I hope it will inspire some of you to start sharing your experiences, contributions, and knowledge with the developer community as you begin or continue your own journeys, on whichever path you choose.

I’ll be out there continuing my own journey as a Java Champion. Look out for new blogs, open source contributions, and talks at JUGs and various global Java conferences. I hope to meet many new excited Java developers over the next few years at Java Conferences and JUG Meetups. Good luck, and good journey!

Me enjoying a coffee with my now memorial Twitter coffee cup during the pandemic

I am the creator of and committer for the Eclipse Collections OSS project, which is managed at the Eclipse Foundation. Eclipse Collections is open for contributions.

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Donald Raab

Java Champion. Creator of the Eclipse Collections OSS Java library (http://www.eclipse.org/collections/). Inspired by Smalltalk. Opinions are my own.