An open letter to less experienced developers
Paul Robinson
8.3K26

Hello Everybody, 
Of everything I did today, reading this post was by far the most enjoyable. 
I’m not going to nit pick the specifics, but I was the coder who spent thirty years in an investment bank, coding COBOL. I was gainfully employed from 1984 to 2015.

I spent a few years learning to think in COBOL, then I started spending more time on defining storage variables in such a way that made writing instructions a quick and simple matter. I was so passionate about my code, that I would spend my weekends, holidays, and evenings, writing and rewriting until I had the most elegant solutions that were both easy to read and easy to maintain, bucking the need to “decipher” the code six month later.

What I learned was that there is only so much you can learn about COBOL, CICS, and SQL, and after that you have to become intimately familiar with the business for which you are coding applications. So, I turned my attention to learning the back office transaction processing of an investment bank. There is a lot to know. If you want to be considered an integral part of the process of developing applications in a corporate enterprise, you will have to speak intelligently with the people for which you are creating these solutions.

The code is not the most important part of the process, it happens to be the budget required to pay you to do the development. And so, once that budget dries up, you will no longer be needed, and that day will come sooner that you want it to. My day came when I was 57 years old, all of the jobs had been either out sourced or off-shored, and my roll was eliminated.

There were many clues that this day was coming, the fact that while I had my head in the code, every cubicle around me was becoming occupied by someone from Bangalore or Manila. That once, not too long ago, all my colleagues were in those cubicles, and now my team members were all on the telephone in India. I should have noticed that I was competing for work with people who were busy building Oracle databases and not DB2 databases.

I was just way too busy doing my work. Two years and not a single offer for work, my anger turned to forlorn, I’m tired, burned out, and really wish I could go back to coding COBOL programs.

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