Do we have any computer programmers on here?

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Aladdar
Aladdar's picture
Do we have any computer programmers on here?

I'm thinking about trying to change my career and move into programming after years of doing about everything else in IT and I'm looking for someone in the field who I can talk with and who might be able to give me a bit of advice.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

@Arkenian, if you feel comfortable talking about this, I think you probably have insights that Aladdar would find valuable.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Arkenian
Arkenian's picture

Sure... I'm happy to help out. You can PM me or we can exchange better contact info that way, your preference. Or answer here. Details help... your experience, what sort of thing you want to do, specific questions, etc.

Aladdar
Aladdar's picture

Thanks, @Arkenian. I'll share a few details here and if you're up for a more personal method of communication (Phone call, email, etc...) just let me know and we can talk that way as well.

I'll start by giving some basic background of my experiences and then go from there.

I'm 41 and have worked in IT for a long time now in many different capacities. Part of my concern is that I'm starting to reach that age where I fear age will work against me if I don't make a move soon. I know that in certain parts of computer science I'm already considered an old geezard, and it's only going to get worse the longer I wait.

I started out with an AS degree in Computer Technology, worked as a Desktop Support Technician and then moved into Network Administration. After a while I got a job teaching with a small, private University and taught their AS degree in IT for about 4 years covering everything from Computer repair, Network Administration, Security, and Cisco Routing Fundamentals.

I was then poached by a small software development company and moved over to be their client Business Analyst working with our clients, helping them learn to integrate our product into their business operations, etc... I've eventually risen to the position of Director of Client Services and essentially run the company with the Director of Information Systems after our President ran off half the staff and clients and almost killed someone in a car accident (Thanks drugs and alcohol).

Through rising through the ranks I began to get more heavily involved in the software development side of things. I've worked in prototyping new feature development, A bit of Project Management, I'm primarily responsible for all QA of new features, and I've also started working a bit in the coding side of things. Our platform is an enterprise software developed on Lotus Notes (I know, it's ridiculous). However, Lotus Notes has a very powerful scripting language called their @Formula language which I've gotten very proficient with. I quite often write fairly complex scripts to integrate into the client's system to add enhancements to multiple levels, so I'm very familiar with data types, coding logic (If statements, For Loops, Working with lists, creating and parsing variables, etc...). I also do a bit of client side JavaScript, primarily related to validation.

Over the last few years I went back to school and finished my Bachelors degree in Computer Technology and did a bit of focus on programming with courses in C++, Python, Android Web Development, Mobile Development, and scripting.

Unfortunately the company has never recovered from the damage our President did a few years back, and we're slowly dying. I've recognized that I need to make a career change, and I don't really know what I want to do. My biggest problem is that they pay me very well, and so I have concern that no matter what type of transition I make (Unless I take another few years and get a Masters degree) that I'll take a pay hit either way.

I've always wished I had gone the computer programming route initially, I'm not certain why I didn't, but I started out in networking, and my career has slowly been moving me more towards the development side.

I've got a few options. I could try to get another management job somewhere as I have a lot of experience managing employees across the world (As we have staff in Europe and India) as well as managing clients all over the world. I could also get a certification in Project Management of some sort and go that route, but I don't really enjoy Project Management at all. Too much paperwork and pencil pushing.

So I'm considering the development side. I know that I'll be going in likely as an entry level position almost anywhere if I can do it. The problem is I don't know that I really have the skillset to get a job (I've been told that I do as I have very good analytical, logical, and problem solving skills and also enough experience with thinking through programmatically that it's just a matter of learning the syntax for any language really).

My question is, what extra skills would I need to acquire? What type of jobs should I be looking for? What type of payscale would I be considering? And is there any advice on what I should or should not do.

A good friend of mine works for Blue Cross in Alabama and he's trying to convince me to get into what he does, which is COBOL on db2. Apparently that language isn't going anywhere, all the developers who do it now are about to age out of the system, and they're having a very hard time getting younger people to take those jobs since it's not a sexy language, so age wouldn't work against me there. I'm not concerned with whether the language is sexy or not. I just want a job that is going to be stable, pay me well enough to support my family, and something I can hopefully do and maybe gain more skills to easily move somewhere else if I later need to.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

I am not a developer, but far back in the past I worked as a tech writer for Blue Cross/Blue Shield in Louisiana. At the time, they were doing a project to move off of a legacy system that had been written in COBOL, essentially because they knew it was going to be harder and harder to find people to maintain it. I was documenting the highly-customed off-the-shelf system they were deploying to replace it.

There are a LOT of companies still using legacy stuff written in COBOL, usually unique line-of-business solutions that they'd like to keep going because it's all built from the ground up to support their processes. COBOL's in wide demand as a result. Blue Cross is certainly not alone; banks, insurers, and other large financial enterprises all are in the same boat.

Also, you probably should send a PM to Arkenian and work out a chat connection. If you use Google Hangouts, that's an excellent and consistent way to reach him. He's not around here on a regular basis, and I tagged him specifically to summon him from the deeps and make an introduction.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Aladdar
Aladdar's picture

Talanall wrote:

I am not a developer, but far back in the past I worked as a tech writer for Blue Cross/Blue Shield in Louisiana. At the time, they were doing a project to move off of a legacy system that had been written in COBOL, essentially because they knew it was going to be harder and harder to find people to maintain it. I was documenting the highly-customed off-the-shelf system they were deploying to replace it.

There are a LOT of companies still using legacy stuff written in COBOL, usually unique line-of-business solutions that they'd like to keep going because it's all built from the ground up to support their processes. COBOL's in wide demand as a result. Blue Cross is certainly not alone; banks, insurers, and other large financial enterprises all are in the same boat.

Also, you probably should send a PM to Arkenian and work out a chat connection. If you use Google Hangouts, that's an excellent and consistent way to reach him. He's not around here on a regular basis, and I tagged him specifically to summon him from the deeps and make an introduction.

Yes, that was his point. They tried to convert a few of the systems off of Cobol, and where it was able to run the batch processing in just a few hours, they had to stop the process three days later when it was clear the new system wasn't going to be able to do it. The truth is, there still isn't any system as good at large batch processing that COBOL. So yes, it's a niche field, but it's one that I think is going to be in high demand in a few years, so I'd like to get in now if I do. Although that's not the only place I'd be willing to go.

The hard part is that I'm not certain how to get the experience I need in DB2, TSOL, and the like to go along with COBOL.

And I'm open to connecting with him in any way that works for him.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

TSOL = T-SQL?

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Aladdar
Aladdar's picture

No, I just stopped typing mid word apparently.

TSO/ISPF.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

I guess you could make something using the three. If you have made a thing and it works, then that's at least a start, and it's proof that you can figure out how to do stuff. I'd imagine that'd be desirable, since these systems are currently being kept running by a bunch of septuaginarians who may not have the time or inclination to hold your hand.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

I worked for a credit card processing company -- everything we did was in COBOL running on AS/400. I was a techincal analysis, not a programmer, so I had to learn enough to troubleshoot COBOL scripts but didn't need to write any. I don't think its going away. It does what it does too well.