Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Advice to mainframe programmers: stick with it, and specialize within mainframe

The scuttlebutt on the job market related to mainframe now comes across to me as this:

Ten years ago, if you have worked mainly as a mainframe programmer, particularly in the old-fashioned world of nightly cycles, JCL, on-call support, COBOL, CICS, S0C7’s, AbendAid, etc (don’t we remember this), it was more prudent to grow your background in the mainframe area where you had focused expertise, than to move into client-server, where it’s hard to pick things up in non-linear learning curve mode. Why? For a moment, think about how you work at home. You use packages. You get proficient in what Blogger, Facebook, etc can do in detail, but you almost never need to write Javascript any more, let alone perl script. (Although, if you have to make an executive decision on how to redeploy your own website, it helps to know some things in detail.)

It seems like the contractor market seems pretty strong in focused areas like DB2, especially stored procedures; MQ programming, and certain kinds of applications, especially Medicaid MMIS and state welfare systems. The practical problem is that a programmer needs to be focused in one or two of these areas (not too many areas, because it gets diffused) and build a “reputation” over years – even an “online reputation” – on these areas. That may seem like asking for a lot of commitment from an employer base that acts utilitarian and not too willing to return the appreciation with long term career stability.

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