Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Remember the good old days in the mainframe job market?

Remember how the mainframe market was in the 70s and 80s?  I started my “commercial” programming career with the Univac 1108/1110, so in the mid 1970s, the first step was to “get IBM”, particularly because I wanted the convenience of New York City.  That led me to switch from NBC to Bradford and New York State MMIS.  (Actually, during my Univac years I had “switched” from FORTRAN to COBOL).   

After a move to Dallas (with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield consortium), I got exposure to database and teleprocessing monitors, IMS and CICS, but only at the design level.  I needed code in these areas.  I got that at Chilton (now Experian), but that was with ADR’s Datacomm DB and DC, which failed to stay competitive with IBM (just as Univac and Burroughs had failed in the whole mainframe box area).  Got it?  I also got experience in “low level” code with mainframe Assembler. 

At Lewin-ICF, for 18 months, back in DC, I got some SAS experience, and found they actually used Fortran and even VM (this was 1989).  When I went to USLICO, which became ReliaStar and ING, I thought they had everything.  There was IDMS, CICS, MSA-IE, Vantage, and in Minneapolis, we added DB2.  And there was the usual big effort for Y2K.

Why didn’t I remain marketable after the big 2001 layoff and forced retirement?  Because, after Y2K, the market really became short-term-focused and demanded expertise in very narrow areas.  The market would look for people who could go from one TDY assignment to another to keep an old IMS shop running.  Or it looked for people with at least five years in MMIS.  Or five years of Vantage (where you really need to know the system, because “it rules the world”).   All the sudden, the market rewarded short term specialization, even if dead-ended.  

Picture: Is "WMWare" what I think it is? 

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