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A programmer retires

I asked a new client what he did for a living.  Sheepishly, he said he was a mainframe programmer for an airline and was close to retirement.  For 20 years he had worked on colossal IMS systems that have evolved into breathtaking complexity even as they worked the bugs out.

He said a few things that rang a bell for me:  First, the operational knowledge of the company is owned by those systems and by those programmers, many of whom are close to retirement.  Second, was how he became a programmer.  In those days many companies recruited programmers from other business units. You took a test and if you qualified, they taught you how, gave you a new career, and paid for you to go to college at night.

My friend had been a baggage handler.  He said that at least half of his peers started their careers working similar line jobs for the airline.  The younger folks on staff went from straight for college to programming jobs and don’t know squat about the business.

My friend had a great career doing important work in a great company.  But, I don’t think this is the career most computer folks dream of.  He was happy.

tk
Thursday, March 07, 2002

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