Cohn's Comments

No Experience Necessary

I've got ten years of solid programming experience and another ten of good management experience. And maybe two more of pretty lousy management experience, but hey, nobody's perfect.

And with all this under my belt-I'm dead meat.

Not long ago, experience was a good thing. In other professions, experience is good. A 15-year lawyer is usually a lot better than a 5-year lawyer (for lawyers, that is). And a two-year plumber is not as good as a 10-year plumber, although I wish you could get either one to wear a pager.

But in high-tech today, no experience is necessary. In fact, it's a bad thing. It's baggage! Cement overshoes!

Look around. Who's getting the big bucks today? The job offers? The six-figure salaries? It's the young. The cyber-savvy. The kids with seven months experience dabbling in Web-sites. The guys that claim to do e-anything.

In dot.com years, seven months is a long time. It opens doors. It gets you stock options. Adolescents who interned on one stinking e-project are living La Vida Loca, while I'm amidst my third decade in DP and can't even get a headhunter to buy me a cup of coffee.

What happened? Wasn't there a time when experience was valued? When having a few big projects under your belt got you a big increase and your choice of cubicles? There was a time when I could wow the recruiters about being the lead dog on a 36-month system implementation! Of course, if they'd realized it was only supposed to be a six-month system implementation, I probably would have been chopped liver.

I don't get it. Isn't it almost the 00's? Isn't there a labor crisis? Check the paper and it's "Help Wanted" ads galore. But what do employers want today? Not management skills. Not analysis, or testing, or CICS gurus who've memorized pages out of the manual. They want e-skills. Teens who've tinkered with Java. Experimented with applets. Or at least knocked-around a little Nintendo.

Only people with pimples know this stuff! Look, I'm not trying to sound cynical. I'm keeping my skills current. I'm not one of those old-fashioned, green-screened, gotta-have-my-PFkey guys. I've got a mouse. I use the Net. I spend plenty of time online, and not just e-trading (especially since I lost $1,200 last month on a can't-miss IPO called 1-800-eggrolls.com).

But somehow, the steam engine that was my promising career has suddenly veered off track. It's time to start over. Time to e-dmit that my once valued, pre-millennium skills are wanted no more. I'm off to re-engineer my resume; to e-vitalize my vocation. To bury my past and jettison the service awards, power ties and plaques. It's time to take a stab at a scruffy goatee, drink lots more soda, maybe even try a little of that mousse stuff in what little hair I have left.

I'm expelling my experience. Consider it expired! Watch out, twenty-somethings, because I'm in your rear-view mirror. I'm joining your ranks. For I'm a twenty-something too--twenty-something years of experience, which I guarantee you won't get me to talk about.

Mike Cohn is a computer consultant in Atlanta, and swears he doesn't know Assembler.