Editorial: Derailed Efforts

It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through the first year of the new Millennium. It was only a few months ago that we were being warned of the ramifications of Y2K; but it’s all quiet on the systems front. Some say, too quiet.

Today with the age of "e," everything is done online. Well, not everything. The concept of "face time" seems just as important as it was before the Internet age. Sure, go ahead and order the latest Tom Clancy novel online; but try closing that new deal or appeasing a disgruntled customer with an e-mail that says, "visit www." and see how far you get.

Today’s businessperson needs to conduct business in, well, person. And never before has IT played a more crucial role. In this time of the mobile workforce, connection reigns supreme. As the IT manager strives to re-consolidate his or her enterprise, today’s corporate workforce is dispersing further and further across the globe.

Will Rogers said, "Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there." Clearly, as business practices change, so must IT’s support of the business workforce. But that’s easier said than done. For everything is not peaches and cream in the land of IT plenty; especially for the Unisys user community. Many programmers, IT management and staff are finding that their skills, once highly in demand, may not be worth the paper their certifications are printed on. For despite their best-laid efforts to change tracks, and go full throttle, they may be left in the station holding a ticket to nowhere fast.

I recently received an e-mail that I think sums up a disturbing trend in our industry. The letter is from James Ryman, a Unisys COBOL programmer. Mr. Ryman has more than 10 years of experience doing what he loves to do – not many people can say that. He’s made a career as a COBOL programmer in the financial industry.

The fact that Unisys COBOL is no longer sizzling is not surprising; change is what built this industry. However, what is a drag, is this gentlemen, trying to adjust with the times and switch to the right track, can’t get the "go" signal. It’s a problem as old as work itself, a cliché faced by everyone from high-school grads to Ph.D.s and execs: "You need experience to get the job. But, how can you get experience, when no one will give you a chance at the job?"

So, I’m running this letter, encouraging our readers to contact Unisphere or Mr. Ryman directly and offer him and the hundreds, if not thousands, of others like him some advice on getting back up to full steam. For I strongly believe, as Will Rogers also said, "Things will get better – despite our efforts to improve them."

I am a Unisys COBOL Programmer. I have been in the computer industry for over 10 years and a consultant for a little over three years now. With most companies moving away from Unisys mainframes, I can see the end of my career as a COBOL Programmer on the not-so-distant horizon. I have been taking CBT courses offered by my consultant company. I have taken quite an interest in Java. I feel this is my next choice as a career!!

In questioning my firm about Java programmers (Things like: "Is there any truth to these articles on Java programmers’ salaries, or is this just hype?"), the response was not quite what I expected. In not so many words, they had told me that it didn’t matter how many CBT courses I took, they could not put me to work if I didn’t have any experience. Now, this does make sense when you think about it. If a company is going to want to hire a consultant, they want him to hit the ground running. But, it does not help me in my career transition.

Now that I have laid it out, can you give me suggestions on how to approach firms, leveraging my prior experience to help me get a foot in the door as a Java programmer? I understand I will not be hired at the same rate that I am now receiving as a consultant, but I do not want to start at the bottom again. I appreciate any input you can give me.

Thanks for your time.

James C. Ryman (RymanJ@yahoo.com)