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Readers respond to COBOL, Wintel generation gap

Readers respond to a recent article on the mainframe job market and bridging the COBOL and Wintel generation gap. recently published an article about the mainframe job market and bridging COBOL and Wintel generation gap. The article also pointed out that both camps have something very valuable to offer and a lot to teach each other. Below are some of your responses to this article.

Veteran programmers finding a tough market

I appreciated (and agree) with your article. I am a 63 year old CICS and MVS (z/OS) IBM Mainframe Systems Programmer living and working in the Denver, Colorado, area. When I get the "invitation to depart" from my current employer, I am sure that it will all be over as far as my IT employment is concerned. I have yet to find a comparable IBM CICS and/or MVS (Z/OS) System Programmers job listed on any of the major IT job search engines (e.g., or etc.) especially in the Rocky Mountain region.

Would I like to retire now? You bet I would. However, I can not afford to. If the employment opportunities available are accurately reflected by the job search engines, then you are absolutely correct in that there is NO real shortage of interested IT people, only a shortage of reasonable Domestic employment opportunities. I do not speak "Wintel" or "Solaris" or "Java" or "Linux" or "Unix". And yes, I know that this hurts my employment opportunities as does my age. I am a firm believer that age discrimination is alive and well.

More on mainframes and careers:
All-in-One Guides: Mainframe Management

Fast guide to data center careers


COBOL skills shortage is real

As a consultant, I've worked at many mainframe shops in the Midwest. From 1983 to 2006 every single one has been short of COBOL programmers -- now especially COBOL with SQL and DB2 skills. In many shops I have been in, a major reason for outsourcing to India, and bringing in immigrants to Midwest shops has not been pay rate. It has been the inability to find people willing and able to do the work.

I've kept in touch with COBOL - DB2 programmers when moving from one shop to another. Some are unemployed and complain about "no jobs". I point out that my current shop is looking for people with their skills. They respond with lame excuses:

  • That's too far away, despite the fact that it was a longer drive time to the shop where I met them.
  • That company has low prestige. I'd be embarrassed to work for a legacy company.
  • I took a couple new technology classes for a product on the leading edge. I now want an entry level position in this leading edge technology at my former high pay rate and not at an entry level rate, even though I am only worth an entry level rate in this new skill.
  • I insist on working on the bleeding edge where no company can make a profit.
  • When my unemployment comp runs out, I'll get a job and my spouse will collect unemployment comp. We don't both need to work that hard.

    Many COBOL programmers have not kept up with changes in COBOL, especially SQL and DB2. In mainframes since the late 80's and in other systems since the 90's parallel processing has been the trend of both hardware and systems software technology. But many COBOL programmers still have the sequential processing mentality of "Read one record at a time, read one column at a time on that record, read the next record."

    Business did not have this sequential processing culture prior to computers. It was imposed on business by the limitations of punch cards and tapes. The COBOL sub-culture adopted this cultural limitation as a paradigm for all solutions. Now they do not grasp the cultural paradigm of set processing and parallel processing.

    But, long term, the real problem is our education system. People no longer live in a paradigm where there is objective truth, where there are facts and logic. In our education system, our young people are taught how to feel about information systems, not how to think. In college computer classes, my daughter is assigned to build a collage of people in computing. She is graded on how diverse the people in the pictures are. I've worked beside diverse IT professionals. Their ability to handle facts and logic had nothing to do with their diversity.


    COBOL dinosaurs looking to evolve

    Thank you for the article. We were wondering when someone would wake up! So, where do I get or start understanding the .NET interface? I already have the dinosaur technology!


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