Monday, September 20, 2021

Sharing interesting article: "An Old Programmer Loses His Job"


At 65 years old, it is supposed to be a “retirement” year. For me, it became my “termination” year. Here is my journey of two years of no work and now working part-time.

I have been a software developer for over 30 years and thought it would be a safe career for as long as I wanted to work. I programmed mainframe computers during this time as there were no personal computers then. I watched the personal computer (PC) industry grow from the first IBM PC to the latest laptops and smartphones.

After high school, I worked in construction for 9 years. After 9 winters I decided to go to college for an indoor office job. I chose to try this new career involving computers. Back then you learned mainframe computer programming. What I did on the side was to teach myself how to use and program personal computers.

The mainframe software that we programmed was for the Mail Order industry. This was for multi-million-dollar companies. It was literally mail (snail mail) and phone orders from catalogs as there was no internet back then. The software was comprised of order processing, inventory, shipping, etc. I learned a lot about the business and how the new addition of eCommerce was now emerging.

Over the years, I worked at various companies as most people do in the business. I also built a side business helping small businesses with setting up the computers and training their workers. The mainframe computer languages did not really change over the years, but the PC languages evolved and changed time after time. My problem was trying to keep up with the PC language changes part-time, nights and weekends.

A couple of co-workers that I became friendly with ended up starting their own software creation business. When they would have big jobs, they would ask me to work with them. While this was great, it still delayed keeping up with the new, small computers.

Every time I learned a new PC programming language, the industry changed. It made it impossible to keep up with these changes. But that was okay as I was still working full-time on the mainframes and had many opportunities available in my profession.

The company I worked for had customers that were leaving the type of computers and the language I knew. I started to worry a little bit. But — I was one of their most experienced employees and figured I would have some clout to keep working.

I learned the new software that they were now selling to customers. I learned a database language named SQL with software called Crystal Reports. And to top it off, I was more knowledgeable about the business than the newer employees.

I thought I was safe, but they told me they had someone else they wanted to do this development. Reading between the lines, the employee was new and was paid less than me. Thinking about the previous months, the company sales of the software dwindled as they lost a few customers. I then realized a few of the more experienced employees had left the company or were let go.

But I felt that I was still safe as I did extra tasks outside of my job description and that made me very valuable. For instance, when they moved their offices, I came in on my own time to help physically move computers and helped to hook up all the cables.

Since I was so experienced in the business itself, I would gladly change roles to the Support Department or even testing for QA. Alas, they told me that all positions were filled. Well, I guess I was not that valuable after all.

Because of my age, it looks like my programming days are over. I did apply for other Support Desk and QA jobs but no one wanted me. I went to a job placement company that is large and very popular here. They never came up with any prospects and two months later, they contacted me to see if I found a job yet. I told them that I thought that was supposed to be their job.

While you should keep up with the computer language changes, it is nearly impossible to do so. What I would most likely do while working for a company, is to go onto the major job sites and search for a current language and see how many jobs are out there. This would be a barometer to see what languages are current.

The second piece of advice is to find a few people in the companies you work for and keep in touch with them even if they leave the company. I now found some part-time work through a former colleague that I have known for over 30 years. I checked out other ways to make income from the internet, but most are not feasible and are made for other countries with lower-priced economies.

As another attempt to bring in extra income, I have chosen a couple of paths to try. During my 30 years, I did a lot of training besides programming. One path is that I will try my hand at creating instructional YouTube videos showing screenshots with my face in a little square on the screen.

During my 30 years in IT, I created loads of documentation. I always liked writing and did some during my younger years. The second path for income is to write articles and stories for a site called Medium.

Not sure if you have ever heard of it.