Looking for Work

  • Name: Mark
  • COBOL Experience: (Beginner, Intermediate, Expert) Expert
  • Location: (City, State, Country) Bend, Oregon
  • Availability: (Part-time, Full-time) All
  • Availability Type: (Volunteer, Available to Hire) Available to hire
  • Link to LinkedIn profile (or other relevant job experience information):

Have about 20 years of COBOL under my belt in the banking industry. Retired and got bored and looking to get back into the field.

What do some of the younger folks recommend for a legacy programmer looking to get back into the game?

Mark: I can relate. But, where is the organization whose work-environment will make a retired COBOL programmer’s return to the work-force the kind of joyous crescendo of interwoven harmonies that Mozart’s ghost would wish he were still alive, if only there were any chance that he might write it?

Because, the greater likelihood might be, that the only kind of “come-out-of-retirement” reprise that might be available, to a retired COBOL programmer, would be the kind of work that would be the “office-work” equivalent of one of those orchestral-music “odes to summer” in which [in August] there would be some kind of seemingly-interminable, slow, oppressive “stretch” in which the only sound is that of a cello, playing at the lower end of the lowest octave it can give voice to, on and on, to give the audience an idea of what it is like, to swelter beneath a 95-degree [Fahrenheit] sun, in a humid region in which the breeze hasn’t blown, in a decade, and where the very act of breathing is, itself, such a strenuous affair as to cause the sweat to pour forth, from every pore.

If you know your business, and you work as a new-hire, for a contractor, you can’t expect to be granted anything like the status or autonomy you had, during those last five years; because, you’ll be an “unknown quantity” who might turn out to be “a bull in a china-shop”, rather than someone who is capable of performing SUCCESSFUL arthroscopic surgery to correct a heart-defect on an as-yet-unborn-child who is still in the mother’s womb.

Merely deciding to hire the contractor will constitute a risk. Allowing someone access to the organization’s computers, who was not employed by that contractor, when that contract was signed, would constitute an even greater risk.

And yet, I totally “get” the desire to, again, “perform useful work”.

At around the time of the pandemic, there was some effort that was advertised, in a different region of the world from you, in which there was an announced effort to hire COBOL programmers.

Upon further inquiry, those who had been reported to be looking for COBOL programmers indicated that they were not, in fact, seeking COBOL expertise.

The banking industry (not to mention “accounting”, as a business-function within all industries) is certainly an environment in which COBOL ought to shine like the sun. (At least, for every bit of such internal processing as has to happen, before funds are place into any kind of “Business-to-Business [B2B]”-type “air-lock” (using the “space-craft”/star-ship" metaphor, to describe a means of protecting/insulating an organization from the hazards of traveling through [and operating within] an environment that is unlikely to be life-sustaining for any “crew-member” [or pet, or livestock] whose unprotected skin is exposed to that environment), for transfer into or outside of the organization.

COBOL has been considered to be “unsexy” since the late 1980s. The “English-like” “wordiness” of COBOL, and the reputedly-“gluttonous” use of RAM, by COBOL programs, have left COBOL programmers open to derision, for decades, as being, essentially, “do-it-yourselfers” who are trying to build a “Star-Trek”/“Star-Wars” world by working on the weekends, in their spare time, using tools and equipment that had been discarded as inadequate or inefficient in the days before Archimedes “invented” his “screw”.

Additionally, the reputation of COBOL seems to have suffered as a result of the use of contractors, to perform “maintenance” on systems that were slated to be “redeveloped”, in other languages, in order to avoid “declines in work-product output” during the “transition period” during which the “most-talented” and “most-ambitious”, among “the ‘in-house’ crew”, transferred their focus to “object-oriented”, “re-use”, and whatever “templates” and “tools” seemed likely to enable “rapid application-development” and other types of “accomplishing more, with less”.

[NOTE: Acknowledgement of the existence of “Agile” as a software/application-development methodology, in a business-system environment, can provide a clue regarding the nature of the various “money-pits” that can turn any software/application-development initiative into a “hull-breach” in the “engine-room” of any “enterprise”.]

The “interests” of any “outside contractor” must be assumed to be distinct from the “interests” of the organization which employs that contractor.

A contractor with 20 years’ worth of COBOL programming experience who is permitted to work, in a bank, might be permitted to develop and maintain an “enterprise architecture” document that lists the “lines-of-business” [now, supposedly, referred-to as “business services”] that an organization is involved in, as that organization performs its work.

It might be, that a truly-“trusted” contractor might, even, be permitted to actually link those above-mentioned “lines-of-business” to the set(s) of “business-processes” that, together, define “the work that is being done”, within each of those “lines-of-business”, in that organization.

Indeed, such a contractor might, even, be allowed to give some kind of thought to the various ways in which discrete components of multiple “business-processes” might be rearranged or consolidated, in order to “reduce redundancy” and create the types of “single points of maintenance” that would “streamline” operations and “increase efficiency”.

But, the task of listing, auditing, and accounting for all of the computer-programs and “modules” that are (as distinguished from “are reported to be”) in existence, in that organization,…

…together with the task of identifying the “business-processes” of which each of those computer-programs and “modules” is a part or aspect,…

…seems like “privileged” work that not every passer-by would be permitted to engage in; and evidence of attempts to perform that task (or, even, “attempts to assess the magnitude of that task”) might be deemed “grounds for dismissal” of that contractor.

Therefore, if I were going to seriously attempt to work, again, I’d probably want to try to be hired as an employee.

But, my age, alone, would probably tend to increase the health- and life-insurance [-premium] costs that the organization would normally be expected to pay, given the actuarial tables that insurers are reputed to maintain.

So, I would have to be certain that I would be happy, doing the work, assuming that my salary/wage-level would be likely to be the equivalent of the salaries/wage-levels that substantially-junior colleagues might be earning.

If I were serious about “coming out of retirement”, I’d probably want to get a Franklin-Covey Planner, and answer all of the “self-assessment” questions that are contained in the “calendar” portion of that Planner, before actually filling out the application.