Training: Don’t Become That Grumpy Mainframe Guy
About ten years ago I worked for a Japanese company as a SQL DBA. There was this mainframe developer in his early 50’s that sat in the corner, never talked to anyone and smoked about three packs of camels a day. He just growled at people every once in a while. I saw him once on the highway, driving a beat up old car, two hands on the steering wheel and a cigarette hanging from his mouth – looking straight ahead. Smoke surrounded his head and the window was shut. It reminded me of the wicked witch in Oz – riding on her broom – looking straight ahead with a determined scowl. Then one day, he spoke. We were both walking out the back door of the office at the same time. It was pouring rain outside. He opened the door, stopped, looked up and said “Fucking Wonderful.” At that moment (after I chuckled), I thought to myself, I don’t want to be that guy.
So how do you become that guy? You work for 30 years for a company that makes no technical advancements. You don’t attend training. You don’t go to conferences. You stay grumpy and quiet buried in mainframe libraries day after day.
He was too far gone. There is hope for some of you.
Manage Your Own Skillset
I often mentor young developers and when I hear them say things like “they won’t send me to training”, it makes me want to buy them a Wrox book and hit them in the head with it – but I don’t. I tell them the story of the grumpy mainframe programmer. I tell them they should invest in their career. Read a book. Go to a conference. Do an online lab on a technology you are interested in. Watch a webcast. Read an article. Join a user group. Do something. Anything. Once a week – and that they will be a better developer for it.
I urge them to do a skill matrix on themselves. Take a look at this matrix and grade yourself on the fundamentals. I bet most will realize they aren’t as well rounded as they thought they were. I have a similar technical matrix I used for my developers that told me who knew what. When I had an issue for an application written in C#, I could see who was the strongest in C# and give it to them. Or better yet – I would give it to the VB.NET guy and tell my C# guy to teach him.
Point is – programming is a craft, not a job. Don’t rely on your employer to groom you – and for that matter – if they are not supportive of improving your skills – find an employer that is. Manage your own skillset. An hour a week. One Saturday class. A conference a year. No excuses.
Resources to Get You Started
If this blog post gets one more person to attend a conference or join a user group, it’s worth it.